This week the Book Club is excited to present something new. It’s our first Blog Tour! For this week and next (5 total books) the TehBen Book Club is presenting reviews of hand picked selections from Meg Eden’s Nerd Girl Books. Nelson and Matt will be exploring female written authored works that depict unique or extraordinary perspectives from female (and mostly nerdy) protagonists in familiar and unfamiliar worlds. Not only that, there’s an exciting giveaway of each of the novels in the tour to be won! I can’t wait a second longer, let’s roll up our sleeves and see what this tour has to offer. Thanks guys!
Matt: I have another book for you to read. It’s an Asian Fantasy novel, I think you’d like it.
Me: That’s so fetch! I’ll do it!
Matt: Shut up, Nelson! Stop trying to make “fetch” happen. It’s not going to happen!
I suppose our legal team would be upset with me if I didn’t point out that the above dialogue is a nearly direct quote from the Mean Girls movie. I am not/was not the creator of such witty, iconic screenwriting. With our lawyers satisfied, follow me into Mary Fan’s Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon. A point of clarification for the audience: when I referred to this book as “Asian Fantasy” I meant it in a “imagine-Lord-of-the-Rings-in-medieval-China” sort of way, not in the 18+ y/o way.
The actual setting seems to be a mash-up of several different time periods and themes, all at once, in a land similar to IRL China. Swordplay still is the dominant combat practice but instead of bows, pistols are the ranged weapon of choice. Still pretty standard for a fiction novel; however, one of the key aspects of the fantasy genre is magic, and/or supernatural beings. This story has both, and we are immediately thrust into the action, and this aspect of the story.
The small rural town of Dailan has been under the attack of Ligui: dark spirits of chaos that attack randomly at night, and murder people indiscriminately. In fact, the local population has been so badly reduced, they’ve resorted to training the young adult women to help defend the town. Enter: Liang Anlei, or simply, Anlei, she’s a young, strong-willed woman who takes up the fight with glee. We follow the young heroine through several twists and turns, dark paths, and epic battles. There’s even an unexpected love interest, the only question is whether or not both will survive and reveal their feelings to each other.
Is it Fate that I read this story within a week of the release of the live-action Mulan remake? I’m not sure, but I’m reminded of Mulan’s struggles. Those against the patriarchy and society’s strict gender roles, her grappling with her internal sense of right-and-wrong vs. her filial piety, and her badass warrior skillz. Whether they be Huns or Ligui, these ladies’ foes are no match for their blades.
There’s one more fantasy aspect in this story that I think makes it truly unique. Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon also has a steampunk vibe to it. Yes, a land with a largely agrarian economy, with a few magic swords also contains: cyborgs, automatons, and large aircraft shaped like traditional sea-faring vessels.
The combination of magic, and arguably the two most significant inventions of the last 1000 years (guns and steam engines) is incredibly intriguing to me. In our world, as science made advances, the idea of magic’s existence became nothing more than childhood whimsy. But, in Fan’s work that doesn’t appear to be the case. Magic is common in this universe, and combined with new tech constantly. What new heights could be reached by combining human intellect with otherworldly powers? On the flip side, what evils could be unleashed by a magically enhanced nuclear bomb?
I feel like there are many stories put out nowadays where there is an expectation for a sequel, or for it to be part of a trilogy, etc. There are times where I feel that’s misguided. Some stories wrap themselves up very nicely with satisfying ends; where a Book II would almost feel forced. Other times, you’re left wanting more: more action, more character development, more immersion into a genuinely interesting world. Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon falls much closer to the latter on the spectrum. I would not feel robbed if Fan chose to leave the story there, but I do see potential and intrigue for further tales of Liang Anlei.
Special thanks to Meg Eden and Mary Fan for providing a copy of Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon to TehBen.com for review. All thoughts and opinions are that of TehBen.com
Author’s Twitter: @AstralColt
Purchase Link: Amazon
Meg Eden’s Nerd Girl Books and @NGB_Books
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