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Pahua #1

Pahua and the Soul Stealer

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Best-selling author Rick Riordan presents Lori M. Lee's middle grade debut about a lonely Hmong girl who discovers she's a powerful shaman warrior in this fantasy inspired by Southeast Asian mythology.

Pahua Moua has a bit of a reputation for being a weirdo. A lonely eleven-year-old Hmong girl with the unique ability to see spirits, she spends her summer days babysitting her little brother and playing with her best friend, a cat spirit no one else can see.

One day Pahua accidentally untethers an angry spirit from the haunted bridge in her neighborhood--whoops. When her brother suddenly falls sick and can't be awoken, Pahua fears that the bridge spirit has stolen his soul. She returns to the scene of the crime with her aunt's old shaman tools, hoping to confront the spirit and demand her brother's return. Instead, she summons a demon.

Thankfully, a warrior shaman with a bit of an attitude problem shows up at the last minute and saves her butt. With the help of this guide, Pahua will have to find her way through the spirit worlds and rescue her brother's soul before it's too late. Little does she know she'll have her own discoveries to make along the way. . . .

With its unforgettable characters, unique nature-based magic system, breathtaking twists and reveals, and climactic boss battle, this story based on Hmong oral tradition offers everything a fantasy lover could want.

Complete your middle grade fantasy collection with these best-selling fan favorites:

Rick Riordan Presents Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi
Rick Riordan Presents Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee
Rick Riordan Presents The Last Fallen Star by Graci Kim
The Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan

413 pages, Hardcover

First published September 7, 2021

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About the author

Lori M. Lee

12 books1,301 followers
Lori is an avid writer, reader, artist, and lover of unicorns. She should probably spend less time on the internet (but she won't). She considers herself a unicorn aficianado, is fond of talking in capslock, and loves to write about magic, manipulation, and family.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 257 reviews
Profile Image for Rick Riordan.
Author 343 books397k followers
August 21, 2021
Be Careful. Some Gongs You Can’t Un-Ring.

I never say this about books, but in the case of Pahua and the Soul Stealer, you should start at the end. The author’s note from Lori M. Lee offers powerful insights into how this book was created, how challenging it can be to draw on tales from an oral-storytelling tradition when writing a novel, and how much Pahua will mean to young readers who have never seen themselves represented in a fantasy adventure before.

I will admit I knew next to nothing about Hmong cul- ture and their traditional stories before reading Pahua. Now I understand how much I’ve been missing. Check out the glossary, also at the end. You’ll get a preview of the rich and fascinating world that awaits you, full of secretive gods, brave shaman warriors, ubiquitous spirits, restless ghosts, formidable dragons, magical guardian elephants, multiple realms of reality, and a talking invisible cat named Miv (which, spoiler alert, means cat).
But you don’t have to know anything about Hmong sto- ries to appreciate this book. If you’ve ever felt like you don’t fit in, like you’re too different to belong, you will relate per- fectly to the predicament of our young hero, Pahua.

Like most eleven-year-olds, Pahua just wants to have a normal life. Alas, she worries she’ll never make friends in her tiny adopted hometown of Merdel, Wisconsin. Not only is she Hmong in an overwhelmingly white town . . . Not only is her family struggling to get by since her dad left them . . . Pahua also has a secret she can’t even share with her mom or her little brother: She has always been able to see spirits all around her.

Pahua can’t even get dressed without having her fashion choices criticized by her cat spirit buddy, Miv, or by the fire spirit who lives in their stove. She can’t walk down the street without encountering dozens of dancing mushroom spirits, tree spirits, and air spirits. At least those are friendly. She can’t say the same for human ghosts and demons from other realms. . . .

Usually, Pahua is able to steer clear of dangerous apparitions, but one day, when she reluctantly follows some classmates to the local haunted bridge, she makes the mistake of trying to be nice to a little girl ghost. This simple act of kindness starts a domino effect of spiritual mishaps that threatens to tear Pahua’s world apart and take her brother, Matt, away forever. Of course, being tough, smart, and brave, Pahua tries to set things right. She grabs her aunt’s old shaman tools—a gong for summoning spirits and a dull-edged sword that can only hurt otherworldly entities—and returns to the bridge . . . where she immediately manages to make things even worse.

Bummer. It’s going to take Pahua a while to learn to be a true shaman warrior. Unfortunately, she’s only got three days to save Matt. Along the way, she’ll have to handle a whole lot of dragons, ghosts, demons, and monsters, includ- ing a poj ntxoog (tiger spirit) with questionable fashion sense, and a malevolent god who looks suspiciously like Kylo Ren.

I love the adventures Pahua has in this book. I also love the sense of humor, the clever plotting, and the fantastic cast of characters. But most of all I love Pahua: her courage, her kindness, and her love for her family. You’ll be cheering for her to succeed, even if she does occasionally make mistakes and, you know, summon entities into the human world that could destroy everything she cares about. You always have to be careful with mythological forces, after all. Some gongs you can’t un-ring. Once thing I can promise you, though: You’ll be glad you made friends with Pahua!
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,427 reviews9,025 followers
August 6, 2022
11-year old, Pahua Moua, is an outcast amongst her peers. Because of this, she spends her summer days babysitting her little brother, Matt, and hanging out with Miv, a cat spirit only she can see.

That's fine with Pahua though. Matt and Miv are her best friends, who else would she want to hang out with.

Pahua's Dad left them, so her Mom has to work a lot, leaving Pahua and Matt home alone quite a bit. That makes Pahua sad and she frequently wonders why her Dad went away. Her Mom has never really offered up an explanation.

As a Hmong-girl, living in a mostly white town in Wisconsin, Pahua also has that setting her apart from those around her; making her feel isolated at school and in her neighborhood.

Pahua also carries a secret. She can see spirits!

One day, exploring near the local haunted bridge, she notices a little ghost girl. Pahua tries to be friendly to her, but this is no innocent appariation and before she knows it, her brother's life hangs in the balance.

Matt has fallen into some sort of deep sleep and cannot be awoken. Pahua must risk it all and travel into the spirit realm, battling all sorts of unknown dangers, in order to try to save him.

Surprising no one, I absolutely adored this story. The Rick Riordan Presents imprint is such a gift. Giving Readers the opportunity to learn about myths, legends and cultures from around the world through engaging, action-packed, heart-warming stories is so special.

Lori M. Lee's Middle Grade debut, Pahua and the Soul Stealer, is actually one of my favorite releases thus far and I have read almost all of them.

Pahua is an incredible character. Her spirit, determination and strength, in the face of terrifying odds, never faltered. Her love for her brother kept her going, pushing through some really difficult obstacles.

The entire story was full of the perfect mix of humor, heart and action. From the very first chapter, I was laughing and grew so attached to Pahua as her narrative played out. I listened to the audiobook and it was so well done; highly recommend that format!

I feel like I am forgetting a ton of things that I wanted to say about this, but in the end, that's probably for the best. Everyone should go into this knowing as little as possible.

Let the fun and adventure wash over you. It's a heck of an entertaining, soul-warming, nail-biting ride!!!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney Audio and Rick Riordan Presents, for providing me with a copy to read and review. It was so much fun!

I am looking forward to more releases in this world with Pahua and friends!!!
Profile Image for Bethany (Beautifully Bookish Bethany).
1,898 reviews3,125 followers
July 25, 2021
I read this for a middle grade fantasy reading vlog! https://youtu.be/0Daa8kHwbFw

This is among my favorite installments in the Rick Riordan Presents line! Prior to this I was not familiar with Hmong culture (a people originally from China, living throughout east and southeast Asia with an oral storytelling tradition) but I learned a lot from this book! Pahua and her family are refugees from Laos, but her father left years earlier and she spends a lot of her time taking care of her younger brother. (great sibling relationship!) But Pahua can also see spirits and when she makes a mistake involving a ghost, she must journey into the spirit realm to save her brother. Her quest is fraught with danger, but there is also magic, friendship, and learning about her own strength. Also she has a snarky spirit cat best friend! I really loved this and look forward to more in the series. I received an advance copy of this book for review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for akacya ❦.
785 reviews122 followers
May 22, 2022
I received a complimentary review copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my rating.

Pahua is a Hmong girl living in a non-Hmong area, but that’s not the only way she stands out—she can also see and speak to spirits, a gift not many have. One day, she accidentally unleashes an evil spirit, which causes her brother to fall ill. On her quest to save him, she meets a fellow shaman, and together they set out on the mission to save her brother’s soul.

As this book’s target audience is middle grade, this was a pretty quick read. I think that this can be enjoyed across older audiences as well, though. Although my knowledge of Hmong mythology is limited, it wasn’t difficult to immerse myself in the story and understand what was happening. Highly recommend for mythology fans!
Profile Image for Victor The Reader.
1,201 reviews15 followers
October 12, 2022
Pahua is a Hmong preteen who has the ability to see spirits, including her cat spirit friend. While spending her summer taking care of her little brother, a surprise occurs when she unknowingly discovers an evil spirit from a bridge and how her brother falling severely ill might have been it’s work. She must now sharpen her shaman skills and also with the help of a shaman spirit, Pahua will go on a journey through the spirit worlds to stop the evil spirit and save her brother. Another winning reading from the “RRP” series as it has that same adventurous read with its own surprises as the others. A- (91%/Excellent)
Profile Image for Fanna.
979 reviews492 followers
Want to read
March 11, 2021
March 10, 2021: A middle-grade based on a southeast asian mythology where "a Hmong girl discovers she's a powerful shaman warrior". September suddenly sounds too far away because I can't wait!
Profile Image for Beth Cato.
Author 109 books485 followers
September 5, 2021
I received an advance copy of this book via NetGalley.

Rick Riordan's line has done it again--this is another masterful middle grade book that explores a fascinating culture and is a rollicking adventure all the while. Lori M. Lee wrote about Pahua, a young, lonely girl Hmong girl with only a cat spirit and a younger brother as her friends. As I grew up in Central California, I had many Hmong schoolmates, and while I marveled at the elaborate clothing the other girls wore for special occasions, I knew absolutely nothing about their culture. With reason, I'm sure--junior high is all about blending in to some unreal American ideal. Now, I feel like I know a little more, and I wish I'd known more when I was much younger.

Pahua is utterly relatable. She doesn't fit in with her schoolmates. She sees spirits everywhere, including the cat she counts as her best friend. Her knowledge of Hmong mythology is scattershot; her mom doesn't talk about it much (and is always at work at the factory, anyway) and her dad abandoned the family a few years before. She is close to her little brother, though. When Pahua talks to a creepy spirit at a bridge, the thing attacks her--and when her brother falls sick, Pahua realizes he was attacked, too. Pahua takes off on an adventure to save her brother, learning a lot about Hmong spirits and gods--and herself.

To me, this book had a wonderful Studio Ghibli vibe. I could really see this as a vibrant anime in the tone of Spirited Away. It's cozy, a little dark at times, but overall hopeful and empowering.
Profile Image for Andee.
459 reviews99 followers
September 9, 2021

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Lori M. Lee's writing is something I've enjoyed before, so I was really interested in seeing where she went with a middle-grade book. I also love the Rick Riordan Presents collective, making this something I was highly anticipating. With fast pacing and really funny characters, the charm of Pahua and the Soul Stealer really won me over. If you've enjoyed reading about Aru Shah or Paola Santiago, I think you'll find Pahua Moua to be another new friend.

This story educated me and warmed my heart all at the same time. I felt emotional for the things Pahua was going through, and for her love of her brother. The friendship that blossoms as Pahua learns about her own powers was really something I adored. This book is a fantastic addition to Rick Riordan Presents, and I can't wait to read more stories about Pahua.

A more thorough review will be posted on my blog at a later date.
Profile Image for Cindi.
1,232 reviews4 followers
September 2, 2021
Thank you to the author, publisher and Net Galley for providing me with a free ebook copy of this title in exchange for my review.

I so loved this book! I'm a huge fan of Rick Riordan and his Presents line, introducing me and my family to new authors and the lore and mythology of their respective cultures. Even though these books are written for elementary/middle grade readers, my new adult children and I really enjoy them as well. This new title is no different. I loved learning to story Ms Lee had to tell us about Pahua, her culture and life journey. I really enjoyed reading the book, but also look forward to the release of the audio as well.

Description and character development kept me turning pages, waiting to see what is next. The story is resolved at the end, but I could see it being a series easily enough as well.
Profile Image for Eileen.
1,822 reviews69 followers
August 16, 2021
5 stars

This book should definitely be in every Elementary and Middle School library, but it is a book that older kids and adults will enjoy as well, especially if you're a fan of mythologies of different cultures. In this debut novel, Pahua is an 11-year old Hmong girl who sees and can speak to all the spirits that her mom taught her about, but neither her mom nor most people (including her Shaman aunt) can see them. Although she hasn't told anyone except her younger brother that she can see spirits, her classmates make fun of her and think that she's crazy or not quite there. Her best friend is a cat spirit named Miv, but she is otherwise pretty friendless. When some bullies goad her into checking out a bridge said to be haunted by a girl, she accidentally untethers an angry spirit which leads to her younger brother's spirit being stolen. The story describes her quest to save her brother's spirit, but along the way, she learns about who she is and what that means in the context of her family.

Just like the other books in the Rick Riordan Presents imprint, this one explores the mythology and culture of another country, in this case, the Hmong people. I loved listening to this as an audiobook because it was helpful for me to listen to the names and the various Hmong phrases being spoken correctly. There is much to love about this book, including some of the historical events that lead to Pahua and her family being refugees from Laos, as well as how they originally moved from China into Southeast Asia. I loved that this story was about two young girls being the heroes with one using her fighting skills (Zhong) and the other using her understanding others and letting her heart (empathy) lead to alternative choices (Pahua). I loved that from an uncertain beginning of their partnership, they ended up sticking up for each other and really trusting their lives to the other. I also loved Miv the cat spirit and definitely wanted one of my own, lol! I knew nothing about the mythology of the Hmong people and only a little about their culture, so that was another thing that I loved about this book.

Although there is definitely a resolution to this book, it's clear that this is the first of a series as Pahua has a lot of work that remains to be done. I'm looking forward to seeing more of her, Miv, and Zhong in future adventures!

I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
Profile Image for Kendra.
596 reviews31 followers
August 10, 2021
This was excellent. A culture and tradition I knew nothing about, beautifully told. Pahua's empathy is the best, and Miv is even better. Cat spirit best friends forever!!!
Every character in this book is honestly great, and the world is gorgeous and believable and I feel like I could map it, it felt so right. I'll be eagerly looking out for the sequel.

ARC provided by NetGalley. Thanks, NetGalley!
Profile Image for David .
575 reviews7 followers
August 24, 2022
This was quite entertaining to read. Pahua is actually an interesting character to follow. I wished the book had taken a different route regarding the adventure elements, but it was fine! What appealed to me the most was the rep that it had. Seeing Pahua connecting with this particular myth stories was really fascinating.
Profile Image for Aimee LaGrandeur.
57 reviews6 followers
September 4, 2021
Pahua and the Soul Stealer was so sweet. Not only was there the fun and fantastic immersion in Hmong mythology and culture, the story also tackles identity, family, feelings of abandonment & belonging, as well as processing these feelings and other trauma...and Lee executes it in such a natural uplifting way. I adored Pahua, I loved the adventure suspense, and I thought the system of reincarnation and afterlife was fascinating, especially in the way it effected Pahua finding herself.
Profile Image for Rafael Andrade.
147 reviews
August 31, 2021
11-year-old Pahua, who also happens to be a great hero-shaman reincarnated, will face the biggest challenge of her life when her little brother's soul is kidnapped by an angry spirit. With the help of a smart-mouthed cat and a wannabe warrior, they will venture into the realms of the underworld to rescue her brother's soul. But an ancient and powerful evil lurks in the dark, waiting for the right moment to strike.
Although Pahua and the Soul Stealer holds some resemblance to The twisted tales series Reflection, the story still managed to surprise me towards the end.
Profile Image for Alicia.
494 reviews8 followers
September 6, 2021
Thank you to Disney Books and Rick Riordan Presents for sending me an ARC via netgalley for an honest review.
4/5 stars
I really enjoyed reading this one! I loved learning about the Hmong culture and folktales, and I thought the author did a wonderful job of bringing the fantastical elements of the story to life.
We follow 11-year-old Pahua whose best friend is a kitten spirit (Miv) and mostly hangs out with her younger brother. Pahua feels likes she’s not good enough, and she also feels like she doesn’t fit in anywhere. She can also see spirits of all kinds. Because of this, she does a lot of pretending, and most of her pretending involves things like being a shaman warrior, or leading troops into battle. I really related to Pahua’s thoughts of not fitting in, and even though it was for different reasons, I think that the emotions are the same. I also think that a lot of younger readers will also connect and relate to Pahua’s pretending and feelings of not fitting in.
The story really kicks off when Pahua meets an angry bridge spirit and accidentally untethers her soul. Later that night Pahua discovers that her brother is sick and she fears that the bridge spirit has stolen his soul. This sets her off on a journey to rescue him. Pahua was motivated by her love for her brother, and her fear of losing him, and I liked that it continued to be the most important thing to her even as she was discovering things about herself.
Pahua’s journey takes her into the Spirit Realm where she meets all kinds of different spirits and runs into all sorts of problems. With the help of her best friend Miv and a shaman-warrior-in-training named Zhong, Pahua has to face her own spirit in order to rescue her brothers.
Pahua was a really amazing character. She was brave, strong, and she looked for alternatives to violence, but she also doubted, and she struggled with believing in herself. This made her feel relatable and realistic. I loved her relationship with Miv, and it had me laughing even in moments where the situation was stressful and tense. Zhong was a good character to balance Pahua, and I loved seeing their friendship develop.
I felt that the pacing was really good. The plot was super interesting, and I was engaged the whole time. It was a bit slow at times, but it didn’t drag on, and I thought there was a good balance between action and excitement and some of the slower but necessary moments.
Overall this was a really fun and exciting read. I loved learning about a new culture and their folktales, and I can’t wait to see what happens to Pahua next!
Profile Image for Debbie Lesley.
386 reviews4 followers
June 13, 2021
If I was still teaching, this book would definitely be in my classroom library. Why? First, the main characters are two young girls, with Pahua being eleven. They face many challenges and are successful most of the time with more than a few bumps in the road along the way. Secondly, the story is based on Hmong folklore, stories, and beliefs passed down through the history of the Hmong people.

Now, the story follows Pahua as she has accidentally released a soul which then took the soul of her little brother. Here, a third reason this story would be in my classroom library. Pahua takes care of her little brother since her mother works such long hours after Pahua's dad left. So, this story shows the love siblings really can have for each other as Pahua literally would do anything to bring her brother back to the land of the living. Along with this family relationship is the stress Pahua had put on herself after her father left. She is upset by this and often places the blame on herself for his leaving. This is not uncommon in children who do not really understand the dynamics of divorce and parents who do not realize the guilt their children have over a divorce.

If I used this story in my classroom as a read-aloud or a class book, I would encourage a study of the Hmong people as well as the areas from which they come. (fourth reason) Their history of how their travels tied into the Vietnam War would have fit in when my students studied the US at War through a variety of literature. Learning the folklore of another culture is good for students to see and to underatand how the oral language is important in passing down the history of a culture.

A fifth reason to have this book in my classroom would be in addition to the fact the main characters are young girls, they are girls with super powers or magical powers. My students loved any books like this from the time the Harry Potter came out. And to have books showing girls as the heroes is wonderful. I always purchased books like these in order to guarantee there would be a new book for my lovers of the magical realms.

The book uses a lot of Hmong words as well as difficult names to remember. I read the book faster than a student would read it so no, I could not tell you all the names of the various characters who were obstacles along the path, but my students would have been able to do that. I learned quickly that it was not a challenge for my kids to know all the characters of any Harry Potter or Bartemaeus books (as well as all the other series including Percy Jackson and more.) They did much better than I when it came to remembering the characters but unless it was a book I had to know all the characters in detail, I read the books I bought for my classroom library so I would know they had suitable story lines and I could do that without having to remember numerous characters

I did receive this book in advance of its publication from Net Galley and Disney Publishing Worldwide. My review is my honest opinions and as you can see, I liked the book for the ages it is intended (middle grades and up) as well as for those adults who found themselves also fascanated by fantasy or magical books as they grew up.

#NetGalley #Pahluaandthesoulstealer #DisneyPublishingWorldwide
#PahuaandtheSoulStealer #NetGalley
Profile Image for Jennifer.
3,433 reviews44 followers
May 24, 2021
Pahua Moua is an 11-year-old Hmong girl who doesn't fit in at school, spends all her free time looking after her little brother Matt, and can see spirits. When she accidentally sets a bridge spirit free one afternoon, the bridge spirit steals Matt's soul and hides in the spirit world. Pahua is determined to find Matt's soul and bring it home, but in doing so, she calls a demon and must be rescued by Zhong, a shaman-in-training. Despite their obvious differences and rough start, Pahua and Zhong must learn to work together to save Matt before his soul turns into a demon. The adventures they have together as they travel through the different dimensions is a lot of fun.

I have enjoyed everything I've read from the Rick Riordan Presents Disney imprint, but I was particularly interested in this one because I recently read the book The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman. Fadiman tells the true story of Lia Lee, a Hmong child born here in the US who develops epilepsy and the incredible conflict and misunderstanding between US culture and Hmong culture and between modern western medicine and traditional Hmong shaman medicine and spiritual beliefs. There's a fair bit of Hmong history and Hmong mythology in Fadiman's book, too, so I jumped at the chance to read about this mythology by an #OwnVoices author.

Pahua and Zhong are both strong characters in their own right, but they have their weaknesses and worries, just like everybody else. I enjoyed their relationship and how it progressed. I enjoyed the adventure and especially the strength they found to solve their problems. I loved the lessons from the book in being true to ourselves and recognizing our own talents and weaknesses. There is a lot of good stuff to enjoy here!

The Hmong believe in a LOT of different spirits and it was hard for me to keep track of them all. The spelling of the Hmong words is confusing (an nothing is pronounced the way it's written!), but nothing can be done about that so be sure to check the glossary at the back for help. Even with the background I have of recently reading a non-fiction book all about Hmong beliefs and culture, I still had a hard time keeping all the spirits straight so I think the target audience for this book (middle grade) will have a hard time with it, too. Hence, I'm giving it 4 stars instead of 5 because the mythology did get a bit overwhelming to keep track of as the book progressed.

Still, I definitely recommend this book and look forward to the sequel! (Please tell me there will be a sequel!!)

Disclaimer: I received a free electronic copy of this book from the publisher through Netgalley.com in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Brenda.
822 reviews36 followers
September 11, 2021
Opening lines: "The day my life changed began like most mornings - with a judgmental cat spirit."

If you're familiar with the Rick Riordan Presents series of books you're probably aware that each book is written by an own voices author and introduces the reader to various cultures, their traditions and mythology. I've always loved how they include diverse stories from Korean, Indian, African, and Mexican cultures, to name a few. Each new book, educating and exciting children to explore new mythologies, history and culture. In the latest book, Pahua and the Soul Stealer, the reader is introduced to the Hmong traditions and legends, a group of people that I didn't know much about prior to reading the story and am so happy to have read. I think of all the Rick Riordan Presents books thus far, this one would be one my favorite. I found the main character, Pahua and Zhong, the Shaman warrior who shows up to help Pahua so engaging to read. I was just instantly swept up by the story. There's so many interesting elements, like how Pahua sees spirits, including Miv her opiniated black kitten spirt that are invisible to others. I felt the tension when Pahua inadvertently set an angry ghost spirit on the bridge free causing her younger brother to become ill and unresponsive, and then quickly flipped pages as she went in search of the lightening axe that she needed to deal with the malevolent spirit to help her brother recover. I especially enjoyed reading about how she dealt with the challenges that she faces, and how rather than striking down her enemies, she showed empathy, negotiated with them or came to some form of understanding for what she needs. Even outsmarted them when need be. Overall, this was a really exciting story and I know I'll defiantly be picking up the next book in the series.
Profile Image for Lots_to_do.
54 reviews
September 2, 2022

Pahua is the only Hmong girl in her school and she's never fit in with anybody, except her little brother Matt. She has the ability to see all sorts of spirits. One day, when she is walking on a bridge she spots a dead ghost girl. Pahua sees her as a harmless spirit, but unknowingly, she sets the spirit free from her tie with the bridge. When she gets home she realizes that the spirit has attacked her beloved brother Matt. His situation is now dire and in the hands of Pahua. Pahua has only three days to save brother and the other victims of the bridge spirit's curse. To help her, she has Miv- a cat spirit who is her best friend, and Zhong a shaman warrior (in training) who saved Pahua from the bridge spirit. Pahua realizes that she is a reincarnation of a famous shaman warrior. Together they discover secrets and incredible Hmong history to save her brother and many others.

Ever since my friend recommended 𝘚𝘩𝘢𝘮𝘢𝘯𝘣𝘰𝘳𝘯, a YA series written by Lori M. Lee, I've been a big fan of Lori M. Lee. There's just so much depth to her writing that I really appreciate. However, I feel because it was a Rick Riordan Presents book, they kind of changed Lori's style of writing and added more humor to the chapter titles and narration through editing. It was just a little different from other books that have been written by Lori M. Lee. Overall, I really liked the character growth that Pahua and Zhong especially had. The plot twists in this book very good and I liked the Hmong history that was weaved through the book. My favourite part of the book was probably the action with Pahua and Zhong. Their friendship is very entertaining and wholesome. There was so much to explore in this book and so much action! I highly recommend this book for fantasy lovers-it's the full package!
Profile Image for Simone.
525 reviews659 followers
September 27, 2021
This was definitely your chosen one/hero's journey and I was all for it. I loved Pahua and her destiny, discovering more about being a shaman with Zhong by her side, and really being much bigger than the average 11-year-old. This was such a funny book with a ton of heart and it made me so excited to read and ignore my adult responsibilities. She's got a cat familiar, which I just adored. I'm a huge fan of characters with talking pets/spirits that guide them along the way. They are always sassy in the books I end up reading.

Pahua isn't your typical strong character. There were some moments when it felt like she can do more than you expect her to at that point, but I loved that she and Zhong were a team who worked closely together despite there being some obvious animosity from Zhong. Pahua is also dealing with a lot in this story and it's not just losing her brother's soul to a mysterious spirit. She's also struggling with the loss of her father from her life. After her parents separated, it seems like she feels neglected and lost with what to do next. I can definitely relate to that in many ways and compounded on top of that, she's ostracized at school for being Asian without anyone to help her. It was so relatable to me that I could feel my heart pulling for Pahua's.

Despite some of the heavier themes, the book was still exciting with a lot of action and adventure as Zhong and Pahua journey into the spirit realm and back again. I loved meeting all the different kinds of spirits while they were traveling. From the aunties who fed them when they were hungry to the old woman watching over the Tree of Souls, there was a warmth to the spirits in these worlds that felt so absent from Pahua's reality. Even the demons and dragon boys were fun at times.

The adventures don't quit either. Seriously, once Pahua and Zhong figured out one piece of the puzzle, there was another something they needed to battle or face. It made the story really compelling and I wanted to keep on reading to see what happens next!

One of the aspects I really loved about Pahua is how non-violent she is. Instead of running right at the problem with her ax, she talks to the enemy or negotiates with them. To me, that's just big brain thinking and I loved having Zhong be the anti-thesis of this as well, but it really surprised me to see Pahua take a different route.

Overall, it was such an action packed story with tons of adventure and friendship. I loved learning about the Hmong culture and folklore through Pahua and Zhong's journey. It made me laugh super hard and root for these girls to save the day.
5,870 reviews131 followers
September 16, 2021
Pahua and the Soul Stealer is a mythological magical adventure written by Lori M. Lee. A Hmong American girl sets out on a quest to save her little brother from an angry spirit.

It follows reserved, empathic Hmong 11-year-old Pahua Moua, who hides her ability to see spirits. Worried about standing out even more in her predominantly white Wisconsin town, Pahua also fears that revealing her abilities will lead to losing her only friend: a talking cat spirit named Miv.

When Pahua accidentally unleashes a malevolent bridge spirit that threatens her younger brother's life, she teams up with strong-willed Zhong, a young Hmong shaman warrior sent by the elders, to seek the lightning axe – a celestial weapon of the gods once wielded by the first and greatest shaman – in the spirit realm.

Pahua and the Soul Stealer is written rather well. Lee adroitly develops the friendship between Pahua and Zhong as they bond over their insecurities and complicated familial relationships. Humorous dialogue from the demons and spirits brings a much-needed levity to each challenge that the two girls face. This is a fun adventure through a world inspired by Hmong mythology, full of imagination and featuring characters whose concerns are both modern and timeless.

All in all, Pahua and the Soul Stealer is a classic, satisfying adventure tale packed with magical beings.
Profile Image for Jordan.
466 reviews33 followers
January 22, 2022
Rating: 3.5, Enjoyed It

This book tells the story of Pahua, a young Hmong girl who accidentally unleashes a bridge spirit who then steals the souls of children to the Spirit Realm, causing them to fall into mysterious comas. This would be bad enough, but Pahua's brother is one of the children whose soul is stolen. We follow Pahua as she teams up with a shaman warrior in training to journey to the Spirit Realm and send her brother's soul back. Along the way she comes to terms with her own magic.

This book was a lot of fun. It was a great adventure, and I loved the Hmong mythology that was the backbone of the story. I thought that it was a magical and transportive adventure. I love the Rick Riordan Presents line for introducing so many new cultures to children and also providing heroes and heroines who can present underrepresented groups with a character on the page like them.

I will say that the humor in this fell a little flat for me and it felt a little bit too long/drawn out for the story that was being told. I think it could have definitely been 150 pages shorter. But even then, I think this is an important story and I definitely enjoyed it. I look forward to checking out the author's YA series as well.

Thank you to NetGalley and Disney Publishing/Rick Riordan Presents for an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Ricky.
Author 8 books156 followers
December 21, 2021
I somehow missed this one for a few months after it first came out - in part because the usual library through which I order Rick Riordan Presents books never did get it, but at least I had a backup. So here it is, a new addition to the lineup rooted in the legends and culture of the Hmong people - and I'm happy to say that one of my littlest cousins, who is Hmong, will finally be able to see a hero just like her in Pahua. A smart cookie with more than a bit of the smart aleck wit that populates every book Riordan either writes himself or curates from others, a pretty strong interest in Star Wars (you know you're in for fun times when even the book's intro outright compares the villain's aesthetic to that of Kylo Ren), and of course an even more smartass animal companion, aptly named for the Hmong word for cat, Miv. There's no word yet on any sequels that I can see, but not unlike a few others in the Rick Riordan Presents lineup that similarly had no follow-ups announced at first (most notably Dragon Pearl and Tristan Strong), I think I smell one coming sooner rather than later...
Profile Image for The Bronze of Immortality.
19 reviews1 follower
August 20, 2021
LOVED the secondary world(s) element. Very whimsical, very charming, with some darker elements easily meshed in as well. From what I know from reading Lori M. Lee's Shamanborn series, it definitely rang true of her style, and now whenever I read a last minute plot twist I think I'll be saying the author pulled a Lori M. Lee lmao

This story felt, as a whole, very pacifistic. Not in a weak, noncommittal "violence is bad, death is bad" sense - from the beginning to end, Pahua and the Soul Stealer is about a girl who is kind, so kind that she dares to speak to a human bridge spirit in an attempt to comfort her (which of course, backfires). Her kindness may cause problems in the books, including one pivotal moment with Miv at the climax, but it's also one of her strengths. She's kind to Zhong and doesn't retort back when Zhong is rude, understanding Zhong's anger comes from a place of hurt, and she's kind to the spirits of the forest, realizing the immense power she holds over them when she wields the ******** ** and resolving to be thoughtful and careful when she uses it, apologizing when she makes a mistake, because mistakes can still harm others and it's important to take accountability for that. Throughout the book, Pahua is kind even to those who attack her, from dragon spirits to poj ntxoog in lovely sundresses to the very bridge spirit who stole her brother, and she knows and understands on a deeply mature level that everyone has their own point of view that influences how they interact with the world. This does not mean Pahua is instantly forgiving, but she isn't focused on revenge either. This is seen most noticeably with her arc around her father's abandonment when she was a young child. Pahua understands others have their reasons to do what they do, but that doesn't give them a right to hurt others. Still, she doesn't punish them to the point of becoming a different person, nor punish /herself/ for not being able to change them - she simply focuses on protecting herself and her friends and her family. This is a wonderful message to send to both the children and adults reading this story.

This kindness of hers also makes Pahua an unusual main character in a YA/MG world populated with sharp, witty banter and characters who authors seem to fear making seem weak by not immediately fighting anyone who does them wrong. I respect and appreciate Lori M. Lee for stepping out of the mold on this one, and allowing Pahua to shine in all her uniquely odd, soft, imaginative, and kind ways.
Profile Image for Joan.
1,941 reviews
September 23, 2021
I’m tired and having an allergy attack so this review may end up needing complete rewriting. But Pahua is just plain a sweet gentle person. Which means lots of confusion considering who she is the reincarnation of. Pahua’s best friend is Miv, pronounced Mee, a cat spirit. I love that! Pahua doesn’t know beans about her culture, the Hmong but she has always been able to see spirits such as Miv. Which is a big problem, since if she hadn’t seen the bridge spirit, the obnoxious spirit couldn’t have taken her kid brother, Matt’s, spirit! Obviously this is Pahua’s fault and she has to get Matt’s spirit back together now! In the next 3 days in fact. Yikes!

Highly recommended for the characters of Pahua and Miv. I suggest it first for Hmong youth, but also for all those who don’t fit in. Who are lonely and unsure of themselves. I can’t wait for the next adventure!
Profile Image for Kristy.
690 reviews
September 15, 2021
A YA book about a Hmong middle-schooler?! You don’t get very many of those so sign me up. My husband spent two years learning Hmong and working with refugees in California, so in our house we always have an eye out for Hmong stories, characters, or real-life news.  We listen to a band with a Hmong singer (Naked and Famous), read other Hmong books when we can find them (The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down), we watched the first Hmong gymnast win her medal this year, and part of our family has traveled to Laos to volunteer in a Hmong school. Watching this middle-grade Hmong story hit the mainstream American market seems like a real find. 

Pahua is a young girl living with her mother and brother.  We quickly find out that she has special gifts in this novel.  She makes real and other-worldly friends who help her save her brother from the “soul stealer.”  Pahua finds her talents, strengths, and confidence in this adventurous fantasy novel full of family and friendship.
Profile Image for Amanda.
137 reviews5 followers
August 5, 2021
Another solid adventure from the Rick Riordan Presents series! I knew very little of Hmong cosmology before this book, only having read The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. I learned so much through Pahua's adventure, just as she did. Identity is central here, and restitution and forgiveness as well. This is *the* best treatment of these issues from this series, which is quite a feat. Get this in the hands of young people you know, and into your own if you appreciate middle grade and young teen fiction!

Thank you to Lori M. Lee, Disney Hyperion, and Netgalley for an advance ecopy in exchange for an honest opinion.
Profile Image for JoyAnn.
416 reviews9 followers
June 16, 2021
This story feels important, and I believe it is. It is the first middle grade book I have read/seen with a Hmong main character. Lee crafts an imaginative adventure with multi-faceted characters. Pahua is undoubtedly one of the most memorable fantasy heroes to me. She can channel abilities and wield a mighty weapon, but she has an ability to see and read people and try to solve issues by helping others even those who might first appear as enemies when possible. Her love and protectiveness of her brother is admirable and desire for a friend relatable.
Profile Image for JoyAnn.
416 reviews9 followers
June 16, 2021
This story feels important, and I believe it is. It is the first middle grade book I have read/seen with a Hmong main character. Lee crafts an imaginative adventure with multi-faceted characters. Pahua is undoubtedly one of the most memorable fantasy heroes to me. She can channel abilities and wield a mighty weapon, but she has an ability to see and read people and try to solve issues by helping others even those who might first appear as enemies when possible. Her love and protectiveness of her brother is admirable and desire for a friend relatable.
Profile Image for Kate.
81 reviews
April 11, 2021
Very enjoyable read! I had never heard of the Hmong culture before and it was a great introduction to read about it in this text. Pahua is a sixth grader struggling with feelings of belonging in her school and accidentally sets off a chain of events that lead to her brother being kidnapped and a long imprisoned god in danger of escaping. There are twists and turns in the story, but the best part for me is that Pahua always finds an unusual way to solve problems and often surprises even herself. She's a very resourceful and insightful protagonist and I enjoyed watching her grow throughout the story.
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