"Xiu has never left her village and can barely make dumplings, yet she finds herself in a secret training academy on the slopes of the Jade Mountain. Put through rigorous training, Xiu must become a warrior, but her movements are clumsy and she. is plagued by self-doubts. While Xiu flounders, Qiao seems to do everything with effortless grace. Xiu grows jealous until she is propelled to act in a way she will later regret. As the girls around her develop talents, Xiu searches for hers. Though she is not sure how, the red panda holds the key to developing her skills as a warrior. As an army amasses to invade the Imperial city of Chang'An, Xiu and her elite corps of women warriors must ride into battle. Xiu must overcome her jealousy, face her fears and discover her unique strengths, or her enemy will bring the mighty Tang Dynasty to ruin"
Red Panda Warrior, Jade Mountain is a tale of female empowerment, of chances offered and taken to walk an untraditional path in a very traditional world. Set in the early years of the Tang dynasty, its protagonist Xiu is given to a much older man; in marriage, she thinks, but his motives are different, and honourable. She is to become a warrior, to fulfil a prophecy.
Short, and written in a spare style (but with brief but beautifully drawn descriptions) that suits the story, this is a book I would give to young readers from ten up, depending on the strength of their reading skills. There is an undercurrent of the fantastic, and a focus on friendship, learning to find your strengths, and the role of determination and discipline in overcoming obstacles. As well, the book introduces some facets of early-medieval Chinese history, including the role of women.
At 80 pages, the book’s price on Amazon might deter some, and the cover looks perhaps a little more adult than what I felt would catch the attention of its potential audience. It would be a pity if these discouraged readers.
Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds
© Marian L. Thorpe