Title: Song of the Crimson Flower
Author: Julie C. Dao
Category: Young Adult
Series info: Standalone
When I got the chance to be a host for the blog tour for this book, I JUMPED on the chance. An Asian-based YA fantasy? I’m sold. I also have Julie C Dao’s Forest of a Thousand Lanterns in my TBR, actually. (Don’t ask me why I haven’t gotten to it yet lol) I was super excited to read and review an ARC by this popular author.
Bao is a physician’s apprentice, well on his way to become a kind and skillful physician. But he also has a secret dream, which is to be together with the girl he loves. Lan, the kind, smart and absolutely beautiful daughter of a nobleman holds his heart.
When Bao confesses his feelings to her, she cruelly rejects him. Bao, stinging with hurt and embarrassment, sets off to find the infamous river witch so she can erase his love for Lan. But instead, the river witch places a curse on him which can only be broken by true love.
Lan, dealing with her own heartbreak, decides to help Bao look for the witch in apology so that his curse can be lifted. Their journey to the witch becomes so much more, leading them to the Empress’s party to the rival kingdom Gray City, to new friends, and a great adventure which entirely changes their lives.
The biggest charm of this book is the vibe. The writing, the world-building and setting, with the type of characters created a very specific and quite a unique vibe. I immediately picked up on it in the beginning, and it stayed until the very end. The Vietnamese names added to the charm as well.
The thing I liked the most was the character development. Both our main characters, Bao and Lan, go through so much and grow in the story. It’s very clearly seen. We also get to see what changed their thinking, and how they mature in their decisions and in emotional reactions. I’m always pro-character development and hence, I really enjoyed it.
The story was pretty good as well. While I wasn’t overly fond of the plot, it was enjoyable because of the characters. The overall idea was good, but I just couldn’t like the plot all that much, especially in the middle of the book.
But, with all of these good points, I didn’t like the book much. And the reason is the pacing. The pacing felt so off. It was slow, then suddenly very fast, back to slow and draggy, and would pick up pace again. It went like that for the entirety of the book, and I was annoyed. A consistent pace matters so much to a story, especially when it’s fantasy. Because it wasn’t consistent and gave me whiplash, I couldn’t enjoy the book.
The characters were great but the pacing. That just ruined it for me, unfortunately. One thing I’m glad about is that the author kept this as only one book. Perhaps the pacing was so because it’s only one book. Too much story to tell? I’m not sure. But I am glad that the story ended here.
Considering it’s only one book, for fantasy, it’s pretty good. There’s a good story, great characters, and a specific vibe.
If you’re in the mood for fantasy, but don’t have the patience for a series, you can pick this one up.
I rate this book..
Julie C. Dao (www.juliedao.com) is a proud Vietnamese-American who was born in upstate New York. She studied medicine in college, but came to realize blood and needles were her Kryptonite. By day, she worked in science news and research; by night, she wrote books about heroines unafraid to fight for their dreams, which inspired her to follow her passion of becoming a published author. Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is her debut novel. Julie lives in New England. Follow her on Twitter @jules_writes.
Julie is represented by Tamar Rydzinski of the Laura Dail Literary Agency.