History sprinkled with magic: Two students (and a mythical being) seek safety and love in this WWII saga set in China.
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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.
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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I’ve always loved historical fiction about really anywhere. China has a fascinating history and I loved the fantastical element. Loved the ending, sad that Willow Star doesn’t end up with her princ￼e
Fantastic! Loved the true historical elements, the importance of passing on their library & the little magical elements scattered throughout. There was a touching part at the end that made me cry. ♡♡♡
There are fantasy elements in this book, but mostly it’s a novel about people and their relationships through tragedy. It’s not depressing though because there’s a hopefullness throughout. Loved it.
This book balances historical fiction and legend in a captivating story that doesn’t shy away from the heartbreaking realities of war. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a bit of magic.
Janie Chang weaves a beautiful story, I love how she marries fantasy and history. This one felt like a slow burn - I didn’t realize how invested I was til it had already worked its way into my heart.
This was one I took a chance on & I’m so thrilled I did. The action kept my attention and the subplots wound together perfectly. I was satisfied with the ending but it definitely kept me wanting more
Glen burnie, MD
This isn’t the type of book I normally go for but I’m glad I did. It was a fascinating interpretation of an interesting historical time. Easy read with a little bit of everything. Great characters.
Sugar Land , TX
A historical war fantasy novel that tackles mythology & the survival of a people’s knowledge & stories amidst a war that sought to erase it, all with bits of romance. This book was so soft & beautiful
The book because described a moment in China’s history that I’d not previously explored. Chang’s mix of historical fiction and legends was a beautiful, layered perspective, as were her characters.
My favorite element was the most fictional - the Library of Legend’s journey awakening the deities. However to learn about this piece of history from such a historically accurate account was impactful
Even as it narrates wartime, the prose in this book has tone and feeling reminiscent of traditional zen chinese watercolors. There’s a sense of serenity even in moments of anxiety, and I just LOVED it
This was a beautiful story about relatively unknown part of China’s history. It was a perfect balance of historical fiction and fantasy. The characters were well developed and very relatable. Loved it
Easily one of the best books I’ve ever read. Incredible blend of history, and fantasty, with such a powerful storyline that I couldn’t put it down. From beginning to end, I was captivated. Amazing!
This was such a beautjful story. I didnt know anything really about China suring WWII, so the historical aspect was great. All of the weaving in of Chinese mythology was so well done as well. 5 stars!
This book is a beautiful portrayal of China saving its culture through their student body. The journey our characters embark is harrowing and yet made beautiful by the addition of the myth and library
Novels from time periods that are generally so unknown are always the most moving. Reading about all the hardships people had to face really make you think and appreciate. Loved the story line so much
This was an absolutely beautiful tale that wove together Chinese history and Chinese folklore. The true-to-history situations and accounts were fascinating and the addition of the folklore was amazing
This was such a beautiful book. I had a hard time putting it down. I also found that i really identified with a lot of what the characters were feeling because of this quarantine and that comforted me
This story is a flowing, unfolding legend in itself, with loss, mystery, quests, and romance. It genre bends in a wonderful way that seems effortless, between historical fiction and fantasy. Loved it!
This was a part of world history I did not know about. I am fascinated with legends and myths and storytelling and this book did not disappoint. The remarkable journey and characters will stay with me