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The Magnolia Sword: A Ballad of Mulan

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  2,436 ratings  ·  528 reviews
CHINA, 484 A.D.

A Warrior in Disguise
All her life, Mulan has trained for one purpose: to win the duel that every generation in her family must fight. If she prevails, she can reunite a pair of priceless heirloom swords separated decades earlier, and avenge her father, who was paralyzed in his own duel.

Then a messenger from the Emperor arrives, demanding that all families se
Hardcover, 348 pages
Published September 10th 2019 by Tu Books
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chai ♡
A Mulan retelling? my heart says yes but my head says, "you've been burned before" ...more
C.G. Drews
I don't think I've actually read a novelised version of Mulan before so this was a first! It's obviously not the disney version, and this is rooted in actual history (I learned so much about China, 5th century AD) and after reading the author's note where she spent so much time in research and learning the roots of the infamous tale -- I was just really pleased to have the chance to read this story, from an #ownvoices Chinese perspective too.

I definitely recommend going into it expecting the emp
May 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
I'll be honest, I have a soft spot for this novel because I'm a simp for fancy, flashy martial arts (points for style, right?).

The prose is simplistic and trim, and yet richly atmospheric. The author has a clear vision for the settings, and it's obvious in the traces of her figurative brush, from the vibrant, deliberate dabs to the subtle touches, all coalescing into artistically authentic vignettes of fifth-century China.
It's proof of all the
Cindy ✩☽♔
Oct 12, 2017 marked it as to-read
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I really hope this is legit.

Ooo this finally has a title! The Magnolia part really makes me think of the Mulan Chinese drama I watched a while back.
April (Aprilius Maximus)
“What is courage but strength in the face of fear?”

representation: own voices Chinese rep, gay rep, disabilities (father is paralysed from the waist down and another character has an unspecified disability (I honestly think the disability rep is verrryyyyyy questionable).

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

✧・゚: *✧・゚:* 3 . 5 s t a r s *:・゚✧*:・゚✧

I was SO excited for this book. A Mulan retelling???? by a Chinese author???? YES, YES AND YES PLEASE.
Nina (Every Word A Doorway)
Last time a book lured me in with the promise of a Mulan retelling, I was so disappointed because the storyline barely resembled Mulan, save for the fact that the heroine dressed as a boy (yes, Flame in the Mist, I'm looking at you). But this premise sounds more like an actual retelling. Written by a Chinese-American author who knows her shit. So, you'd better deliver me what you promise, book!

Nenia ✨️ I yeet my books back and forth ✨️ Campbell
IT'S ON SALE FOR $1.99!!!!!! ...more
Loved the martial arts, liked the characters, not a fan of the war strategy.

Also super weird reading a rather modern, first person account of something that allegedly was taking place back in 484 AD.

But I liked it nonetheless.

One of the best things about this book, in my opinion, is Mulan's fear. She's a trained warrior, which is excellent, and she is loyal to her family, so she doesn't think twice about enlisting to save the rest of her family. Her intentions are honourable. But she wants to co
Mlpmom (Book Reviewer)
If there was one person I knew I could trust to do a retelling of the Mulan ballad, it would be Sherry Thomas.

I am so pleased to say that trust wasn't misplaced because not only was this an incredible read but it was captivating, entertaining and had enough of Sherry's creative imagination added to the story that it almost felt like it could stand up all on it's own and not even be a retelling, while still maintaining the integrity of the original. It short, it was breathtaking.

So hard to put
Cheryl Klein
This is the first novel I signed up as an editor at Lee & Low, and it has all the excellent things you want a Mulan retelling to have: a Mulan who's figuring out who she is, an epic sweep in the war against the Northerners, family drama, terrific fight scenes, romance. I've loved reading every draft, and I think readers will love it too. ...more
Mogsy (MMOGC)
5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum

After consistently being disappointed by so many books described as “Mulan retellings”, you can probably understand why I went into The Magnolia Sword: A Ballad of Mulan with no small amount of trepidation (though of course I could hardly resist it). And quite honestly? I was blown away by this “Own Voices” novel. Sherry Thomas has written a refreshing new take on this famous Chinese folktale about the legendary female war
Zitong Ren
The Magnolia Sword is a retelling of Mulan I believe and is set in the same time period as the legend turned Disney film. I don’t actually know all that much about Mulan as most people would know her since I, shamefully have not seen the Disney film. Which, I understand, may be shocking. This does man I don’t know a whole lot about her story beyond the fact that she did have to dress as a male and enter conscription. I got this part from the story, the rest I have no idea about.

I did happen to
Barb in Maryland
All the stars. Plus another star for the gorgeous cover.

10 year old me would have bought this with my own money and then read it to pieces. It has everything the younger me wanted in a story--real history, action, adventure, and Romance.

70 year old me wants the same things in a story and this one satisfied me right down to my bones. The characters are real people, with flaws and strengths and the ability to grow emotionally. The prose is fluid and rich, without being ornate or overblown. The aut
Namera [The Literary Invertebrate]
Every woman has a great deal of experience presenting herself as someone other than who she is, since no girl is ever everything the world wants her to be.

OH MY GOD, YOU GUYS. This is, without a doubt, the BEST Mulan retelling I have ever read.

Granted, I don’t remember having read a huge number of Mulan retellings. But this one is definitely still the best, by any margin. It’s gloriously well-researched, with spectacular characterisation and writing, and though I’ve rounded down
this was really cute!! my third Mulan retelling, and i loved it. the characters were well-done and really sweet, the plot twists were actually pretty shocking, and the bad-assery of Mulan was legendary. plus i loved the friendship that built between Mulan and the other men, it was really cute and i wish we got more of it! i also wish we got more romance... what can i say, i'm feeling smut deprived between Mulan and Kai. ah well, still amazing!! ...more
Dani ❤️ Perspective of a Writer
Check out more reviews @ Perspective of a Writer...

The Buzz

Mulan retellings are such fun! I love crossdressing Asian girls who just want to be acknowledged. I liked the sound of an elite team and an almost Romeo and Juliet inspired family feud.

The cover is so pretty! I wasn't sure about the cumbersome title... The Magnolia Sword: A Ballad of Mulan ... come on! What a mouthful!! I thought the cover made it pretty obvious it was a Mulan retelling without the whole Mulan in big letters. I do howev
Jeann (Happy Indulgence)
This is such an amazing retelling of Mulan (the Ballad, not the Disney flick) covering a period in Ancient China where the tensions between each region are intensifying! I loved the martial arts, getting to know different regions from within China and even her background was really fascinating.

Full review to come!


This review was originally posted on Happy Indulgence Books. Check it out for more reviews!

Looking for a more accurate retelling of Mulan, rather than the Disney live action? Look
May 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I don't usually do early reviews, but when I do, it's because the book was very good. And this one is better than that.

This book is so sweet and elegant and with so much restraint. There's not an extra ounce of fat in it but just the right amount to give it all the flavor; everything has a reason to be, and the world is so seamlessly rendered that it was easy to just be in it and let the story take me where it wanted. Mulan is a wonderful heroine, and so are all the the other characters. The ro
From the minute I learned that Sherry Thomas was writing a YA Mulan retelling, I could barely contain my excitement. Like many others my age who grew up with the Disney renaissance, I am a fan of the Disney movie, but I knew that was a very... Disney-fied version of the story. However, I just knew this was going to be good, and I couldn't wait to read an ownvoices Mulan retelling. I wasn't that familiar with the story aside from Disney, but from what I can tell, this book sticks closer to the mo ...more
Sep 17, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommended to anud-be by: Annette
Shelves: fantasy, ya, historical
This was okay I guess , I just had high expectations , they weren't met . ...more
Sara Saif
Dec 08, 2019 rated it really liked it

- Of course, I loved this book, it was frickin' perfect.
- It was like Mulan, but not like Mulan.
- Mulan was badass, as usual.
- The historical aspect of it was intriguing.
- It's written by Sherry Thomas whose writing I was already a fan of before, and, whose female protagonists tend to pretend to be men, apparently. Iolanthe Seabourne from her Elemental trilogy passed herself as a boy too.
- I just had an amazing time reading this book. I didn't want to take breaks and stop reading, it was that go
Joshee Kun (조수아)
Every woman has a great deal of experience presenting herself as someone other than who she is, since no girl is ever everything the world wants her to be.
Aug 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
(Disclaimer: I received this book from Edelweiss. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

The Magnolia Sword is a story of finding our courage. There’s the thrill of swordplay, the right amount of swoon, and the question of stories. In a world that relies on our stories, how can we know that the version we know is the truth?

I have read a few other Sherry Thomas books, very much enjoying the Sherlock Holmes’ retellings, and now I can add The Magnolia Sword to the list. The
Somewhere between two and three stars. I liked the novel in general but was disappointed at the same time. Mulan is a brave woman in the original ballad but lacks colour and character here. I expected more thrilling action and oh how I hate (view spoiler). ...more
Feb 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020-reads
now that i have read a retelling of Mulan, i'm soooo excited for the live action movie(adored the animated one, mind you) coming next month. nothing or no one(cough cough) could spoil the excitement for me!

1) i had such a fun reading. i could've finished it in one shot but life happens. sighs. the pace was soooo good that i couldn't stop in the middle of a fight. it was alomost 400 pages but felt like such a short read. gimme more please.

2) writing was *chef kiss* the action scenes were so well
Sep 12, 2019 rated it it was ok
There is a first time for everything - and this is the first book by Sherry Thomas I was truly unhappy with. According to the rules of entertainment it commits the most inexcusable violation of them all:


I do understand that the author wanted to show the world of Mulan’s China as accurate as possible, but to me the book comes across as a series of info-dumping specifications instead of a lively, fleshed-out story.

The first and biggest mistake - in my opinion - was the choice to narra
Anne Boleyn's Ghost
Oct 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: historical
4.5 stars.
Geri Reads
Dec 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
4,5 Stars
A fabulous read. Well researched by Sherry Thomas--illuminating really. I had read other versions but none have come close to how believable and true as this version does. I was present!
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USA Today-bestselling author Sherry Thomas decided years ago that her goal in life is to write every kind of book she enjoys reading. Thus far she has published romance, fantasy, mystery, young adult, and three books inspired by the martial arts epics she grew up devouring. Her books regularly receive starred reviews and best-of-the-year honors from trade publications, including such outlets as th ...more

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