At a Glance
Title: The Library of Legends
Author: Janie Chang
Expected Publication: May 12, 2020 by William Morrow
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction (Second Sino-Japanese War)
Goodreads Rating: 4.07 out of 5
My Rating: ★★★★★
“Myths are the darkest and brightest incarnations of who we are…”
China, 1937: When Japanese bombs begin falling on the city of Nanking, nineteen-year-old Hu Lian and her classmates at Minghua University are ordered to flee. Lian and a convoy of more than a hundred students, faculty, and staff must walk a thousand miles to the safety of China’s western provinces, a journey marred by hunger, cold, and the constant threat of aerial attack. And it is not just the student refugees who are at risk: Lian and her classmates have been entrusted with a priceless treasure, a 500-year-old collection of myths and folklore known as the Library of Legends.
Her family’s past has made Lian wary of forming attachments, but the students’ common duty to safeguard the Library of Legends forms unexpected bonds. Lian finds friendship and a cautious romance with the handsome and wealthy Liu Shaoming. But after one classmate is murdered and another arrested, Lian realizes she must escape from the convoy before a family secret puts her in danger. Accompanied by Shao and the enigmatic maidservant Sparrow, Lian makes her way to Shanghai, hoping to reunite with her mother.
On the journey, Lian learns of the connection between her two companions and a tale from the Library of Legends, The Willow Star and the Prince. Learning Shao and Sparrow’s true identities compels Lian to confront her feelings for Shao. But there are broader consequences too, for as the ancient books travel across China, they awaken immortals and guardian spirits to embark on an exodus of their own, one that changes the country’s fate forever.
Based on true events, rich in Chinese history and lore, The Library of Legends is both an illuminating exploration of China’s recent past and an evocative tale of love, sacrifice, and the extraordinary power of storytelling..”
Last year I read The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo, and I was one of my favorite books in 2019 Q1. I loved the historical aspect mixed with a hint of fantasy. It made the story seem magical to me.
I have never read anything by Janie Chang but when I read the synopsis of this book I knew it would be in my wheelhouse. I love that this book like The Night Tiger is first and forth most a historical fiction novel. The story takes place in the late 1930’s during the Second Indo-Japanese War. While this war took place during World War II, it wouldn’t technically merge into WWII until Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. The attack officially made the Indo-Japanese War linked with WWII. The Second Indo-Japanese War is considered to be the largest Asian war of the 20th century, with between 10 and 25 million Chinese civilians and over 4 million Chinese and Japanese military personnel dying.
I had never heard of the Indo-Japanese War, let alone knew there were 2 of them! History was one of my favorite subjects growing up and really still is. I know a ton about American history and European history. Shoutout to AP European History from high school. But I really don’t know much about Asia. In the past year or so I’ve really found myself drawn to learning more about the Asian history, an interest that stems from the time I spent in China in 2013 and in India during 2014. Because of this I was very excited to get my hands on this book.
Past the historical pieces of information you learn, Chang’s writing is lovely. It’s almost poetic without being wordy, because y’all know I had wordiness. The story is told through various perspectives, and while the jumping from POV to POV isn’t streamlined, in other words any given chapter can be narrator by any number of characters, it’s a very easy story to follow. The characters are dynamic and the added fantasy of the ‘gods’ coming to life make this a captivating story. So captivating that I read this ~400page book in a night.
I really enjoyed this book and highly highly recommend it to anyone who loves books in general. I feel that this may well be a classic. Five huge stars!
I hope you enjoyed my thoughts on The Library of Legends. If you liked this review please let me know either by commenting below or by visiting my instagram @speakingof_books.
About the Author
Janie Chang writes historical fiction with personal connections, drawing upon family history for inspiration. She grew up listening to stories about life in a small Chinese town in the years before the Second World War and tales of ancestors who encountered dragons, ghosts, and immortals.
Her first novel, Three Souls, was a finalist for the 2014 BC Book Prizes (Fiction) and one of nine Canadian books nominated for the 2015 International Dublin Literary Award. Her second novel, Dragon Springs Road, was a Globe and Mail national bestseller.
Born in Taiwan, Janie has lived in the Philippines, Iran, Thailand, and New Zealand. She now lives in beautiful Vancouver, Canada with her husband and Mischa, a rescue cat who thinks the staff could be doing a better job.
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