Kung Fu Princess

Kung Fu Princess

Note: This is a trilogy, and the review covers all three books in the trilogy: Daughter of Light, In Jade and Gold, and Veil of Secrets

Author: Pamela Walker

Publication: Grosset & Dunlap

Pages: 220 pages each

Overall Rating: bth_45_zps06f87659[1]                       

Rating for Action: bth_25_zps13f4f4eb[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_2-star-rating-1_zps4cdc0d23[1]

Age Category: 13+

Brief Summary: Cassidy Chen gets a mysterious gift on her 14th birthday – a box of gold coins delivered to her by a man who quickly disappears into the mist.  The coins have strange symbols engraved into them.  When she takes them to a Chinese antiques dealer, he gets very nervous and talks about the coins as though they were cursed.  Soon she begins to feel weak and tired, she bruises easily, and begins having strange dreams about her ancestors.

The coins are indeed cursed, and before the trilogy is out Cassidy will find herself having to face five terrible demons that were first defeated by her ancestors, Ng Mui  and Yim Wing Chun, the founders of Wing Chun style kung fu.  Will Cassidy survive the coming battles?  Will she become the warrior princess her ancestors seem to think she is?  And will she finally be able to get the totally hot James Tang to take her seriously?

Age of Main Character: 14

What I Liked the Most: This is a FUN book.  Walker has created a light, fast paced read.  That’s not to say that the story is shallow.  Far from it.  Cassidy’s emotional turmoil as she struggles to come to terms with her destiny and the very real possibility that she could be killed just about bubbles off the page.  And yet, there’s still enough humor and hoped-for romance to maintain the quick pace.  I raced through this trilogy, going from one book to the next, and thoroughly enjoyed myself right up to the last page.

Walker does a great job breathing life into the city of Seattle, and making it a very real setting for the story.  It truly does become a character in its own right, and I found myself feeling like I’d been there – especially during some of the more memorable scenes, such as the one where a plague ghost is bringing storms and floods to the city.

I liked the descriptions of Wing Chun kung fu.  Walker doesn’t go into heavy details, nor does she try to impress the reader with her knowledge of Wing Chun, but she does make it very realistic, particularly with her descriptions of Chi Sau – or sticking hands – and both the tiger style and crane style of kung fu.  I could really feel Cassidy’s attitude and the way she handled her body when she used each style – aggressive and quick on the attack when she went into tiger style, fluid and graceful when she adopted crane style.

I also liked how Walker made Cassidy into an ancestor of Ng Mui and Yim Wing Chun and had them appear to her in dreams.  It created a very real connection between the founders of Wing Chun and the amazing Wing Chun skills that she begins to develop.  A small detail, but I thought it added a nice touch to the story.

What I Liked the Least: This is a minor point, but the trilogy feels like it comes to a rather abrupt end after the final battle.  I would like to have seen Cassidy return home and get some sense of what her life is going to be like now that all five demons are gone – and she’s a super charged kung fu warrior with amazingly lethal skills.  What does a girl like that do with her life?  I’d almost like to have seen a fourth novel – Cassidy post-demons.

This is also a minor point, but it felt pretty convenient that Cassidy just happened to be studying Wing Chun style kung fu of all things when she got the coins – and studying with just the right teacher, as becomes apparent later in the series.  I could have used a little background, a little explanation as to why she decided to start studying martial arts, and in particular why she chose Wing Chun.  Did she feel drawn to it for reasons she couldn’t explain?  Was it pure chance?  Either way, Walker never addresses the issue.

How Good was the Action?  The action is okay, but it’s not really the focus of the story.  Cassidy does battle five demons, and for her the fights are terrifying, but the story is less about the fights themselves than about Cassidy’s emotional preparation for them, her search for the meaning behind the five coins, her struggle to accept her destiny, and the many ways in which the coins affect her life, her family, and her friendships.  When she fights, especially in the last three battles, she displays some pretty amazing skills, but the fights themselves are fairly short, especially the first two.  Each fight provided a good and very appropriate resolution to the mysterious events in Cassidy’s life that seemed to precede them, but as action scenes they left a bit to be desired.  They certainly weren’t pulse pounding in any way, but they did fit nicely within the context of the book.

How Engaging was the Story?   Very.  Cassidy is a wonderfully drawn character, and Walker does an excellent job of pulling us into her world of fear, uncertainty, and isolation as she goes from the life of a normal 14 year girl to the life of a warrior cursed to fight five ancient demons.  As each battle approaches, I could really feel her fear, and Walker does a great job of making each demon distinct and giving it properties that challenge Cassidy in new and interesting ways.  Weaving in and out of this are her relationships with her best friend, Eliza, and her crush, James Tang.  And with each demon, her relationship with Eliza and James changes in new and unpredictable ways.

Overall Assessment: This was a very enjoyable book.  If you’re in the mood for a story that’s a lot of fun – light on the action but with great emotional upheaval and dash of romance – than I would highly recommend this little-known trilogy.  It’s a true gem.

Profanity: None

Sex: None

Violence: Minimal.  The fights with the demons are not especially violent and there is zero blood and gore.

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