Book Review: Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon by Mary Fan

Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon by Mary Fan

Posted March 17, 2021 by Amber in Reviews / 0 Comments

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Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon

Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon

by Mary Fan

Publisher: Page Street Kids on June 11, 2019
Genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Steampunk
Target Age Group: Young Adult
Representation: Asian Character(s), BIPOC Character(s)
Content Warnings: Death, Death of Parent, Sexism, Violence

Rating: ★★★★

Check out this book on Goodreads or buy the book at Bookshop.org

When a powerful viceroy arrives with a fleet of mechanical dragons and stops an attack on Anlei’s village, the villagers see him as a godsend. They agree to give him their sacred, enchanted River Pearl in exchange for permanent protection—if he’ll marry one of the village girls to solidify the alliance. Anlei is appalled when the viceroy selects her as a bride, but with the fate of her people at stake, she sees no choice but to consent. Anlei’s noble plans are sent into a tailspin, however, when a young thief steals the River Pearl for himself.

Knowing the viceroy won’t protect her village without the jewel, she takes matters into her own hands. But once she catches the thief, she discovers he needs the pearl just as much as she does. The two embark on an epic quest across the land and into the Courts of Hell, taking Anlei on a journey that reveals more is at stake than she could have ever imagined.

 

I’m not sure how I stumbled across Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  It may not be the most original, but it was still a lot of fun and had some really creative elements.  So, first off, I just want to say that if you’re on the fence about Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon, it’s really enjoyable.

We follow Anlei as she struggles against an unwanted marriage and escapes to help a new friend on his quest, as well as hunting down her father’s killer and finding out the source of the demons attacking her village and stopping them for good.  There’s a lot going on here and it’s all quite interesting.  Fan has created a world with a good plot build, keeping the reader engaged at all times, but it’s not so hectic that it becomes overwhelming.

The world building is really interesting and I think it had a lot of potential.  I really wish Fan has fleshed it out a bit more, to be honest!  This is an Asian-inspired fantasy novel, but there are steampunk elements.  I’ve never seen that combination before and it was brilliant, but the two didn’t really mesh… a lot?  I don’t want to say that they didn’t mesh well, I just felt like the steampunk element was really underplayed.  I think that has a lot to do with the length of the book and the amount of information provided as a whole – this is a standalone novel that’s already decently long, there wasn’t much space to flesh out the world building more.

And that is my biggest criticism of Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon.  There’s enough content here to stretch this novel in to a duology.  I think that there are many things that would have been stronger had this happen – the growth arc between Anlei and Ty, the unique world building, the ascendence of some powerful supporting characters.  I enjoyed Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon, I really did!  But it was in a more indulgent way than I enjoy most books – there were some flaws in the writing and some cliches, but the story as a whole was so enjoyable that I forgave them.  I think if this story had more space to grow, even though things would have faded away, making Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon a five-star read.

As it stands, I still recommend this book, but with the addendum that it isn’t perfect.  Expect some flaws.  Expect some silliness.  Expect moments that make you raise an eyebrow like “that would never work”.  But then enjoy it despite all those things.

Ratings Breakdown

Setting: ★★★★
Plot: ★★★ 1/2
Characters: ★★★ 1/2
Writing: ★★★★
Pacing: ★★★★
Narrator: ★★★★
Personal Enjoyment: ★★★★

4 Star Rating

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Have you run across any Asian-inspired steampunk fantasies?  I’d love to read another one – I loved the concept, despite the execution.  If you have any recommendations, drop them in the comments!

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