Writing down my feelings for this book will not be easy. Simply because my heart is so full of love, and that is the most difficult thing to find the words for. But gosh, how I will try. As this book ruined me with how good it was. Five stars for sure. It is a book that I would read over and over again. As it made me so happy.
This book tells the story of nineteen year old Mulan. A girl I loved from the very start, all the way until the end. This girl was fierce and brave and I loved her to pieces. She was scared and honest and I could not have loved her more. Getting to know Mulan was the best. She has such a great past too. A bit heartbreaking, but all interesting. I adored her relationship with her little brother and her Auntie and her child. And her father too, kind of. He was so complicated. And ended up having so many secrets. Yet I enjoyed reading about him too. For years now he has been training Mulan all the time, to get ready for a duel with a rival family. They have had this duel for ages, and this time it is Mulan's turn to try to reunite two special swords. Complicated, yet so exciting.
The book begins with her having a practice fight with the man she will duel with in just a few weeks. They have met a couple of times before, all done secretly. Him hiding his full face, her dressing as a man. But despite this, Mulan has slowly been falling for this man she is fated to duel with, a man she could never be with. Their first scene together was pretty much amazing. Sigh. I shipped them right away, haha. Just could not help it. But then, just two weeks before their duel, the war suddenly shows up at Mulan's door.
And she is the only person in her household that can go fight this war. Her father cannot walk, her brother is too young, and the son of her Auntie is not well enough. And so Mulan must dress up as a man, taking the place of her long dead twin brother, to go fight in the war. It was all full of details. And I loved it so very much. Her family seemed amazing. And her heartbreak about having to leave felt so real too. Her family want her back safe, but she does not believe it will be possible. Though she will try her hardest to survive.
Which we get to witness almost right away. When she ends up showing her skills to a captain, and ends up travelling with him and a prince. A prince that make her think of the man she was to duel against. She is not sure if it is him or not, as she doesn't think it could be possible. But oh. Possible it was. Eee. And I just cannot tell you how much I loved it all. This book was full of small secrets. And they were all so very awesome. Mulan is hiding the fact that she is a girl, from everyone. Well, almost everyone. Loved that so.
While doing that, she has to fight a war. And this war was pretty exciting to learn about. I loved all of the details included. I loved reading about the first time Mulan was attacked and had to defend herself. It did not go well. Despite how amazing she is at fighting. It felt so real and honest and I loved that. And then there were all the characters. She travels with only a few men, and they were all amazing. My gosh. How I loved getting to know them all and read about them. They were fun and so very adorable. All awesome.
And then, of course, there was the princeling. Kai. I loved this man more than I can say. I loved reading about him and Mulan together, getting to know each other. I loved how Kai tried to protect her in small ways. I adored how they got to know things about the other. Their growing romance pretty much killed me. I shipped them so very much. And though this book does not take place over such a long period of time, it was still enough. Enough for me to love them both so much. Gosh. They were so cute together.
But, you know, she is pretending to be a man. And Kai has a lot of secrets himself. Some revealed early, which I loved. This man was simply the best. He was afraid of so many things. And it made me love him more, because of how open he was with Mulan. I loved that there was no drama at all between them. A few secrets, but nothing big. Nothing that hurt. Sigh. This romance was perfection. Okay, there was one thing that bothered me. Spoilers. There was not a single kiss. What even. My poor heart, lol. But so good.
This story takes place in ancient China. Which I loved so very much. I loved the history Sherry included in this book. I loved all the mentions of the different food and such. I loved the culture and diversity. I adored the Chinese names they all had. And what I loved so much as well was the open gay in the book. There were men in love with other men, and it seemed like a normal thing in this world. I loved that. And it was written well too. There is a lot of fighting included, martial arts ways, and it was so well done. I loved it all.
The Magnolia Sword: A Ballad of Mulan was everything I could have hoped for. It was so fun and exciting and oh so perfect. The characters were so well written and I adored the small romance. Getting to know Mulan and Kai made my heart truly happy. This Mulan retelling was every kind of perfect. Which I adored beyond words. It was not really a dark book, despite the war. It made me smile so often. It was sweet and adorable and a little dark and serious too. It was full of history and amazing characters. I truly enjoyed it.
Biggest thank you to the publisher, Lee & Low Books, for approving my request to read this book early via Edelweiss. So glad I got to read this book right now. It was so precious to me. I cannot wait to own all the copies when it comes out in September. And my gosh, how badly I need to own the print ARC too, for my most perfect collection of books by Sherry. I shall go hunting for it. This book was every bit as perfect as I thought it would be. And you all need to read this book too. Was so easy to fall in love with. Truly perfect.