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Thousand Worlds #1

Dragon Pearl

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THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD MIN comes from a long line of fox spirits. But you'd never know it by looking at her. To keep the family safe, Min’s mother insists that none of them use any fox-magic, such as Charm or shape-shifting. They must appear human at all times.

Min feels hemmed in by the household rules and resents the endless chores, the cousins who crowd her, and the aunties who judge her. She would like nothing more than to escape Jinju, her neglected, dust-ridden, and impoverished planet. She’s counting the days until she can follow her older brother, Jun, into the Space Forces and see more of the Thousand Worlds.

When word arrives that Jun is suspected of leaving his post to go in search of the Dragon Pearl, Min knows that something is wrong. Jun would never desert his battle cruiser, even for a mystical object rumored to have tremendous power. She decides to run away to find him and clear his name.

Min’s quest will have her meeting gamblers, pirates, and vengeful ghosts. It will involve deception, lies, and sabotage. She will be forced to use more fox-magic than ever before, and to rely on all of her cleverness and bravery. The outcome may not be what she had hoped, but it has the potential to exceed her wildest dreams.

312 pages, Hardcover

First published January 15, 2019

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About the author

Yoon Ha Lee

176 books1,906 followers
Yoon Ha Lee is an American science fiction writer born on January 26, 1979 in Houston, Texas. His first published story, “The Hundredth Question,” appeared in Fantasy & Science Fiction in 1999; since then, over two dozen further stories have appeared. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,941 reviews
Profile Image for Rick Riordan.
Author 259 books409k followers
December 9, 2018
A Thousand Dangerous Worlds

Min is just your regular teenaged fox spirit, living with her family on the dusty backwater world of Jinju.

Oh, sure, like all fox spirits, she can change shape into whatever she wants: human, fox, even a dining table. And, yes, she has the power to Charm -- to manipulate human emotions and make people see things that aren’t there. But that’s not very exciting when you’re stuck on the family farm, sleeping every night in a crowded common room with your snoring cousins, spending every day fixing condensers in the hydroponics dome. Min yearns to join the Space Forces like her older brother Jun did – to see the galaxy and have marvelous adventures!

That’s not easy for fox spirits, though. When humans colonized the galaxy, they brought all the supernatural races with them: dragons, tigers, goblins, you name it. But fox spirits? They have a bad reputation as unreliable tricksters. Nobody wants them around. Even now, when humans have spread across the Thousand Worlds, there doesn’t seem to be any place for foxes. Min has to hide her true nature. There’s little chance she’ll be as lucky as her brother and escape her dull existence.

Then one day, an emissary from the galactic government visits her family farm. He brings horrible news: Min’s beloved brother Jun has disappeared. Worse, he’s suspected of treason -- of abandoning his post to search for a fabled lost relic that has the power to terraform worlds: the Dragon Pearl.

Min knows that Jun would never desert the Space Forces. Something must have happened to him. He needs help! Unfortunately, nobody seems interested in what Min thinks, especially after she knocks the emissary unconscious for insulting her brother’s honor. Her family decides to ship her off to the boondocks to keep her out of further trouble, but Min has other ideas. Jun needs her! She runs away from home, intent on following her brother to the stars. One young fox spirit, alone against the galaxy, will risk everything to find her brother and discover the mystery of the long-lost Dragon Pearl.

Buckle up, fellow foxes. Get ready for epic space battles, magic and lasers, ghosts and dragons, interstellar pirates and warlike galactic tigers. The Thousand Worlds hold all sorts of danger, but there are also priceless magical treasures to be discovered. If Min succeeds, she might not just save her brother. She might save her entire planet.

The Dragon Pearl will be like nothing you’ve ever read: A zesty mix of Korean folklore, magic and science fiction that will leave you longing for more adventures in the Thousand Worlds!
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,616 reviews10.7k followers
September 21, 2023
Dragon Pearl is Middle Grade Science Fiction at its BEST!!!

This rollicking Space Opera follows 13-year old, Min, on her quest to find her older brother, Jun.

When an special investigator shows up at Min's family home, accusing her older brother, Jun, of deserting the Space Forces, Min knows it has to be a mistake.

Jun and Min had always dreamed of joining the Forces and going on grand adventures together. Now that he is a part of that world, Min knows he would never disgrace their family by deserting.

Forced to flee home, with the investigator hot on her trail, Min sets out in search of the truth. Her goal is to clear Jun's name.

Very quickly, Min is forced to rely on her intelligence and quick wit, as she eludes security, works in a gambling den, stows away on a ship, impersonates a Space Forces Cadet and so much more. Throughout her journey she discovers her own strength and makes some great new friends.

Min is a really well-rounded, enjoyable character. I grew attached to her and loved watching her development over the course of the book.

The side-characters, as well, were great. Humorous and likable, they truly added to the story, particularly Sujin and Haneul.

It was also great to see a non-binary side character play such an important role in a Middle Grade story.

The ending was fantastic, but really it was fantastic the whole way through.

Nice fast pace, smooth transitions from different scenes and a strong build-up to the end. I think it left off in an excellent spot to continue on with the story.

I am definitely hoping for more books in this world, and with these characters, even though I understand that may be a long shot.

The bottom line is, I really had a blast, pun intended, reading this book which, to me, is what Middle Grade is all about. It should be a joy to read a Middle Grade adventure book and I was not disappointed with this one.

The writing was very, very strong. I was swept up in the world and I thought the Sci-Fi elements were top-notch; no surprise considering the expertise and experience that Yoon Ha Lee brings to the table.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney Book Group and Rick Riordan Presents, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I truly appreciate the opportunity.

I think RRP Imprint is providing a great service to our book community by offering a platform for diverse voices from around the world to share their myth, legends and folklore.
Profile Image for Nataliya.
784 reviews12.5k followers
September 3, 2020
I really wanted to like it. What I got instead was annoyance and irritation. And I’m not happy about that.

It’s a pretty fast-paced story of a quest of a teenage shapeshifting fox girl Min who leaves a backward poor world in a union of spacefaring yet magical civilizations (think foxes, goblins, tigers, shamans, ghosts) to find her missing space cadet brother Jun as well as a very powerful McGuffin relic, the titular Dragon Pearl. Min has Charm - the ability to influence minds, as well as a perfect shapeshifting ability. It involves running away from home, hitching a ride on a spaceship, impersonating a space cadet and going to a ghost planet.

“You’ve been very busy, Min,” Seok said. “Over the last two months or so, you’ve run away from home, deceived spaceport security, gotten involved with a gambling den, been in a shoot-out with mercenaries, impersonated a dead cadet and an active captain, released prisoners without authorization, stolen an escape pod, and broken the Fourth Colony’s quarantine.”
Sounds fun, right? But the problem is - it doesn’t just read young, it reads *juvenile*. In that overly-simplistic, unsophisticated way that plagues a lot of stories written for children, and which the good books can escape¹. But Dragon Pearl does not.
¹ And no, I’m not being critical just because I am much too old for a children’s book. There are quite a few very well-written fantastical books for younger audience that nevertheless are wonderful no matter what the readers’ age is:

- Terry Pratchett’s The Wee Free Men and its sequels.
- Anything by Frances Hardinge - but especially A Face Like Glass, Gullstruck Island, and The Lie Tree
- Neil Gaiman’s Coraline.
- Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones.
- China Mieville’s Un Lun Dun.
We are supposed to believe Min is resourceful and intelligent. Even a seasoned pilot grudgingly (of course) remarks on her smarts. But what I can’t help but see instead is a bratty yet a bit naive kid who is very lucky at overhearing plot-important things and - of course - just happens to be the best magic user in the family with an unexplained aptitude for engineering making her the most badass barely trained 13-year-old.
“Whenever I wasn’t sure what to do, I just trusted my instincts.”
She’s always unerringly right and wins loyalty of most easily because of simple reason of existing. And every adult is easily outwitted, the villain thwarted, magic relics easily handled and the government representatives indulgingly entertained and pacified. Her magic seems to know no limits and is ridiculously effortless — which made me really wonder why her fellow foxes with all those abilities of Charm are not running the world but are instead scrounging away in poverty and disgrace.

Ah, things that don’t make sense...
Everything is just so blatantly convenient. Every perfectly overheard conversation. Every conveniently written observation in a notebook in a room conveniently easy to break into, with a conveniently labeled map with coordinates included, again, so conveniently. A convenient ghost(s) the moment you need one. Convenient spaceships conveniently ready to take basically a hitchhiking kid without ever asking inconvenient questions.
“Fox magic was handy that way, if sometimes unpredictable—once you envisioned what you needed, it covered all the details.”
It’s just all too easy. Too simple. Too unearned. Too much zapping between locations for plot’s sake without any lingering connections to the ones we visited, or the characters we met there. Too little of character development, and all of them are pretty bland anyway. Too cheesy of an ending.

It manages to be both entertaining and yet un-engaging, which is a strange and unexpected combo. Ultimately, despite cool mythology, between all the annoyance and indifference about the outcome of Min’s quest (it just failed to engage me, and the stakes never seemed important) I found my attention drifting all the time, and putting this book down was certainly easier than picking it back up. And that just never bodes well.

2.5 stars in the end. Rounding up to 3 because 10-year-old me probably would have enjoyed the shapeshifting in space despite the flaws.


My Hugo and Nebula Awards Reading Project 2020: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
Profile Image for Hilly 🎐.
709 reviews1,325 followers
April 20, 2019
2.5 stars

Well, this didn’t go as expected. Dragon Pearl was my most anticipated Rick Riordan Presents book because it's a space opera with Korean mythology elements. However, I didn't enjoy this as much as I wanted to. I was hesitant to round my rating to 3 stars because I feel I didn't quite like it at that level, but 2 stars was too low of a rating for it.

The main problem I had with this book is that it's bland. It's not exciting or mind-blowing, and I feel mostly neutral towards it. It's actually quite forgettable, and I don't really think I learned a lot about Korean mythology as I thought I would. I'm probably too used to Rick Riordan's books and it's unfair to make comparisons but oh well. I also wished this book would be a bit funny but it wasn't *sigh*
I listened to the audiobook and I'm sure I would have dnfed this if it wasn't for the narrator. It wasn't the best audiobook by any means but listening to it was soothing in a way.

I can't say anything about the characters because I don't know them well enough, but Min was an interesting main character. I like that she spends most of this book as an actual boy as I don't think I've ever read something like it. It was weird at the beginning when the narrator lowered her voice for Min but I grew to like it quite a lot!
Profile Image for Acqua.
536 reviews192 followers
April 2, 2019
This is one of the best things I've ever read.

Dragon Pearl is a Korean-inspired space opera following a teenage fox spirit, set in a queer-inclusive universe. I can't believe I almost didn't read it just because it was middle grade; if I hadn't loved Ninefox Gambit so much, I would have never picked it up, and that would have been such a mistake on my part. It is middle grade, that's the target audience, but Dragon Pearl is the kind of book that can be enjoyed by people of all ages.

I had almost forgotten that books could be so much fun. I read mostly upper YA and adult books, and many - though not all - are always trying to be dark and tense and serious while forgetting that without the light moments, nothing in them feels meaningful. That's not to say that this book is all sunshine and happiness, because it's not, but it understands balance and doesn't throw unnecessary violence at you. It's the kind of book about an adventure that you just can't put down - it follows a young shapeshifting fox who is constantly trying to trick people, and I loved every moment of it. I would have loved this when I was twelve and I think I would love this again if I reread it in a few years. There are books I loved because I read them at the right time in my life, but this is the kind of book I would have loved no matter what.

Let's talk about our trickster fox, Min. She's the kind of character I would have wanted to be at twelve, and now I both admire her a lot and want to hug her. She's just trying to find her lost, maybe-traitorous older brother back, and to do so, she'll get in increasingly dangerous situations, with the help of her charm and her ability to shapeshift.

This is also the kind of book I needed but didn't have when I was twelve. A middle grade book that not only has queer characters in it, its world is full of them: in Dragon Pearl, being non-binary is normal and people casually mention their polyamorous family. Also, foxes can choose what gender to present as in their human form, and Min says that she chose to be a girl... because of tradition. I love reading about societies whose views towards gender are different from the western human default.
(Min's sexual orientation isn't stated - there's no romance and I loved that - but I will never assume that the default in a book written by Yoon Ha Lee is straight and neither should you!)

As I expected, I loved the writing. If you're familiar with Ninefox Gambit and you're worried it will get as complicated as that (I love complicated! But not everyone does), this is much more accessible and the worldbuilding is still wonderful and complex. It's a story set in space which has exactly what I love about Lee's worlds: technology, magic and the characters' beliefs are linked, the lines between them always blurred. You get something that feels a bit like science, a bit like religion, a bit like magic, and yet different from all of them.
I never struggled to understand how things looked like. And from dangerous gambling parlors to spaceships and halfway-terraformed, dusty planets, everything about this book was beautiful.

I also really liked reading about the side characters - Jang, the ghost of the cadet Min is impersonating at some point, her friends, the female dragon Haneul and the non-binary dokkaebi Suijin, and even Min's own brother Jun, when I got to meet him. This is officially the first time I liked the "main character goes on an adventure to rescue sibling" trope, because I actually ended up caring about said sibling. He was an amazing fox too.

Also, that ending? I almost cried. Of happiness.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,105 followers
January 30, 2019
I read this specifically because it was penned by Yoon Ha Lee. I'm a completionist that way.

BUT, I'll be honest, I am not particularly fond of most YA. It tends to be cookie-cutter plots and characters that feel like dough. It's fine if you like fat and sweet things that aren't that good for you but still make you feel warm and fuzzy afterward. And sometimes not even that... sometimes there is just the gnawing guilt and the shame.

Not here, though! I really enjoyed it. Yoon Ha Lee proves he can write a cool young Young Adult novel. I'd say the prime age is 11-14. It's all tricksy with a familiar blend of fantasy elements, magic in the way of charms, illusions, and speaking with the dead... mixed with space-opera elements of the 1000 worlds, big ships, lasers, and high-tech security. The mashup is, by now, quite familiar to us. All that's left is a fun story told well. :)

Ghosts, more ghosts, spaceship captains with wonky motives, stowaways, impersonations, and the overriding desire to find her poor maligned brother drives this novel, and nicely so. It's a great little adventure.
Profile Image for Alexandra Elend Wolf.
615 reviews269 followers
February 3, 2019
2.5 stars

“Seems to me, Min, you make your own luck.”

I entered this book with so many expectations -why do I keep doing this to myself?- and, oh so hype, the premise seemed really cool and, well, it didn't help up.

I kept falling asleep every time I read more than a couple of pages. I'm not even kidding, it was Every. Single. Time. I think I ended reading it more asleep than awake at the end.

It's probably just the fact that I had so many expectations, one of them being that the story was gonna start in space, and when it did not it became slow and boring. I had understood that the whole thing would take place in space from the very beginning, but it didn't. We start in Jinju and had to see the journey to actually get to space, which dragged more than I would have liked. I was pointed, though, that the fact that it took a while to get to space is probably very realistic, all things considered.

Then there's also the fact that I had already some little knowledge of fox's spirits and all that. I know, I know, everyone understands them differently and represents them differently and all that, and I liked the way Lee represented them, but it just somewhat clashed with the idea and concept I already had, which didn't help matters.

"Ghosts were people, too, after all- they just happened to be people who hadn’t yet fully crossed over to the realm of the dead."

Don't get me wrong, not all was bad. I think that character growth was some very fine work.

Min matures and learns more about who she really is and what that means and how to balance that with the rules she's supposed to live with. She started annoying me so much and ended getting a little of respect out of me.

There weren't many other characters to grow to. I honestly don't think any other character change during the length of the book. The ensemble of supportive characters completed their purposes but did little more.

Then there's also the fact that the plot twists were obvious and easy to see. I don't think I was surprised by any of the events that transpired throughout the book. Were they supposed to be that easy to guess?

I supposed the pacing was fine. We didn't get stuck in one place too long and we were always finding something new. Though I must admit that for me the first 30% of the book or so was extremely slow and pointless. Even though it probably wasn't.

"None of it had changed, and everything had changed."

I think that the biggest problem I had with this book was that it didn't click with me. The story is good as are the characters, but I couldn't connect with it as much as I wanted to and the writing the style didn't help me to get more involved with the book.

It just wasn't a book for me. Or, well, the author was not the right fit for me, because I do think the book is better than what I felt it.

This was... not what I had been waiting. A bit of a let down to be honest.


I've been really excited to read this one thanks to that wonderfully beautiful cover. Yes, the cover influenced me a lot, but the premise is really interesting as well.

Ever since reading Aru Shah and the End of Time I've gained more confidence in the works from Riordan Presents and, therefore, I think that giving this book an opportunity is only fair. I'm still nervous though.
Profile Image for Ellie.
578 reviews2,200 followers
May 28, 2020
let's go let's go gumihos

DRAGON PEARL is a sumptuous space opera sci-fi influenced by Korean mythology, and it's just so nice to see a Korean-American author take on a genre which traditionally has been white-dominated and create a world wherein all the characters and worldbuilding are Korean-coded. James Kirk? I don't know him.

It goes to show how accessible diversity can be in all genres and age brackets of literature. DRAGON PEARL is a middle grade, but the world is rich and textured, and the inclusion of a nonbinary character in Sujin was absolutely seamless. (The argument that PoC/LGBTQ+ diversity is too 'complex' for kids is ridiculous, okay, this book is one of many that proves it.)

Sad this seems to be a standalone though because I would have really enjoyed more :( the worldbuilding alone could sustain a trilogy and the ending is left open, so my fingers are crossed.

> 4 stars
Profile Image for Hannah Greendale.
701 reviews3,355 followers
April 2, 2019
The lasting prejudice against us annoyed me. Other supernaturals, like dragons and goblins and shamans, could wield their magic openly, and were even praised for it. Dragons used their weather magic for agriculture and the time-consuming work of terraforming planets. Goblins, with their invisibility caps, could act as secret agents; their ability to summon food with their magical wands came in handy, too. Shamans were essential for communicating with the ancestors and spirits, of course. We foxes, though - we had never overcome our bed reputation. At least most people thought we were extinct nowadays.
Profile Image for Mohadese.
371 reviews990 followers
March 24, 2022
به اولین ری‌ویوی قرن جدید خوش اومدید!
حالا دیگه می‌تونم بگم یک قرن تجربه‌ی ری‌ویو نویسی تو گودریدز دارم :)) :|

خُب بریم سراغ "مروارید اژدها"
وقتی پیش‌خوانی کتاب بهم پیشنهاد شد سریع قبولش کردم چون من عاشق کتابای فانتزی آسیای شرقی‌ای‌ هستم که توش دگرپیکرها علی الخصوص روباه‌ها باشن!
اگه صفحه‌ی اینستاگرامم رو داشته باشید، می‌دونید که میلیون‌ها بار "سایه‌ روباه | نشر باژ " و "شعله در مه | نشر ویدا" رو معرفی کردم. :دی
برای همین هم بی‌صبرانه منتظر چاپ مروارید اژدها بودم و چی بهتر از این‌که قبل از چاپ به دستم رسید؟
بله اما داره :-"
سایه روباه و شعله در مه فانتزی‌های یانگ ادالتن، یعنی رده‌سنی جوان. سایه روباه خیلی انیمه‌طوره و ه��جان‌انگیز، شعله در مه هم خیلی شبیه کیدراماهای تاریخی_فانتزیه؛ در مورد مروارید اژدها اول باید بگم که بیشتر مناسب نوجوانه و دوم این‌که علمی‌تخیلیه.
این کتاب دو جلدیه، اما می‌شه به چشم یه تک جلدی برید سراغش چون داستان بسیار کامله و با توجه به خلاصه‌ای که از جلد دوم خوندم، کتاب بعدی توی همین دنیاست و با یه شخصیت اصلی کاملا جدید و داستان خاص خودشه.
ترکیبِ کیوتِ موجودات افسانه‌ای کره‌ای (اژدهایان، گوبلین‌ها، ببرها و روباه‌ها) + جادوهای خاص‌شون در کنار انسان‌ها و فضاسازی و دنیای خاص کتاب خوندنش رو برام لذت بخش کرد.
اول کتاب خیلی خوب شروع شد ولی وسطاش یکم کش‌دار شد برای همین بهش چهار ستاره ندادم، ولی خُب کتاب برای میدل گرید (نوجوانِ خودمون) نوشته شده برای همین نمی‌شه ازش توقع داشت که جنگ‌های خفن و حماسی داشته باشه یا شخصیتا به فنا برن :)) مثل همه‌ی کتابای نوجوان دیگه گوگولی و امیدبخشه، یه قهرمان داریم که یه ماجراجویی رو شروع می‌کنه و پس از طی کردن چالش‌ها به خوبی و خوشی همه چیز تموم می‌شه.
پس اگه دوست دارید یک کتاب فانتزیِ آسیای شرقی بدون پیچیدگی خاص و با ریتم خوب بخونید و تو سفینه‌های فضایی با دگرپیکر‌ها به سیاره‌های مختلف سفر کنید، مروارید اژدها یه پیشنهاد خوبه! (:
Profile Image for April (Aprilius Maximus).
1,110 reviews6,574 followers
May 15, 2020

representation: own voices Korean rep, non-binary side character, brief mention of a poly relationship (m/m/m).

[trigger warnings are listed at the bottom of this review and may contain spoilers]


I sooooo wanted to love this one, but for some reason I just didn't :( I do recommend it though and I can see why people love it!

trigger warnings: loss of loved ones, violence, suicide.
Profile Image for Lindsay.
1,275 reviews227 followers
February 1, 2019
The "Rick Riordan presents" imprint focuses on writers of different cultural backgrounds doing for their traditions what Riordan did for the Greek myths. In this one Yoon Ha Lee explores his Korean traditions with a space opera setting (The Thousand Worlds) that includes dragons, goblins, tiger and fox spirits and ghosts and starships that rely on things like good fortune and gi flows.

Kim Min is a 13-year old fox spirit living on a poor badly-terraformed colony world with her family. Fox spirits can change shape into anyone and anything and they have the power to cloud the mind, but they're also thought to be largely extinct. One day an investigator comes to the Kim home with the news that Min's brother Jun has deserted from the Space Forces, apparently in an attempt to recover the lost Dragon Pearl, a magical jewel that can terraform whole planets. When the investigator aggressively focuses on Min, Min escapes him and sets off in search of both her brother and the Dragon Pearl.

This is lots of fun with an extremely matter-of-fact acceptance of the reality of all the Korean mythological elements to the level of them being necessary for the technology of these worlds to function. There's also an interesting permeation of gender theory appropriate to the middle grade reading level audience its aimed at. That includes that fox spirits get to choose their preferred gender, that some people prefer to be non-gender specific and that people can have multiple spouses of any gender. It's not heavy-handed, but its throughout the book, and provides an excellent model for how this stuff is actually quite easy to communicate to a younger audience.

Beyond that, as with a lot of middle-grade and young-adult fiction there's a huge focus on acceptance of difference and embracing the various abilities of yourself and others that I think is an overwhelmingly positive message.
Profile Image for Allison Hurd.
Author 3 books751 followers
June 30, 2020
This was a cute story, but not a complex one. I expected humor and brooding and epic space battles like the Hexarchate books but with less sex and no cursing. Instead it feels like he tried to write like someone else, so it felt stilted.


Things to love:

-The magic. It's fun to see myths in space. I liked the dragons, goblins, fox people, tiger people and so on.

-The world. The ideas that put together the worlds, also born of legends-meet-science were very cool.

-The message. Okay, so this is basically baby's first book on wealth redistribution and the socioeconomics of environmental decay. Kids these days don't have Captain Planet or Fern Gully, so get 'em this.

Things that let me down:

-The writing. Lee is usually so quick-witted and wacky! I didn't get that from the writing here. It was very laundry list. First I went here, then this happened, etc.

-The plot. Whew, was Min lucky! Everything worked out just right so that she could mess up every step of the way and still win!

-No sense of real danger. I never doubted for a second that Min would suffer any real consequences for her actions.

It was cute and quick, but not nearly what I'd expect from an author I know can do much, much more.
Profile Image for Rachel  L.
1,868 reviews2,243 followers
November 13, 2019
3 stars

I’ve already recommended this to one of my library kids, so it goes to show that just because you don’t love a book it doesn’t mean you can’t recommend it to others.

I’m a cover lover and read this for purely shallow reasons. I listened to the audiobook and found myself not always wanting to listen or tuning out. But conceptually, this book is great. A shapeshifting fox girl who travels through space to save her brother, that’s a great unique plot kids will love.

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Profile Image for Dani ❤️ Perspective of a Writer.
1,512 reviews5 followers
January 9, 2019
Check out more reviews @ Perspective of a Writer...

To keep the family safe, 13 year old Min’s mother insists that none of them use any fox-magic, such as Charm or shape-shifting. They must appear human at all times. Min feels hemmed in and resents the endless chores, the cousins who crowd her, and the aunties who judge her. She would like nothing more than to escape Jinju, her neglected, dust-ridden, and impoverished planet. When word arrives that Jun is suspected of leaving his post to go in search of the Dragon Pearl, Min knows that something is wrong. Jun would never desert his battle cruiser, even for a mystical object rumored to have tremendous power. She decides to run away to find him and clear his name.

The short review...

I see dragons and my eyes gain hearts and I can't help but want to read the book... but add KOREAN MYTHOLOGY and I am totally there!! I have to say that I ended up really enjoying Dragon Pearl especially because of all the Korean tidbits woven into the story (because as a k-drama fan I already knew about most of them so it was like finding the best easter eggs!!) I can totally say READ THIS BOOK because I want everyone to know about and enjoy the little cultural essences of being Korean...

That said I didn't quite enjoy the book as much as Rick Riordan explains he did in his introduction in the book (and on goodreads). Yes, it has a monster amount of adventure woven through out and Min sure is a plucky heroine that makes you want to root for her, even when she's lying. It's just everything happened so easily... There was only one moment in all the book where I thought "oh no, she's not going to get away with her shenanigans this time!"This is a middle grade book though. Reality isn't the point here, having a fun adventure is and Yoon Ha Lee does take us on a wild ride with all sorts of magical and sci-fi goodies to ooh and aww over!

Cover & Title grade -> B+

I really do like the cover of Dragon Pearl... I like that her fox spirit is embodied on the cover as a clue as to what the book is about... And you can certainly tell that its about space. It doesn't really give you the sense of adventure that is in the book though which feels to me like a missed opportunity. This is especially so since this is a middle grade book and not a young adult novel as the cover gives the sense that the protagonist is a lot older than she is.

Why did I enjoy Dragon Pearl even though it's certainly a middle grade book?

-The Fox Magic!
The fox magic is really neat, not only can Min shape shift but she can use charm. She doesn't use it often at home so its not until she's out and about that she really understands all she can do charming others. But don't worry she gets it quickly.

-The Goblin and The Dragon + The Tiger!
The foxes have the worst reputation, but the best thing is that they are in like company! The other races all have their own qualities and we get to meet the other three supernatural beings up close and personal. The friendship Min finds is really quite realistic too.

-Sibling Love!
Min is who Min is partially due to her relationship with Jun. She wants to see other worlds because jun inspired her to want to join him. They spent a lot of time star gazing and bonding over these dreams and ambitions. This was quite a powerful relationship with an ending to match!

-Ghosts Go A'Haunting!
Ghosts are a HUGE deal in Korean mythology and Min gets to meet one... This was really a fun part of the story because its so unexpected... It certainly was a strength in Dragon Pearl. The ghost makes the entire middle of the story super fun.

-Space Ship + Space Military!
I really loved how mechanically inclined Min was and how it came up in the story as she served in the Space Forces. Really the entire story on the ship was quite fun as she delves into the mystery of why her brother went missing.

As a Writer...

Min is a character that I had to learn to love. She is quite flawed in the beginning, acting impetuously (and rather stupidly) making assumptions without listening to the facts. That maybe could be fine, but she was quite the liar lying whenever it suited her. Even as an adult I started to get really fed up with it plus added to that she burned bridges so fast! Really she set herself up ad never being able to go home and not thinking about that fact. It was all such a contrived beginning that I really worried at first.

Once we left Min's planet Dragon Pearl really took off and became a fun adventure. While I'm not sure about her example to her young readers as NOTHING she did had any sort of consequences I'm positive those same kids will excitedly follow Min on her journey.

Dragon Pearl is a grand adventure, perfect for middle grade readers who crave a story that a young adult could love. Told with Korean Mythology in the background we get a wonderful cultural experience that widens readers horizons. Rick Riordan has added another fun read to his bookshelf for kids!

⋆ ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Authenticity
⋆ ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Writing Style
⋆ ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Plot & Pacing
⋆ ⭐⭐⭐⭐ World Building

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review. It has not influenced my opinions.

You can find this review and many others on my book blog @ Perspective of a Writer. See my special perspective at the bottom of my reviews under the typewriter...

Please like this review if you enjoyed it! *bow* *bow* It helps me out a ton!!
Profile Image for julianna ➹.
207 reviews268 followers
April 9, 2021
this felt... so long... and yet i somehow enjoyed it... i think i'm just really impatient


UPDATE 2021 (TWO YEARS LATER): i started the audiobook again... have no idea where i left off so starting from the beginning 😎 😎

-- review as of 2019
lmao yes I *am* starting this a week after I was supposed to finish it w/ the Dragons and Tea book club

edit: lmao yes I didn't even finish reading this book
Profile Image for Trish.
2,019 reviews3,436 followers
February 3, 2019
My first book by this author and I was confused why he'd need a "Rick Riordan presents" on the cover. I still don't know. But Rick Riordan has character art and more insight on his website so maybe he's writing in the universe of the thousand worlds?

We follow 13-year-old Min

as she is told that her older brother has deserted the military. To clear his name and possibly save him, she embarks on a journey all alone. Apparently, it all has to do with the mythical Dragon Pearl that can supposedly terraform an entire planet within only a few hours (or destroy it). Naturally, since the rumours of the pearl have spread, several groups of people are on the hunt for it, making Min's quest all the more dangerous. As if a cursed planet full of ghosts wasn't dangerous enough already.

I should mention that this isn't just a scifi story about humanity being scattered amongst a thousand worlds. No, there are many other species here, such as magic-wielding goblins (including invisibility caps and wands), dragons (capable of weather control/manipulation), ghosts, and shapeshifters. And yes, Min is one such magic creature. In fact, she is a fox spirit who can change into all kinds of things and "charm" people to influence their feelings and (to some extent) thoughts.

Ancient artifacts, intrigues, gambling parlors, spaceships, a blend of Asian folklore and science fiction. But there is also prejudice and discrimination, the annoyance of a big family and chores, friendship and inevitable betrayal. Even gender issues, but so subtly realized, it was barely noticeable, perfectly normal, as it should be (and yet addressed to show how to handle the issue of how one wishes to be called correctly).
Thus, quite a lot was packed into this story that was definitely written for younger readers. But while it is clear that the story was written for children and young teens (younger than the typical YA crowd), it is still very well written, the adventure sweeps you along and you simply have a good time. What more can one ask of a book?

Profile Image for Lata.
3,773 reviews208 followers
February 4, 2019
I liked this fast-paced story a lot. When Kim Min, young fox spirit, hears that her older brother is suspected of deserting from his Space Forces post in a quest to find the Dragon Pearl, she accidentally knocks the Investigator who brought the news unconscious and decides she has to find her brother. (Now, if I'd just done that to someone, I don't think I'd be thinking of leaving the planet, but it's a great start to this story.) Min, after tricking her way onto a ship and getting injured in a space battle, ends up masquerading as a cadet on her brother's former ship. Though Min is two years younger than the other cadets, she immerses herself in the rules and regulations to minimize bringing attention to herself so she can snoop for news about her brother and the Dragon Pearl, a hotly sought-after artifact that can terraform planets.
I loved the way Yoon Ha Lee kept the action moving along nicely, with quick scenes showing Min's intelligence and cleverness, and at the same time her impulsivity and quick-thinking. I really liked the way characters of a variety of genders populated this story. I also loved the way Korean myths' and folk tales' creatures are part of this universe, with the author's decision to make a fox spirit the central character. I thought that was a wonderful choice, as fox spirits are so mistrusted that Min and her whole family have done their best to hide their amazing abilities. Min relies heavily on these abilities to get herself both in and out of trouble. What I particularly loved was how Yoon Ha Lee transforms Min from the totally impulsive and self-centred girl she is at the beginning of the book, to a more mature and thoughtful person by the end. And with the book's open ending, I really, really hope we get to spend more time with this great character.
Profile Image for Sofia Generali.
202 reviews49 followers
June 30, 2019
3.5/5 stars

This book started out so promising!! Aaaand halfway through it lost almost all my attention.

I'm disappointed.

The book started out with such an interesting backdrop, with a girl named Min who was part of a fox family, who went in search of her missing brother. And it turned into endless pages of Min disguised on a spaceship carrying out menial duties and charming everyone in sight.



Thus far I've been disappointed by both this and Aru Shah, and it's not given me much hope for other books under Rick Riordan Presents. But because I love him so, I'm willing to keep trying until I find one that wows me.

This, sadly, was not it.
Profile Image for Bethany (Beautifully Bookish Bethany).
2,207 reviews3,687 followers
March 28, 2021
Dragon Pearl is a great middle grade space adventure with Korean mythology and gender-bending mixed in! It blends sci-fi and fantasy in a really interesting way and the world-building is very good, especially for a middle grade story.

It follows a girl who is secretly a gumiho (magical Korean shape-shifting fox) who discovers her brother has supposedly deserted his post in the space force, so she decides to run away and find him. She's smart, brave, and learns a lot along the way. She also spends much of the book in the form of a teen boy which lends an age appropriate lens for thinking about gender fluidity, and there is a non-binary side character. I enjoyed my time with this and it has made me excited to try this author's work for adults.

Content warnings include death, loss of loved ones, peril, and grief.
Profile Image for CW ✨.
669 reviews1,714 followers
April 17, 2019
Loved this!
I thought this was such a delightful and fun space adventure. Can't wait to read Lee's adult SFF books now.

- Follows Min, a young teen who lives in the poorer fringes of the galaxy and is a fox spirit! She runs away from home to try and find her brother, who has been accused of being a deserter.
- It's a wonderful adventure where Min meets gamblers, dragons and dokkaebi and tigers that take human form, and eventually finds her way to a battle cruiser where her brother was stationed.
- The story was great and I really liked the science-fiction/futurism elements. It's also a story about friendship, trust, and using immense power for good.

Trigger/content warning:
Profile Image for Samm | Sassenach the Book Wizard.
1,146 reviews247 followers
August 20, 2019
Okay so I had a friend read this and she didn't end up loving it even though she was so hyped for it. That made me pretty hesitant to pick it up but BOY OH BOY WAS SHE WRONG! I freaking loved this! I think it dragged and I felt bored a few times (also could have done with a bit more world building) but the characters were solid (I adore Min so much) and the mystery kept me guessing. I loved getting Korean mythology interwoven (shout out to the damn prime example of an ally: Rick Riordan) into a sci-fi. It really did help make the book and the magic different.
Profile Image for Alexa.
2,214 reviews11.7k followers
May 18, 2019
Reading this for the Dragons & Tea Book Club!

I had a lot of fun reading this one! It’s definitely one of those scenarios where I think that it’s better suited for the actual target audience, but where I could appreciate the entertainment, mythological/supernatural Korean touches and just the space shenanigans (which are also my fave).
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