This book has a beautiful cover. I’m a sucker for a beautiful anything, but especially a well-designed book jacket. So after reading the description for this one — and then seeing the cover — I was ready to dive in.
Dragon Springs Road, by Janie Chang, takes place in early 1900s China. The main character, Jialing, is a half-Chinese, half-European child living with her mother in a once-grand estate. Her mother soon disappears, leaving Jialing with nothing but new clothes and faith in a fox spirit.
A few days later, Jialing is found by the new family who moves in next door. They take her on as a bond servant, and Jialing grows up waiting on the Yangs. She forges a close friendship with Anjuin, the eldest daughter of the house, but still goes next door to visit Fox. Fox exerts a strong influence in Jialing’s life, yet ultimately Jialing learns that she will have to make her own way in an inhospitable world.
This book closely examines what it means to have a foot in two worlds but truly belong to neither. It’s also a study of female friendship and female-filled households. The set-up of Chinese households in this era is not something I’ve read much about, so I really enjoyed reading about the family dynamics at the time.
On the whole, I liked this book. It is written well and I did not see the main plot twist coming, even though it was right under my nose! I also liked that the characters are real and flawed. Jialing makes mistakes and has a lot to learn in the world, yet her choices are entirely understandable.
I give this book a solid 4 stars. The story flows naturally, the setting is rich, and the characters are dynamic. However, I’m going with a 4 because I wish the story had resonated more. The description makes the book sound epic and actually uses the word haunting, which is a bit strong.
Additionally, I have mixed feelings about the fantasy element. I like my fiction pretty real (yes, I realize the contradiction), but I can’t criticize the execution. Fox was a subtle but significant character in the book and I enjoyed how she shaped Jialing’s actions. Chang weaves in the twist of fantasy really well.
I’ve also learned that this small fantasy element is something present in Chang’s other books, so if that interests you I definitely recommend checking out her work. You can find out more about Janie at her website or connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.
Finally, thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. You can find links below to purchase the book or add it to your TBR list.