Book Review: Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon
Before I get started, we HAVE to take a minute to fully appreciate that book cover. Because seriously, look at that thing. Isn't it GORGEOUS?! The colors, the design, the little steampunk details woven into that background. Ugh, I love it so much. I've probably spent more time staring at it and appreciating it than is reasonable, but whatever. I don't care, because it's amazing. I preordered the hardcover as soon as I could, partly because of the cover and partly because I know Mary Fan's writing and I was pretty darn sure this was going to be a good book.
And it was. In many ways, it exceeded my expectations. Liang Anlei is a fierce protagonist willing to do just about anything to keep her people safe, and it's her firm resolve and warrior spirit that drive much of the plot. Her uncompromising view of the world and the people around her sometimes creates conflict, too, and it was interesting to see the ways she grew and changed as the story progressed while still holding onto who she was.
Accompanying her on her journey was Kai, a mysterious thief who is so much more than he seems at first. He was easily my favorite part of the book and provided a good balance for Anlei's more serious personality. I love some good banter and I love watching characters go from being at odds to being willing to risk everything for each other, and this book definitely delivers those things.
My only complaint about the book was that I wanted more. I loved the steampunk setting, the worldbuilding, and the Asian cultural influences, but I wished there had been a little more of all those things to make the world feel a little deeper and more rich. I also felt like the pacing was super rushed in some places. The characters go from one big action or major step on their quest to the next to the next to the next, and there's not much time for anything else in between. Maybe that's just me being selfish and wanting more time to really savor the journey because I was loving this story so much. And maybe that's an indication that I just need to go back and read it again at some point.
It really is a beautifully written story, though. I love Anlei and Tai to pieces. If you enjoy YA fantasy and you're looking for something to keep you fully engaged from start to finish, this one is definitely worth your time.