"The morning my mother went away, she burned incense in front of the Fox altar."
“The morning my mother went away, she burned incense in front of the Fox altar.”

Lately, I have been reading quite a lot of historical fiction as well as fiction set in cultures different to my own. History and other cultures seem to fascinate me, as they give me a chance to stay in the real world, but also experience something foreign to what I know.

Recently, I had the chance to read an advance reader copy of Dragon Springs Road by Janie Chang, as part of HarperCollins Canada’s HCCFirstLook program in exchange for an honest review of the book. So, here we are! I was so anxious for my package to arrive, given that this was my very first ARC. There is a certain amount of privilege in knowing you are reading a book before most of the world.

One of the things I look for in a book and one of the first indicators on whether it is good or not is how long it takes me to read it. In general, I read much faster when it is a book I am enjoying. It takes much longer for me to finish books I do not particularly enjoy. With Dragon Springs Road, it did take me about a week or so to finish, but I would always seek out a spare moment to read even a couple pages, whether it was on my lunch break, waiting for my winter tires to be installed on my car, or even just before bed. I wanted to keep reading this book. I wanted my questions answered. Sure, I could savour it, but why?

For those who may be unaware, Dragon Springs Road is a story set in and around Shanghai in the early 20th century (it is 1908 when the book opens). At its core, the story focuses on a young, Eurasian (zazhong) orphan searching for her mother after being abandoned at age 8. She faces many challenges resulting from her position, including contempt from others, but manages to make friends with the eldest daughter of a privileged family and an animal spirit.

Overall, I think Dragon Springs Road was an easy read. Now, I do not mean this in a “the words are simple” or that everything in it is simple, but rather that Janie Chang wrote the story in such a way that allows it to flow and does not require a huge effort to understand what is going on. With that said, there were some unfamiliar words (notably: zazhong), but it was easy for me to pick up the meaning after seeing the word for the first time. Also, I really felt I heard the protagonist’s voice while I was reading, which is a rarity, even in books I enjoy.

I loved the focus on girls and women in this book, rather than the men. Sure, the men play a role as well, but more of a supporting one as it applies to the stories of the women. I do not think this happens all that often, even if the author is a woman. It is not always immediate, but in general, I tend to relate to female heroes more than their male counterparts. Even if there are significant differences, such as in Dragon Springs Road, there is still something there.

When Dragon Springs Road hits shelves in January 2017, I highly recommend you pick up a copy and read it. Dragon Springs Road is a tumultuous journey from the first page to the last. It will not disappoint!

If you do choose to read it, or were lucky enough to get an advance copy, I would love to hear your thoughts about the book!

~~**~~

Title: Dragon Springs Road

Author: Janie Chang

Publisher: HarperAvenue (Imprint of HarperCollins Canada)

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