3 out of 4 stars
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The Dragon Sisters by Claire Youmans is the sixth book in The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow Boy Series. Renko is a dragon with a half-human nature, struggling to find her place in the world. She’s found a home to explore her duality with the Toki-girl and the sparrow boy, two children like herself that turn into birds. Meanwhile, her dragon half-sister, Otohime, is being pressured by Renko’s mother to find a consort. Along the way, Yuta and Noriko, who care for these special children, learn that a group of girls they saved from indentured servitude are in danger of joining an overseas brothel to support themselves. Can they save the girls before it’s too late?
I’ve seen several of these books and was always interested in reading them because I find Japanese culture fascinating. These books are set during the Meiji era and incorporate history and Japanese folklore into the story. The most beneficial aspect of these books is the historicity of the story. I learned several things about the time period I would not have known before, particularly about how girls who had been “sold” into factories by their poor families struggled to survive. The author clearly explains the clothing, attitudes, and culture of the people which was very detailed and enjoyable to learn about.
Where the author struggles a bit for me, is in the actual storytelling. The world is rich and the characters are interesting, but I found most of them to be described as very blank and two-dimensional. I don’t know if this is because aspects of their personality had already been explored in previous books, or if it was just the writing style in general, but rarely were the faces or tone of voice described to the reader, which, for me, made the story difficult to remain interested in. Feelings were rarely invoked and much of the emotional and personal details were left for readers to fill in, which made this book a challenge for me to continue reading at times, despite my interest in the subject.
The book might have been easier to enjoy if more drawings of the characters had been included. The back of the book features an illustration of the main characters which was immensely helpful to me when it came to actually picturing them. Historical drawings are the main source of illustration for each chapter (which is great for learning more about the real Japan) but a few more drawings of the characters would have been more helpful in lieu of descriptions.
The writing was dry overall, which I found disappointing, so I rate the book 3 out of 4 stars. The book is appropriate for kids and teens because there is nothing offensive about the story and the brothel aspect is not explicitly described at all. There were errors throughout the book, but I could tell it was professionally edited. I recommend the book to anyone interested in Japanese history and culture, especially fans of the series.
The Dragon Sisters
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