Rating: 4/5 stars
Series: Twisted Tales, Book 4
Genres: YA, Fantasy, Retellings
Reading Challenges: 1 (Asian Author: Chinese)
While this book doesn’t fulfill many of the reading challenges for the Asian Readathon, it has been a book I’ve been wanting to read for a while now. I know that I’ve already read a book (or two) that was (were) written by a Chinese author, that didn’t stop me from picking up this book. I aim to read a more diverse selection of books throughout this month, but I’m glad that I picked Reflection up.
As a fan of both Disney and retellings in general, this book was right up my alley. I’ve already read one of the Twisted Tales books and enjoyed that so I was pretty sure that I’d enjoy this one, too. I was not disappointed.
If you’re a person that enjoys historical novels with a twist – like, say, mythological characters thrown in – but don’t mind the book being based on historical events only loosely, you might enjoy this read. Finding out that Mulan was a real person that fought for China when I was a kid made me love her story even more.
Mulan remains one of my favourite Disney movies of all time. This book made me remember just how much I love the story. While I know the Disney movie isn’t 100% true to history, I can’t help but want to learn more about Fa Mulan after reading this book.
I’m glad that this book was written as it widened my understanding of Chinese mythology and folklore. It took some of the things that I enjoyed so much as a child – like Mushu, Mulan’s guardian – and brought it to the forefront of the story in a new way. Lim did a wonderful job at making her characters jump out of the story and settle themselves in my brain.
This book was also be a great book for a younger person to read if they’re into fantasy. While generally YA books are labeled such as the main characters are in that age range, this story was written such that it is easy to follow and is not graphic. While this book may be taking place within a war, it does not go through any gruesome descriptions that might upset a young reader.
I enjoyed that there was a tiny hint of the romance that takes place in the movie, but that this romance did not take over the story. It was alluded to multiple times throughout the book, but it wasn’t until the very end that there was any romance payoff.
While Mushu didn’t play a big part in this story, I really enjoyed getting to know ShiShi and understanding his role within the Li family. It’s interesting to see what the family’s main guardian would act like as Mushu took the place of the Great Stone Dragon to take care of Fa Mulan in the Disney version of this tale. I enjoyed Lim’s explanation of Mulan interacting with ShiShi throughout the story. By only seeing ShiShi as stone before entering the Diyu and being told that once they leave the only way she’s see ShiShi was by becoming part of the Li family was some good writing. It showed the importance that the Chinese placed on family and their ancestry which was a main theme of this story.
I enjoyed seeing the layout of the Underworld, or Diyu. Understanding that there were tunnels that acted as shortcuts through levels explained how Mulan, Shang, and ShiShi would be able to traverse almost 100 levels in order to reach King Yama’s throne room again and escape Diyu. It was interesting to see the ways in which the demons and the ghosts interacted and which parts of Diyu belonged to each. Seeing the different levels from Meng Po’s garden to a literal mountain of knives, not to mention the torture chambers that the crew casually walked past with he Fa ancestors, showed just how detailed Diyu really is. It also showed Lim’s ability to create a visual masterpiece with her words as I had no problems imagining the different trials and challenges that Mulan, Shang, and ShiShi had to face.
I can’t hep but wonder what it is that made King Yama smile when the statue of him was made. Was he even actually smiling when the statue was made or did the sculptor just decide that was how they wanted to make his likeliness look? I can’t imagine what would make King Yama smile but I would gladly read about it if someone were to write the story. (And if such a story was already written, then I need to do my research and find it!)
Another character that I really enjoyed reading about was Meng Po. She was the character that I believe made Mulan’s mission the hardest – and that includes the giant fire demon that she had to defeat. Meng Po forced Mulan to face reality time and time again, having to decide that she really did want to deal with her decisions and their consequences instead of taking the easy route and forgetting about her problems. Her illusion magic was powerful enough to bring out Mulan’s desires multiple times throughout the book in ways that were both intriguing and heartbreaking.
Getting to understand the way that Diyu works was also fascinating to read about. Learning that the Li family was so filled with honour that none of their ancestors spent much time in Diyu was an interesting contrast to finding 3 of Mulan’s relatives almost the second that she calls for them to help. The Li family remained so honourable that they were all either reincarnated or sent Heaven almost as soon as they arrived in Diyu. Only Shang’s father stayed longer as he was hiding out in hopes to say goodbye to his son.
Out of all of Mulan’s relatives, Ren has to be my favourite. He’s obviously a flawed individual, gambling problems included, but he was there for Mulan when it really counted. Sure he didn’t want to help her at the beginning – or even near the end, really – but he got over his own issues and did what was right in the end.
My favourite obstacle that Mulan had to fight through has to be the Chamber of Mirrors. In this challenge Mulan had to face not only her own insecurities and fears, but also her own identity and realizing who she really was. It wasn’t until Mulan was able to come to terms with her own ambitions and reasonings that she was able to see through the fog and find her inner self. She needed to understand her true reasoning for joining the army and the consequences her actions may have had as well as come to terms with what made Mulan Mulan.
I found that Lim did an amazing job tying in the movie Mulan not being able to see herself in her reflection to book Mulan who was finally able to recognize herself. Through the Chamber of Mirrors Mulan was finally able to see past who she was supposed to be and who she thought she should be to find who she truly was. She was finally able to tie together the her that was supposed to be a perfect young lady with the her that ran away and joined the army so that she could save her father’s life.
Overall, I enjoyed this story and its take on a Disney movie I’ve always loved. While I wish I could see this book come to life on my screen, I’ll be just as content rewatching the Disney movie in all its glory. Lim did an amazing job introducing me to characters of Chinese folklore and mythology and I can’t wait to read more stories surrounding such interesting characters.