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The Library of Legends by Janie Chang
Historical fiction

The Library of Legends

Early Release

This is an early release that's only available to our members—the rest of the world has to wait to read it.

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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Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of The Library of Legends.
The Library of Legends

Chapter 1

September 20, 1937—Nanking, China

The approaching aircraft were too far away for Lian to tell whether they were Chinese or Japanese. A moment later, she didn’t need to guess. The spiraling wail of sirens churned the air. Then the bombs began falling, like beads slipping off a necklace.

She had been on her way to the train station. She’d gotten off the rickshaw to buy a steamed bun for breakfast. Now she stood outside the bakery as though rooted to the pavement, uncertain what to do. The nearest air-raid shelter was two blocks away, across from the railway station, its entrance already besieged. Even if she were willing to abandon her wicker suitcase, she would never reach the shelter in time.

A strong hand gripped her arm and yanked her through the bakery door.

“Get to the back room,” the baker growled. But she shook her head and dashed out, struggling back with the heavy suitcase. She had to save her books.

Inside, the baker and his wife were throwing damp cloths over trays of buns. He pointed to a storage room built against the back of the kitchen, sacks of flour stacked against one wall. The couple joined four small children squeezed together against the sacks. Lian hesitated, then slid her wicker suitcase under a worktable. But before she could run to the storage room, a shrill whistling pierced her eardrums, followed by the sound of explosions. The floor shuddered. Next she heard the sharp, rhythmic report of antiaircraft guns.

There was a roar of sound and then the world went silent.

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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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Member ratings (8,085)

  • Ariel A.

    San Antonio, TX

    Absolutely delightful! Love the way the Chinese culture was brought to life with this one. 5 stars! Won’t spoil it, but wasn’t expecting that union at the end. I was SURE the legend would… well… nvm…

  • Marianne G.


    Love this authors way of writing I was sucked into the story immediately, had to keep reminding myself it was fictional not historical. I have read “Dragon Springs Road” and plan to read “Three Souls”

  • Grace O.

    Clackamas, OR

    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 prince

  • Oregon B.

    Dallas, OR

    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. ♡♡♡

  • Brittany L.

    Westbrook, ME

    I really enjoyed this book. It’s another that felt a bit rushed especially the last quarter of the book but it was a lovely read and very interesting especially the thoughts on why prince was “stuck”

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