“Control yourself in one moment of anger, and you will save yourself a hundred days of sorrow.”
This middle grade novel is one of the rare times where I will use “slow pace” as a compliment. It is truly a beautifully slow, quiet story that builds to an exciting ending. That slow pacing is so in tune with the teachings and lessons that our main character must learn … and we learn along side her. Patience. Mindfulness. Sense of self.
But slow does not mean boring. It does not mean uneventful.
No, somehow Cindy Lin has given us a fantastic example of less is more; beauty in the stillness, that is brought further to life by the authenticity of her “own voices” story.
Usagi has special zodiac gifts bestowed upon her by being born in the year of the rabbit. She can hear the smallest sound miles away, she can leap great distances, but she must keep these talents hidden. Under the vicious rule of The Dragonlord, anyone with zodiac abilities have gone into hiding after he slaughtered The Twelve, the zodiac gifted, and her parents.
When Usagi’s sister and best friend are captured, she narrowly escapes herself … thanks to the help of three young strangers. Now to save her sister she must journey with these rescuers – the heirs of the twelve – to Mount Jade in order to hone her rabbit skills and train to become an elite warrior. As she learns from the powerful teacher, known only as The Tigress, new mysteries are discovered and Usagi’s loyalties, beliefs and courage will be tested.
Usagi was an excellent heroine. Her journey from quiet, meek, and subdued to powerful, outspoken and confident was incredibly enjoyable. Her struggles and frustrations and repeated failures so relatable. I found myself learning patience and diligence alongside her! What an excellent heroine for young readers — it takes grit, it takes courage, and it takes practice, practice, practice. Often our lead characters are just born with abilities, I love that Usagi had to work for it.
The remaining characters were very likeable and well drawn out. For a group ensemble they each had their own voice – but it was the elders (The Tigress and The Hermit) that really shone in this book.
The world, the culture, and the tone were so authentic and genuinely realized being pulled from Cindy Lim’s own heritage. It was a great learning experience to research images, foods, and even sound bits (wind through bamboo) that really brought this to life for us.
But ultimately my favourite part was the foundation of patience. Building and practicing upon that patience. The quiet teachings. The quiet pacing. Learning before leaping. All woven within an excellent fantasy adventure that, in my opinion, gets top marks for entertainment and learning.
It was simply stunning.