Jan 292019

Cover of Dragon Pear by Yoon Ha Lee.Horn Book Magazine: Thirteen-year-old Min is feisty and clever, and she has a powerful secret: she’s a gumiho, a fox spirit disguised as a human. Min can shape-shift and use Charm (fox magic) to alter others’ perceptions and emotions. She enthusiastically wields these powers when she ditches her “dismal life” on the barren planet Jinju in order to track down her brother Jun, a Thousand Worlds Space Forces cadet who’s gone AWOL. Min’s epic adventure leads to run-ins with spaceport security guards, gamblers, and ghosts. She impersonates a dead cadet on a starship battle cruiser and encounters the legendary Dragon Pearl, a mystical orb that creates life. Lee has a knack for world-building. His richly detailed, cohesive, original vision is a lively mash-up of outer-space sci-fi and Korean culture and folklore: starships have gi, an energy flow; pirates fly in groups of four because it’s a number that signifies death; characters, both supernatural and human, eat gimchi and play the board game baduk; Min befriends a dragon cadet who can summon the weather—sometimes inadvertently—and a dokkaebi (Korean goblin) who carries a magical spork. The dokkaebi is also a nonbinary character, who’s referred to with gender-neutral pronouns—a small detail that’s woven in matter-of-factly and just as smoothly as all the other strands in this engaging space opera.