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Song of the Crimson Flower by Julie C. Dao
Young adult

Song of the Crimson Flower

by Julie C. Dao

Excellent choice

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Quick take

Rejection is only the start of these lovers' problems. Follow along their quest, immersed in Vietnamese folklore.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Romance


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_FastRead

    Fast read

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Magical


  • Illustrated icon, Icons_Quest



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?

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Free sample

Check out a preview of Song of the Crimson Flower.
Song of the Crimson Flower


The music came in on the breeze.

Lan rushed to the window, the sleeves of her pale-yellow robe fluttering like butterfly wings. “He’s here! Quick, put out the light!”

Her maid blew out the candles, plunging the bedroom into darkness, and Lan saw outside with a sudden sharp clarity: the great oaks sheltering the Vu family home, bending close together as though sharing a secret; the sunset-pink blossoms in the garden that smelled of summertime; and the grassy hill sloping down to the river two levels beneath her window. The warm breeze ran playful fingers through her long hair as she leaned out.

“Be careful, miss!” Chau begged. “What will I tell your parents if you fall?”

Lan brushed away the maid’s hands. “I’ve never fallen yet, have I? Hush, now.”

A boat glided over the water and stopped near the riverbank. In the moonlight, Lan could only see a sliver of the young man’s face, turned up toward her, and the shine of his bamboo flute. Tam, she thought, her mind caressing his beloved name. Her heart soared as he began to play, every sweet note ringing out as clearly as though he were in her room with her.

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Why I love it

Growing up in small-town Indiana, I turned to books to learn about the world and other cultures. My favorite way to do so, then and still today, was through mythology and folktales. Reading Song of the Crimson Flower, I found myself riveted not just by the magic and lush setting, but also by the character dynamics and societal mores baked into superb worldbuilding based on a Vietnamese folktale.

Lan, a wealthy daughter of society’s upper crust, always thought herself a kind person—as did Bao, the orphaned physician’s apprentice who has been serenading outside her window for weeks. But when Lan cruelly rejects him, Bao renounces her and runs away—only to encounter a witch who ensnares his soul in a wooden flute. Remorseful and hoping to make amends, Lan promises to help Bao. Soon the two set off on a journey, discovering hidden dangers, unexpected allies, and blossoming feelings along the way.

To me, there’s nothing better than closing a book and feeling like my understanding of the world has expanded—and Julie C. Dao’s novel gave me exactly that. Enchanting and full of heart, Song of the Crimson Flower will satisfy the adventurer and romantic in any reader.

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Member ratings (466)

  • Alisa W.

    South Bend, IN

    Oh, my heart! I absolutely adored this book. I was 100% invested in Lan and Bao from the first. This is a beautiful love story and so much more with layers of depth and nuance. I couldn’t put it down!

  • Christine P.

    Mahopac, NY

    There is something very beautiful about this book. The prose, the purity of the love story, the smoothness of the writing style. I really loved this and it made me want to read more by this author.

  • Ashley B.

    Panama City, FL

    Magic, curses, love, and more. Both characters had flaws which made them seem more real. They were their own person and It wasn't like one was used as a filler to build up the other character. 10/10

  • Amanda W.

    Puyallup, WA

    This book was love at first sight for me. I love the old fable vibe of it, and the characters are likable and believable - imperfect, but willing to grow better. Adventure, romance, magic - perfect!

  • Laura S.

    Menomonee Falls, WI

    Wish I had known this was a series, I'll have to seek out the rest. The main male character was a bit off-putting in the beginning but got better. The story wasn't too complex but I enjoyed it.

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