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I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book from the publisher in order to write this review.
Princess Shiori does not want to get married. Even if her betrothed turns out to be as kind and wonderful as her father claims, she will still resent him for taking her away from her home–from her beloved father and stepmother and her six fun, loving, infuriating brothers. And what if her future husband discovered her secret–the magic she tries to keep hidden?
When a near-drowning experience brings her in contact with a dragon, Shiori finally begins to experiment with using her magic with the dragon as her guide. But when she discovers that her stepmother has been hiding magic of her own, Shiori panics. She tries to warn her brothers, but her stepmother catches her, placing all seven siblings under a dreadful curse. The brothers turn to cranes, and Shiori must tame her voice because for each sound she utters, one of her brothers will die. As Shiori travels the countryside in search of a way to break the curse, she realizes she will need help–from her brothers, from her dragon friend, and from the one person she had sworn to hate: her betrothed.
A brief summary cannot do justice to the complexity and beauty of this novel. The number of folktales Lim twists into this story could have been overwhelming, but every one serves the character development and relationship growth which drive the narrative. In addition to uniquely Asian folklore (such as the dragons), Lim incorporates the Asian variants of stories that are also common in the Western canon (e.g., the Chinese fish-girl “Cinderella” Ye Xian and the use of cranes in her reinterpretation of Andersen’s Wild Swans). The world she builds through this interwoven folklore is exquisite. For any reader who enjoys reimagined fairytales, this is a must-read!