YA Historical Novel Short Review: The Magnolia Sword by Sherry Thomas

The Magnolia Sword: A Ballad of Mulan by Sherry Thomas 

bought on kindle

Synopsis from Goodreads

CHINA, 484 A.D.

A Warrior in Disguise
All her life, Mulan has trained for one purpose: to win the duel that every generation in her family must fight. If she prevails, she can reunite a pair of priceless heirloom swords separated decades earlier, and avenge her father, who was paralyzed in his own duel.

Then a messenger from the Emperor arrives, demanding that all families send one soldier to fight the Rouran invaders in the north. Mulan's father cannot go. Her brother is just a child. So she ties up her hair, takes up her sword, and joins the army as a man.

A War for a Dynasty
Thanks to her martial arts skills, Mulan is chosen for an elite team under the command of the princeling--the royal duke's son, who is also the handsomest man she's ever seen. But the princeling has secrets of his own, which explode into Mulan's life and shake up everything she knows. As they cross the Great Wall to face the enemy beyond, Mulan and the princeling must find a way to unwind their past, unmask a traitor, and uncover the plans for the Rouran invasion . . . before it's too late.

Inspired by wuxia martial-arts dramas as well as the centuries-old ballad of Mulan, The Magnolia Sword is perfect for fans of Renee Ahdieh, Marie Lu, or Kristin Cashore--a thrilling, romantic, and sharp-edged novel that lives up to its beloved heroine.

Buy from Amazon | Book Depository


I have to say this is the first book by Sherry Thomas which failed to completely enamour me. 

It felt muted somehow, more middle grade. Authentic, though. That, after watching numerous Chinese dramas, I can say with certainty. * laughs* The storytelling felt authentic, but I hoped for more brightness and more visceral feelings, more being caught up in it all. I couldn't fall in love with the characters because I didn't feel like they've opened to me as a reader.

It's miles better than Disney's version of Hua Mulan which I couldn't watch at all. So, that's that. It's an okay read, folks. I am not against it, but I am also not enthused to recommend it. You decide.

 By the way, there is a really funny Chinese gender-bender drama Oh My General which shows a character very similar to Mulan later in life as a venerated general who just came back to the capital and is presented with a suitable husband as a reward from the emperor. The husband is a fragile, pretty flower and tries to escape marriage and his formidable wife with a lot of hilarity in between. That would have been fun to read. 

* * * 

Я должна сказать, что для меня эта книга оказалась первой от Шерри Томас, в которую я не смогла себя заставить влюбиться.

Она казалась какой-то приглушенной, более детской, но аутентичной. Это я, после просмотра многочисленных китайских дорам, могу сказать с уверенностью. *смеясь* Я наверное надеялась на большую яркость характеров и их чувств, и мне кажется они себя мне совсем не раскрыли как читателю.

И все же "Меч Магнолии" на мили лучше чем диснеевский "Мулан", который я совсем не смогла осилить. Нормальная книга. Но я к ней была амбивалентна.

Кстати, существует комедийная китайская дорама, ломающая гендерные стереотипы " О, Мой Генерал", в которой главная героиня, образ которой видимо основан на Хуа Мулан после 10 лет в армии возвращается в столицу и награждена императором женитьбой на хрупком, капризном и красивом муже, который пытается истерично от неё сбежать и заявляет, что никогда в неё не влюбится. Вот это я б прочитала. 


  1. Ha. Probably more interested in that Chinese drama than the book. It sounds hilarious!

    1. It is! 😂 Totally reversed characters. She is all manly and assertive, and he is a snowflake.

  2. I confess that I would be curious to read that

  3. I like the sound of oh my general lol

    1. It's fun! I am pretty sure you can watch it with subtitles on Rakuten Viki app. It's like Netflix but free. They generate income from ads or paid subscriptions.

  4. I'm not sure I've ever been a fan of Mulan retellings as I don't really like the whole "pretend to be a boy to get what you want in life" trope.

    1. I like cross dressing tropes going both ways, the confusion is always fun, especially when people end up understanding that loving someone is not specific to gender but to a person.

  5. Oh My General sounds fun!!

    You changed your blog! I was confused at first lol

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

    1. It had to be done! 😜 it was taking 2 mins to load my old template it was so outdated. And yes, Oh My General is fun!


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