From the acclaimed author of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns comes a fantastical new tale of darkness and love, in which magical bonds are stronger than blood.
Will love break the spell? After cruelly rejecting Bao, the poor physician’s apprentice who loves her, Lan, a wealthy nobleman’s daughter, regrets her actions. So when she finds Bao’s prized flute floating in his boat near her house, she takes it into her care, not knowing that his soul has been trapped inside it by an evil witch, who cursed Bao, telling him that only love will set him free. Though Bao now despises her, Lan vows to make amends and help break the spell.
Together, the two travel across the continent, finding themselves in the presence of greatness in the forms of the Great Forest’s Empress Jade and Commander Wei. They journey with Wei, getting tangled in the webs of war, blood magic, and romance along the way. Will Lan and Bao begin to break the spell that’s been placed upon them? Or will they be doomed to live out their lives with black magic running through their veins?
First, a huge thank you and shout-out to Pinguin Random House International, the author Julie C. Dao and Netgalley for providing me with an E-Arc of the Song of the Crimson Flower!
Immediately when I started reading this book, a warm, fuzzy and familiar feeling fell over me. The same feeling I get when watching a Disney movie. This book read so much like a Disney movie with an Asian twist, in all the best ways possible.
We start off with our Herione, Lan. She’s a highborn and wealthy girl, and her parents are setting her up with a perfect match for their perfect little girl. But not everything goes as planned, and when our lowly born Hero Bao confesses his love to Lan she lashes out at him.
The story takes off from here. I am not going to say too much about the plot, because one of the weaker points of this book was definitely the predictability of the plot. The less you know, the better!
That being said, the predictability didn’t take away from the story, just like it wouldn’t in a Disney movie. I really enjoyed seeing the relationships between the characters blossom, and definitely had a few ‘I’m melting!’ moments.
Shyly, Bao moved one of his hands to her face and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear with infinite tenderness.
What I loved the most however, were both Dao’s writing style, which was descriptive without becoming too flowery, and the amazing worldbuilding. I felt like I was in a medieval Vietnamese setting, and the mentions in between of Serpent Gods and the traditional clothing the characters were wearing painted a vivid and immersive picture of this world.
This story was really empowering. We had our heroine, who broke away from her loving but overly protective parents, who had already set out a path for a sweet girl like her to follow. The story was still very realistic for the historical time we are in. The portrayal of humans and how nobody is perfect also very much contributed to this.
Lastly, I would like to highlight the amazing villains Dao creates. I don’t want to spoil anything here so I am being vague, but her villains are multilayered and just morally grey enough that I feel very conflicted about them.
This book has already been released at the time of writing, and I highly recommend you pick it up at your local bookstore!