Middle-Grade Monday – Review: Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee

MG MOnday

Hey everyone!  We’ve moved Middle-Grade Monday over from our TBR and Beyond Facebook Group to the blog! Hopefully we can bring you lots of great reviews, topics and maybe even some author interviews!
I’m a massive middle-grade fan, and I’m always trying to get people to give it a shot! Hopefully these reviews will give you a better idea if you want to try out the books or not! That is the goal anyway!


dragon pearl
My rating:
 4 out of 5 stars
Genre: Middle-Grade Fantasy
Pages: 312
Pacing: Normal
Publisher: Rick Riordan Presents
Published: January 15th, 2019


Trigger Warnings: Death, Mild Violence


To keep the family safe, Min’s mother insists that none of them use any fox-magic, such as Charm or shape-shifting. They must appear human at all times. Min feels hemmed in by the household rules and resents the endless chores, the cousins who crowd her, and the aunties who judge her. She would like nothing more than to escape Jinju, her neglected, dust-ridden, and impoverished planet. She’s counting the days until she can follow her older brother, Jun, into the Space Forces and see more of the Thousand Worlds.

When word arrives that Jun is suspected of leaving his post to go in search of the Dragon Pearl, Min knows that something is wrong. Jun would never desert his battle cruiser, even for a mystical object rumored to have tremendous power. She decides to run away to find him and clear his name.

Min’s quest will have her meeting gamblers, pirates, and vengeful ghosts. It will involve deception, lies, and sabotage. She will be forced to use more fox-magic than ever before, and to rely on all of her cleverness and bravery. The outcome may not be what she had hoped, but it has the potential to exceed her wildest dreams. – Synopsis on Goodreads.

hearts 4

Middle-grade space opera based on Korean folklore, you say? I hit that “want to read” button on Goodreads pretty darn quick and overall I’m glad I did.

Dragon Pearl is an interesting little story, it mixes fantasy and sci-fi in a fairly accessible way for a younger audience while still being engaging enough for a more mature one.  This was chosen as the May book in the Dragons and Tea Bookclub and it fit my schedule this month so I was so excited to be able to join Mel and Amy on this read.  Min, our lead protagonist comes from a family of shape-shifting foxes, no you heard me right.  Shape. Shifting. Foxes.  Pretty cool, right? In this world; however, foxes are looked down upon and seen as sneaky and untrustworthy, so their family mostly keeps it under wraps.  There are tons of other magical creatures such as goblins, dragons, gumiho, ghosts, etc but they don’t seem to be looked down upon in the same way and many are seen as very useful.   The story starts when an investigator shows up to Min’s family home and informs them that her older brother has abandoned his post as a space cadet at his school in I believe some type of space forces, basically think military in space.   They believe her brother is traitor and has ran off with some other students to seek out the powerful “Dragon Pearl” for himself to cash in on .

Not surprisingly, Min and her family don’t believe for a second that it’s true but her brother has already been missing for quite awhile and Min decides she is the only one who can truly find out what happened to him and bring him home.  She runs off and goes on few little misadventures but eventually lands herself on the ship and pretends to be a cadet.  She also happens to have come in contract with a ghost and made a bit of pact with him to find out how he ended up killed – so she has her hands full with mysteries to solves and people to pretend to be.

Min also kind of learns and plays with her powers and figures out how and IF she should be using them.  She can turn into just about anything or anyone.  That means she can turn into a chair, just as easy as she can turn into the person next to her.  This was pretty cool overall.  She also can manipulate people’s mind’s – think Jedi vibes.  She can push their minds into doing things that she wants them to do – this doesn’t always work and doesn’t work on every being but it comes in handy.  Yes, sometimes she might come off as selfish and a complete jerk for using these powers but we are talking about a 12 year old girl with some pretty crazy powers… I think we’d be messing with where to draw that line as well.

I thought Dragon Pearl was a lot of fun but there are some glaring issues that I can’t overlook.  First, the pacing is not great.  It starts off ok but then kind of goes all over the place and take a couple of turns while she is getting to the space station that didn’t seem that necessary and weren’t fleshed out at all.  It was almost confusing and I kept thinking they’d backtrack back to some of the early stuff, but nope.  It also isn’t a very fast paced story, so I think anyone who isn’t used to a slow burn is going to find this one frustrating because of how slow it gets from time to time.  I personally didn’t mind this – I enjoyed seeing her doing the tasks and stuff as a space cadet, but I know this was a complaint for many reviewers.

Overall, I enjoyed this a lot.  I do wish it had been fleshed out a bit more.  A couple parts could have easily been taken out, to flesh out other parts and give us more of the cool shape-shifting stuff.  I would’ve like to see her in fox form more for sure.  The family dynamics are strong, her relationship with her brother was amazing and the friendships were pretty great as well. There is a twist that I didn’t see coming and neither did most of the group I was reading with it seemed.  I would love to see a sequel of this one because I think it could go much further than it did and the ending left endless possibilities.




16 thoughts on “Middle-Grade Monday – Review: Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee

  1. Man, I’m so torn on this, because I hate space opera, but I do love Korean folklore. I’m so glad you liked it as much as you did, though. That gives me hope. Maybe I’ll check it out. I do love all the supernatural elements you mention, and it sounds really neat. Great review!


  2. Great review! I recently saw this in the library, I will probably check it out the next time I’m there!



  3. WTH? Why is there something called “Middle Grade Monday” and why don’t I know anything about it?! Excuse me, while I go and read all the other posts you have under this tag. 😀
    This book sounds great. I will definitely check it out.


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