Yoon Ha Lee
January 4, 2022
Rick Riordan Presents / Disney Publishing Worldwide
In this sequel/companion to Dragon Pearl, Yoon further delves into a world that combines science fiction with Korean mythology. While events from the previous book influence the story, it can also be read as a stand-alone coming from a completely different point of view. This story focuses on Sebin, a nonbinary tiger spirit. They have always dreamed of joining the Thousand Worlds Space Forces to follow in the footsteps of their Uncle Hwan. Unfortunately, their acceptance letter comes at the same time as a message declaring that Hwan has been branded a traitor by the Space Forces. Sebin reports to the Space Forces, hoping to find out what really happened regarding their uncle and to bring honor to a family that has always prioritized discipline and loyalty to the family above all else. Sebin boards the spaceship Haetae, headed towards orientation. Almost immediately, things go wrong. As the situation becomes more dangerous, Sebin can no longer be held back by protocol. Ultimately, they are put into situations that force them to choose between loyalty to the Space Force and loyalty to their family.
The plot is fast-paced, opening with a prologue where Sebin describes their situation before backtracking a bit to characterize their family. After a few chapters of set up, the action begins. The first-person narration highlights the superhuman aspects of being a tiger spirit as Sebin mentions sensing the emotions of others based on scent. Sebin’s uncertainty in their decisions is a point of tension. While they seem to switch loyalties, this ultimately feels realistic for a 13-year-old thrust into a perilous situation. Diversity of gender identities is centered in both primary and secondary characters. Wearing pronoun pins is normalized, with Sebin noting them on others before settling on any pronouns. The Thousand Worlds is based in Korean culture, making most characters presumably ethnically Korean (as they have Korean names). Other nations are represented, with the Japan coded Sun Clan being highlighted most often. Back matter includes a pronunciation guide to assist with the names of characters and places. This book is sure to appeal to those looking for nonstop “unputdownable” action, with the blend of sci-fi and mythology adding a unique touch.