Jennifer recently enjoyed The Library of Legends by Janie Chang, one of the ten titles in contention for the 2021 OLA Evergreen Award. Check out her review:
In this charming tale of hope amidst war, Chang interweaves historical accounts of the Sino-Japanese war (the Asian theatre of war in WWII) with magical realism. She blends the wartime exodus of Chinese university students safeguarding literary treasures with the mythical departure of legendary deities. The story underscores how the war changes China forever.
When Japanese bombers raid China, university students make a thousand mile journey to safety. Each student carries a priceless volume of a 500-year-old Ming Dynasty collection of myths and folklore. In their travels the group experiences the dangers of bombing raids and the horrors of devastated villages amid a constant flood of fellow refugees seeking safety.
While risk is an inherent part of the journey, it becomes clear that the group is watched over by guardian spirits who have protected the land and people for centuries. When a mystical portal opens for a limited time however these creatures approach an inflection point in deciding whether to depart Earth or ascend skyward.
The students also face danger from within their own group. Intrigue abounds when a student who heads the communist club is murdered. Hu Lian, the protagonist, fears being framed as a suspect due to a professor’s manipulation of her family’s past.
Another mystery unfolds as a story-within-a-story when Hu Lian realizes her volume of The Legends is playing itself out among her companions. She discovers that two of her newfound acquaintances embody the legend of the Willow Star: an immortal princess who remains on Earth for a chance to be with her lover in his reincarnations even though he does not remember her.
The final twist in the tale is driven by the fact that many of the students lack information on their families. Like thousands of others, Hu Lian’s mother is forced out of her home and seeks shelter in another city. Communication disruptions make it difficult for families to connect. Hu Lian decides to leave the group to find her mother. Joined by two of her closest companions the last leg of their journey intertwines the fates of all, human and mystical, in the resolution of their search.
Reserve The Library of Legends here.
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