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The Library of Legends by Janie Chang
Historical fiction

The Library of Legends

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by Janie Chang
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Quick take

History sprinkled with magic: Two students (and a mythical being) seek safety and love in this WWII saga set in China.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_400

    400+ pages

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Supernatural


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  • Illustrated icon, Icons_Quest



China, 1937. When Japanese bombs begin falling on the city of Nanking, nineteen-year-old Hu Lian and her classmates at Minghua University are ordered to flee. Lian and a convoy of students, faculty and staff must walk 1,000 miles to the safety of China’s western provinces, a journey marred by the constant threat of aerial attack. And it is not just the refugees who are at risk; Lian and her classmates have been entrusted with a priceless treasure: a 500-year-old collection of myths and folklore known as the Library of Legends.

The students’ common duty to safeguard the Library of Legends creates unexpected bonds. Lian becomes friends and forms a cautious romance with the handsome and wealthy Liu Shaoming. But after one classmate is arrested and another one is murdered, Lian realizes she must escape before a family secret puts her in danger too. Accompanied by Shao and his enigmatic maidservant, Sparrow, Lian makes her way to Shanghai in the hopes of reuniting with her mother.

During the journey, Lian learns of the connection between her two companions and a tale from the Library of Legends, The Willow Star and the Prince. This revelation comes with profound consequences, for as the ancient books travel across China, they awaken immortals and guardian spirits who embark on an exodus of their own, one that will change the country’s fate forever.

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Why I love it

As an avid reader, I am always looking for untold and diverse stories that showcase unique perspectives. So I was thrilled to discover The Library of Legends, a book that draws inspiration from both Chinese legend and history and that weaves a wholly original tale of characters both mythical and mortal.

Set against the backdrop of the Second Sino-Japanese War, the book follows Hu Lian, a university student who, alongside her classmates, flees school to find safety from aerial attacks. Embarking on an odyssey-like journey through China, the students travel from one town to the next, encountering dangerous roads, political tensions, and citizens whose lives have been upended by war. But as Lian grows close to a wealthy student and his mysterious companion, she learns there might be greater forces at work than the ones that meet the eye.

As both a history and mythology geek, this book was right up my alley, and I found Lian’s journey to be an absolute whirlwind! I was captivated by the legends that appear in these pages—tales of star-crossed love, guardian spirits, and so much more. By bringing together the historic with the fantastical, Chang so deftly shows the importance of stories, the power they carry with them, and why they are always worth protecting.

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