A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The author reimagines the Hans Christian Andersen story "The Wild Swans" and adds elements of Chinese dragon folklore and Chinese and Japanese stories and legends, including the myth of Chang E the Moon Goddess. Readers can look up the original tales if they are unfamiliar with them and see what elements of each the author uses.
The near-sacred importance of honoring a promise. The love of family, bravery, and sacrifice all help overcome obstacles. A reminder that it doesn't help to run away from fears -- you must face them. Knowing where one's place is in the world begins with knowing your own heart.
Positive Role Models
Princess Shiori goes through many trials to save her family and her people. She's offered the easy path many times. The pearl is a burden, and the promise she made to her stepmother to return it is a dangerous one to keep. She sacrifices everything to honor her promise. Her father, the emperor, often refuses to see her strength, tries to keep her away from danger. While she's respectful of him in many ways, she doesn't listen. Staying home and safe as he asks means others suffer on her behalf.
While the kingdoms depicted are imaginary, the story draws from many East Asian myths, and all the characters are Asian. Princess Shiori is the hero of the story, not her brothers. Her brothers and her fiancé respect her strength and support her throughout the story.
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Violence & Scariness
Fights with dragons, humans, demons, and ghosts that end in injuries or near-death for heroes. Someone is nearly burned at the stake after being badly beaten, others are shot with arrows or hit with rocks. A near drowning, near death from blood loss, a nose fractured, a boy briefly tortured with pain, a poisoning. Demon possession that causes the demon to speak through others and act violently. Imprisonment and a near forced marriage that would result in the loss of all memories. An enemy prisoner run through with a sword, talk of others put to death. Story of a girl beaten by family and ostracized for being a sorceress and ugly. A curse causes a forest fire. Story of a girl's village burned down as punishment. Much talk of the loss of the main character's stepmother and its impact.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A few kisses. Talk of consorts in the dragon kingdom in the form of mortal women taken away from their homes, either by choice or not.
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A few utterances of "damn" or "damned."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Wine consumed at dinner and in celebration by older teenagers and adults.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Dragon's Promise, by Elizabeth Lim (The Blood of Stars duology), is the riveting conclusion of the Six Crimson Cranes duology. Elements of Chinese and Japanese folklore and myths are fused with this original tale. The main character is Princess Shiori, who has promised something nearly impossible: to return a pearl (dragon heart) to a dragon who is half-demon and exiled to an unknown land. She risks her life many times to honor her promise. Fights with dragons, humans, demons, and ghosts end in injuries. Someone is nearly burned at the stake after being badly beaten, and others are shot with arrows or hit with rocks. There's a near drowning, a poisoning, a near death from blood loss, and a fractured nose, and a boy is briefly tortured with pain. Demon possession causes the demon to speak through innocent people and act violently. Shiori faces imprisonment and a near forced marriage that would result in the loss of all her memories as well. Romance heats up in this book, but it's still sweet, with just a few kisses described. There are two scenes of drinking, at dinner and for a celebratory toast for those teenage and up. Throughout The Dragon's Promise, a love of family shines through. Shiori's promise is to her departed stepmother, who she mourns and learns empathy for as the story progresses.
Is It Any Good?
This riveting finale to the East Asian fairy tale-infused duology will hook you with the underwater dragons and permanently hold you in its thrall with its demons, enchanters, and sweet love story. The Dragon's Promise is three robust adventures in one book. First the intrepid Princess Shiori must face the dragons in their watery kingdom. She's barely home when she must travel to a cursed faraway island filled with demons and ghosts. And back in her country again, she faces more demons along with zealots who want to kill her because of her magic. The dragon realm gets the most props for pure imaginative wonder. Readers may want more and more described in each scene, from the dragons themselves in their dragon and human forms to the opulence surrounding them, but the setting still wows regardless. And the nail-biting underwater escape feels like the ending of a saga.
But back on land, we've still got two big adventures to go! And there's Princess Shiori's love life to salvage. She can't run out on poor Takkan again, or can she? Regardless of whether the wedding is on or off again, the couple's devotion to each other makes for one of the sweeter love stories you will encounter in any realm. Shiori's desire to protect Takkan from all the danger she knows is coming adds to the conflict, but not in an overly dramatic way that draws them apart for long. After Shiori deals with the dragons alone, the couple face all those demons, ghosts, and zealots together with the help of Shiori's brothers. Each danger they encounter seems like it will be their last, and just when you're sure they will be divided forever, you're reminded of the power of fairy tales. Author Elizabeth Lim weaves real magic into the marvelous conclusion. It's a shame this is only a duology, but there were enough adventures in the short series, enough myths and fairy tales woven together, that it feels like many wondrous volumes.
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