“Dragon Pearl” by Yoon Ha Lee is a thoughtful book mixing the thrill of science fiction and the mystery and richness of Korean mythology. Min is a fox, though she takes human form most of the time. She can shape-shift and use charm magic to change what others see and feel, but her mother is strict about using magic. Foxes are distrusted, so her family hides their identities whenever they can. Min’s world is shaken when Min’s brother Jun is reported missing from the spaceship he was posted on. Min knows her brother isn’t the type of soldier to desert, so she sets out in search of her brother–and the mystic Dragon Pearl Jun supposedly jumped ship for. Min hops between ships, looking for any signs Jun might have left behind. Rules are thrown to the curb as she wields her magic with new purpose, impersonates officers, and stows away on a battleship all to find her brother.
I absolutely loved “Dragon Pearl.” Yoon Ha Lee’s unique blend of riveting action and cultural depth makes Min’s journey meaningful and compelling. No, you wouldn’t expect a Star Wars-esque universe with blasters and spaceships to have creatures brought to life out of Korean myth, but that’s exactly what this novel is about, and the combination is enthralling. The characters were very relatable, and experience a lot of emotions that the audience can relate to. The plot is a satisfying mix of revelation and mystery, and keeps you guessing and hooked at the same time. It took off right away, while still managing to explain characters, motives, and beliefs well. Every detail, every intricacy is explored in this world.
Imagery is constantly played with to amplify Min’s perspective, which can be confusing but ends up adding to the story. The generic “good guy” idea was played with, and throughout the story there is a constant question: Am I doing the right thing? Though what Min is doing goes against everything she’s been taught, following her heart eventually leads her to what she has been searching for: but some truths are too much to bear. Sci fi and fantasy lovers over age ten will definitely enjoy this novel. There is a character that can be viewed as slightly controversial, because they are nonbinary, but it’s not really a big deal in the book. This is one of fourteen novels Yoon Ha Lee has wrote, and I really hope a sequel is on its way.