HarperCollins Publishers | January 2017 | 400 pgs
Source: Edelweiss via Publisher

Janie Chang's latest book is a coming-of-age story with an element of spiritual fantasy set in Shanghai, China during the 1900s.

When Jialing was seven, her mother abandoned her and left her alone at the Western Residence along Dragon Springs Road. Rumoured to be a haunted courtyard, Jialing didn't encounter any ghosts but she did befriend an animal spirit, Fox, who could change into its animal form or a human form simply by her whims. Now Jialing has a very unhappy life; having born with a mixed blood (as an Eurasian) she is often cast as a 'zazhong' and faces contempt from both the Chinese and the foreigners. Through Fox's advice, she befriends Anjuin, the eldest Yang daughter, whose family who have just moved in next to her courtyard. Jialing later becomes the bond servant to Anjuin's grandmother, one who holds the highest authority within the Yangs household.

As the story progresses, we see young Jialing and Anjuin grown into young women. Their ties and their outlook of life continue to be strong despite the difficulties each of them faces. Throughout these years, Jialing never gives up of searching for her mother. With the country shaken up by political wars and treachery, many people are affected by the unstable economy but ironically it is a fire which broke the Yangs household. With their cotton mill factory burnt to the grounds, the Yangs moved to Ningpo, where they were originally from except their eldest grandson who stays to look for some business opportunity as well as Anjuin and Jialing.

Jialing's search for her mother gives her the opportunity to meet a journalist, Liu Sanmu. And when an unexpected circumstances implicate them in the death of one man who is suspected of being a supporter of an opposition party, Jialing fears the secrets which they have been hiding might catch up on them one day and she wonders what she could do without Fox's enchantments. And most importantly, is she able to stand on her own despite her mixed blood and finds true love one day?

I enjoyed Janie Chang's previous novel, Three Souls, and when I saw she has a new release I knew I have to read it. I enjoyed Dragon Springs Road as much as I did with the first book. Filled with intrigue and bits of spiritual elements, this book is no exceptional and I was glad to note both books are different as this book features the fox spirit (originated from Chinese folklore) while the first was more of one's soul and afterlife. What I liked about both books is aside from the characterisations, readers could also learn about some Chinese history and the difficult times the people face during that time period - a time of great social and political upheaval and the uncertainty surrounding the lower class' livelihood, and how women are of little status due to their gender (much worse if they are poor). Part coming-of-age, part fantasy and part mystery, I was once again captivated by Ms Zhang's imagination and her skills of bringing her characters to life. I am very curious what she would come up with next and I look forward to it.

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6 Responses
  1. jenclair Says:

    I love the cover, and I like the sound of the plot! I also like the idea of part fantasy and part mystery being mixed in with cultural setting.

  2. Melody Says:

    Jenclair - It does sounds like there's a lot going on in this book, isn't it? Hope you'll enjoy this if you do read it.

  3. Lark Says:

    This sounds good! I love books that give the culture and folklore of a country, especially a country as fascinating as China. :)

  4. Melody Says:

    Lark - Me too! I love books that allow me to know more about the countries' history and culture. This one was good IMO because it has elements of a fantasy and intrigue, both which I like. :)

  5. Iliana Says:

    Such a beautiful cover! Another one for my list!

  6. Melody Says:

    Iliana - I hope you'll enjoy it if you do read it, Iliana. :)

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