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    Excellent Story Retelling the Mulan Legend

    Sherry Thomas brings a new interpretation to the ancient legend of Mulan. And it rocks. Beginning with what she describes as a scant legendary structure she chose to restructure the legend in the form of a wuxai martial arts journey. It's also a romance, and a political intrigue. I found all three tines of this story to be satisfying, and well worked out. The lazy historian in me loved the way that Thomas brought in threads of Chinese history to make the period most commonly associated with the Mulan legend more solid-feeling for me. It is very common to look at China (and India) and see monolithic cultures that are homogeneous when viewed from an outside perspective. This view is wrong - and something that Thomas quietly chips away at through her book by having her heroine's Han attitudes shown and confronted by the larger realities of her world. It was one of the threads in the story that particularly appealed to me. Most importantly, though, we have a cast of characters who are competent, likable and well-written. Their strengths are matched by flaws that they acknowledge and challenge in their own minds. It's particularly satisfying for me to see that Mulan's first foray into the chaos of combat stunned and unsettled her - in spite of her lifelong training in martial arts. Largely because her martial arts training had been focused upon a single familial duel hanging over her head, and the press of real combat with a crowd of opponents stunned her. It's one of the most human scenes of the novel to me, and one that deeply affects Mulan. Along the rest of the journey Mulan learns to deal with her fears - through the eample of her companions - and that courage is measured in continuing in one's duty in spite of those fears. This journey for Mulan is handled extremely well. I don't want to call out too many specifics and give away other surprises that are hidden in this excellent novel. Sherry Thomas has taken a legend, put her mold to it, and created a fun work well worth the time to read it.

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