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The Girl King

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
The Girl King Book Poster Image
Action-filled fantasy series off to a violent start.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Fantasy meant to entertain.

Positive Messages

Power based on the subjugation of others is wrong and doesn't last, anyway. If you're in a position of power, use it to help people have better lives. There are always those who crave power for its own sake, but ultimately all they do is cause violence and destruction. Trust has to be earned.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Lu is a great role model for bravery, strength, wanting to do what's right, and wanting to help others. She's a positive representation of a young Asian woman who's determined, loyal, and who doesn't give up easily. At first Min is timid and weak, but she discovers she has more power than she imagined. As the first in a series, it remains to be seen what Min makes of her powers and how she chooses to use them. Nok is a good role model for friendship, loyalty, caring, and as a love interest. Expect plenty of easy-to-recognize antagonists and villains who mostly bring violence and destruction.

Violence

Lots of real-world and fantasy violence with brief but vivid descriptions of blood, pain, and some gore. There are battles and fights with weapons like swords, knives, and crossbows as well as with magical abilities like lightning shooting from the hands. Expect some animal fights and attacks that also mention blood, especially tearing out throats, and real and magical animals are injured and killed. A young woman's first period is scary and mentions contractions and blood spilling out. Characters are frequently in peril and have scary encounters in dark settings with fantasy beings.

Sex

A few kisses, a couple of descriptions of caressing underneath clothing; no body parts mentioned. A fantasy being ate a woman's "seeds" so she'll never have children.

Language

Rare use of "damned," "s--t," and "bitch."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens in a fantasy world have wine or hard alcohol a few times with unpleasant side effects mentioned like a sour stomach or slow reaction times. One character was addicted to "poppy tears" in the past but has overcome it. The emperor smokes a banned substance called "poppy tar." One character smokes a lot at one point and is admonished for smoking too much. Rare mention of minor characters smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Mimi Yu's The Girl King is the the first of a planned fantasy series. The setting is a magical kingdom with an ancient-China feel to it, and the main characters are good role models and representations especially for Asian teens. Expect a fair amount of real-world and fantasy violence with descriptions of blood, pain, and some gore. Fights and battles use magical abilities as well as swords, knives, and crossbows. Animals are in danger and there are some descriptions of animals killing and being killed. Sexual content is mild, with a few kisses and a couple of brief descriptions of caressing under clothes; no sensitive body parts are mentioned. A girl's first period is very scary to her and mentions contractions and blood spilling out. A character was addicted to the opiate-like "poppy tears" in the past, and it's mentioned that an adult character smokes the banned substance "poppy tar." Teens drink wine and hard alcohol a couple of times with negative consequences mentioned. Strong language is very rare but includes "s--t" and "bitch."

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What's the story?

As the eldest of two daughters with an extensive education and training in weaponry and combat, THE GIRL KING was a nickname Princess Lu grudgingly accepted. Lu had every expectation that her father the emperor would name her as his successor, even though their kingdom had never had a female ruler before. Instead, the emperor announced that Lu would marry her disgraced cousin Set, and that Set would be emperor. Lu's whole world and all her hopes for the future came crumbling down in that moment. Princess Lu's fight to regain her rightful place will take her to the far reaches of the empire, and she'll have to confront, outwit, defeat, or recruit forces of darkness and power beyond her wildest imaginings.

Is it any good?

First-time author Mimi Yu's Asian-inspired magical fantasy has lots of action, adventure, and violence. Yu's world-building and character development in The Girl King are solid and believable. Action scenes are exciting and easy to follow. Descriptions of places paint adequate pictures but don't quite have enough spark to be truly vivid. Genuine surprises in the plot are few, but the actoin and adventure keep the pages turning.

Teens will relate to Lu and Nok as they each deal with losing all their hopes and expectations for the future, and have to learn how to make their futures happen on their own. Fantasy fans of action and magical powers will enjoy the large-scale adventure with a distinctive Asian flair. The hefty dose of violence with some descriptions and light gore make it best for high-schoolers and up.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence in The Girl King. Is it too much? Is violence in the fantasy realm have a different impact on you than real-world violence? Why, or why not?

  • Why is it important to have diverse characters represented in books, TV, movies, and games? Have you read any other fantasies with main characters of color? What are your favorites?

  • Why are fantasy series so popular? What do we love about them? Where do you think this story will go?

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