Lady of Ch’iao Kuo: Red Bird of the South by Laurence Yep

Lady of Ch'iao Kuo; Red Bird of the South by Laurence Yep(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

2nd Month, 3rd Day

…There was once a time when the Chinese could just make up stories and write them down.

They didn’t have to be afraid of enemies attacking.  They could make gardens instead of forts.  They could walk out at night without any weapons and look up at stars.

Master Chen calls it “peace.”

It is hard to think there really is such a thing.  I find it easier to believe that a warrior can fly through the stars in a magic chariot.  However, the history books and Master Chen all say peace really existed.

Depending on which edition you have, this book is either subtitled Red Bird of the South or Warrior of the South.  I have the special edition, so the title on my book is the latter, but the book was published under both names, in case you’re confused.  I’m just using the apparently more popular title for my post.

Princess Redbird is a truly amazing woman.  She’s a leader among her own people and strives to represent her people well while she’s in Chinese territory going to school.  There are times she loses her temper, but she always makes up for it and in the end keeps her promise to do much better.  Not only that, she is a stark contrast to her brother Little Tiger in that she’s interested in ruling and actually listens to her people.  The two make an odd pair later on in the book, but it sort of sets the dynamic of what their relationship would be like in the future.

I honestly had no idea the Hsien people existed as a separate entity in Southern China in the sixth century.  But Laurence Yep’s descriptions of the way the Hsien lived and the completely different climate back then are fascinating and informative.  This particular entry in The Royal Diaries is 300 pages long, so we actually have a chance to get a feel for the times and appreciate Princess Redbird’s accomplishments.  Her military strategies are absolutely brilliant and she is a strong, but compassionate leader.

Laurence Yep couldn’t have chosen a better candidate for his novel.  Not only is he a talented writer that brings the princess to life, but he also brings the world of the Hsien and the turmoil of the times to life.  How sad is it that a fifteen-year-old girl does not know what peace is and does not believe that it ever really existed?  Princess Redbird is one of the few princesses in this entire series that I truly feel connected to, which is an enormous accomplishment in itself.

Even if you don’t know much about Chinese history, you’ll love this book.  And even though it was written for tweens, people of all ages will absolutely love Red Bird of the South.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

Amazon*     Barnes and Noble*

*Only available as a used book.

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