Shealea's Reviews > Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon

Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon by Mary Fan
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really liked it
bookshelves: arc-review, asian-representation, authors-of-color, diverse-books, review-copy

If you're a reader of diverse books and want to know what representations this book offers, find the diversity tags here.


For the first few chapters, I found the characters to be a little too trope-y, namely, “tough cookie” female and arrogant love interest. However, as I continued reading, I began to see them in a new, more positive light. The little complexities in their characters, particularly their individual motivations and desires, allowed them to break out of their trope-y molds, which I really appreciated.


I am also extremely happy to note that Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon is a brave and thoughtful commentary on poverty, privilege, social issues, and corruption. With a heroine hailing from a poor village that’s often overlooked by its government, this book portrays poverty in a nuanced way that leaves no room for romanticization or glamorization. More importantly, it depicts harsh truths that need to be addressed: the helplessness of poor communities (e.g. their inability to bite the hand that feeds them), literacy and education as inaccessible privileges, and how politics and the self-interests of those in power contribute to class oppression.

Moreover, the story carefully delves into filial piety, tradition, duty and obligation – themes that are inherently significant to Chinese culture, as well as to some other Asian cultures. I particularly loved the strong family themes and the complexities that come with them.

I don’t think I’m really exaggerating when I say that the steampunk and fantasy elements in this book totally blew me away, and I still haven’t fully recovered! Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon features pure spiritual beings (yueshen), cursed spirit abominations (ligui), demons from literal Hell, cyborg soldiers, and mechanical dragons – and I loved how these creatures were incorporated into this fantastical world. Absolutely brilliant is all I can say, to be honest.


At its heart, the plot is about an unlikely hero embarking on a dangerous quest – in this case, literal Hell – for a noble cause. However, it’s also so much more than that. As a whole, Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon is a brilliantly written subversion of the traditional hero’s journey. It is a heartfelt ode to family and to valuing one’s roots (which are typical aspects of a hero’s journey), but it also sparks a thoughtful discourse regarding fighting in the name of nobility and pursuing a cause for the sake of glory. It follows the adventure a hero undergoes to singlehandedly save his loved ones, but it also depicts the necessity of overthrowing a powerful, corrupted system through collective efforts. Most importantly, it is about encouraging women to reclaim their stories and to lead their own adventures.


With a wildly imaginative world where steampunk technology and magic collide and a complex plot that will keep you guessing, Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon certainly makes for a challenging read — but with that challenge comes a truly rewarding experience.

4 stars
* Read the rest of this review in my natural habitat!
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Reading Progress

December 16, 2018 – Shelved
December 16, 2018 – Shelved as: possibly-going-to-read
April 16, 2019 – Started Reading
April 19, 2019 – Shelved as: arc-review
April 19, 2019 – Shelved as: asian-representation
April 19, 2019 – Shelved as: authors-of-color
April 19, 2019 – Shelved as: diverse-books
April 19, 2019 – Shelved as: review-copy
April 19, 2019 – Finished Reading

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