Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee combines science-fiction and mythology to tell the story about a young fox trying to find her missing brother.
When I say Dragon Pearl has it all, I mean it has it all. It’s difficult to place this book in a singular box, but rather than that being a deterrent, it seems to be one of its biggest strengths. Kids (and adults!) looking for something a little different will certainly find exactly that in Yoon Ha Lee’s novel.
The story begins with Min, whose family hides a secret — they’re all foxes of the mythological variety. Foxes have a poor reputation of being mischievous at best and extremely dangerous at worst. Min and her family are just trying to keep their heads down and go on living the best life they can afford on their humble planet Jinju.
Of course, nothing ever goes according to plan, and when an investigator shows up to ask why Min’s brother may have deserted the Space Force, Min takes matters into her own hands. She can’t believe her brother would ever dessert his position, one he has coveted for years, and so she strikes out on her own to solve the mystery of his disappearance.
From there, Min finds herself on quite a journey of discovery, not only in relation to what happened with her brother, but also in relation to herself and her growing powers. Min is clever, and though her mother has always chided her for using her fox magic, for fear of detection, our hero quickly learns how much good it can do.
Dragon Pearl is the third book from Rick Riordan Presents, the imprint from Percy Jackson author Rick Riordan. The first two, Aru Shah and the End of Time and The Storm Runner, explored Hindu and Mayan mythology, respectively, in a way that was both informative and entertaining. Yoon Ha Lee’s novel follows in their footsteps.
While Dragon Pearl may be about Min and her fox abilities, it introduces a variety of other creatures with unique powers, such as dragons, goblins, ghosts, shamans, and more. While some of these figures may be familiar to Western audiences on the surface, the fact that they are based in Korean folklore means there’s an unfamiliar twist for those of us who aren’t in the know.
Yoon Ha Lee plays with the idea that there is prejudice, not only against foxes but against supernaturals in general, and yet he proves that those of us who are a little different are still capable of being heroes. In fact, those of us who are different may just be the ones to save the world. And what better lesson could any of us — young or old — learn than that?
Much like Aru Shah in Roshani Chokshi’s Pandava series, Min is a bit of a troublemaker. She means well, but she struggles with keeping her head down like her mother wants her to. This trait, though it does lead to many stick situations, is also what allows Min to save the day. It’s a great lesson in being bold and being true to yourself.
Though this book belongs in the hands of every child, it is particularly suited for young girls who may be interested in science. Not only is Min a brave explorer, but she’s also interested in engineering. Imagine being able to hand this novel over to a 13-year-old girl and seeing the look of wonder on her face when she realizes she can do anything she sets her mind to — even if it’s something that is stereotypically reserved for boys.
For some, Dragon Pearl may be a little heavy on the details, but for others, this book will be a thorough look at what our future may hold in terms of space travel. Yes, this novel is set in an alternate universe, but as it is with many science-fiction novels, much of it is still based in reality. If your passions include space and science and engineering, or these are something your child is interested in learning more about, Dragon Pearl can truly be the gateway into a whole new world for them.