Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon by Mary Fan had a lot of potential, but ultimately failed to impress for me.
I liken it to Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream.
It’s my favorite kind of ice cream.
If the option is available, I get me some Mint Chip wherever I go.
I grew up in the US and have lived here most of my life. But for a time, I lived abroad in Australia. By and large, I love Australian food and to this day miss my beef sausages and chips.
But there’s one food item in Australia I can’t stand.
You guessed it, it’s Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream.
I don’t know what it is. But every brand I’ve tried, every milkshake I’ve gotten has done Mint a serious disservice. It doesn’t taste like the wonderful dessert it is in America, but instead takes like toothpaste.
Normally, I love Asian-based fantasy. It’s actually one of my favorites.
From the first time I read Eon and Eona by Alison Goodman I’ve been in love with Asian Fantasy.
I just finished Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim and fell head over heels for it.
I so very much wanted to like Stronger Than A Bronze Dragon, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Much like Australian Mint Chip, it had the appearance of something good, but a very off-putting flavor.
Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon Review
The story begins with our main character Anlei.
Anlei is a very awkward girl. We begin the scene with her as a fierce warrior, and unashambedly so. This is not Mulan where she has to pretend to be a man in order to fight. She’s a warrior woman, and her village is okay with that.
Anlei has stepped forward to protect her village from the spirit-monsters called Ligui.
It seems like we are going to get a very strong, independent character like Celaena Sardothian (Throne of Glass) or Katsa (Graceling).
What we really get is a self-absorbed whiner who is too quiet for her own good.
But I get it. I’ve read enough Asian fantasy. I know the culture. Women are often seen as inferior. Which is why so many Asian fantasies involve a woman disguising herself as a man.
I get it. I do.
But you can’t buck that tradition by openly being a rebellious warrior type and then silently submitting the next moment like all the fire and gusto is gone. It was so flip floppy and very off-putting.
If you’re going to be sly and sneaky, be sly and sneaky. If you’re going to be brave and strong, then be brave and strong. Own a personality type and stick to it.
But personality isn’t the only thing to suffer indecision, Anlei’s driving motivation changes with the wind.
One minute she’s willing to marry a guy old enough to be her father to save her village and do her duty. The next she’s wanting to save someone else’s village to the detriment of her own, and the next she wants personal glory.
But it’s that last motivator that really gets me.
Over and over Anlei moans about becoming famous and being a legend. She fights this battle and that person all to become a legend.
When she should be worrying about staying alive or saving her traveling companion, Tai, from certain doom, she’s instead worried about her image and how history will speak about her.
Uh…really? Saving your village is a better motivator. Let’s stick with that.
And she does at times.
Cause Anlei goes right back to wanting to save her village once all the high pressure is gone. But in the heat of the moment, personal glory is all she cares about.
But that’s not all folks.
This sweet, little, scattered brained girl has a sadistic side.
At one point Anlei lands a very good hit in with her sword and blood sprays in her face. Yes, it’s written that way. Blood sprays in her face.
Guess what she does.
She laughs with glee.
I’m not joking. That’s how it’s written.
Anlei revels in blood in her face rather than being disgusted, repulsed, or experiencing remorse for what she’s just done. Not even a shred.
The two distinct images I got of Anlei reading the story was like night and day. Either Anlei suffers from multi-personalities, or Fan didn’t truly understand her character and couldn’t peg a personality type for her.
A Great Story
That’s not to say it’s all bad.
Many of the story mechanics were great! I was surprised by a turn of events on more than one occasion, and the level of foreshadowing in Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon is second to none.
The hints here and there and the nuggets of information that is dropped all lead to a very satisfying ending.
The world, while a bit forced for the story’s sake, is well planned and well executed.
The only blemish on and otherwise fantastic plot is once again the characters, who, moments after discovering something, go on to forget it less than five minutes later and stare dumbfounded at a similar, but larger problem.
As the reader, I was screaming for them to remember what they did just two pages earlier, but they did not. And then it suddenly hits them five pages later after they’d tried everything.
Not so bright there guys.
Some Final Comments
I received an ARC of Stronger Than A Bronze Dragon and my final comment might just be a result of the version of the ebook I received, but the story ends pretty abruptly.
One moment we’re seeing the aftermath of events and the next we’re in the epilogue a few days later without any clear indication of a break.
It was rather jarring, but the whole ebook I had didn’t have any chapter breaks. My only indication of chapters was the first letter of the chapter was missing. No such signifier existed for this ending issue.
The writing at times felt overly simplistic, yet fun and airy at the same time.
It’s a good read. Don’t misunderstand my moaning. Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon just fell short of the high expectations I had going into the story.
Out of principle, I never rate a book lower than 3 stars. The author put a lot of hard work into writing the story, and I commend Mary Fan for a great plot and tale.
If I can’t at least give it a three, I won’t review the book. The fact that this review exists is testament that Stronger Than A Bronze Dragon is a story worth reading,