In this action-packed debut steeped in Chinese mythology, a modern-day warrior is unexpectedly chosen as the Heaven Breaker, destined to lead the Jade Emperor’s armies against demons threatening Earth. Ever since the disappearance of their father, a legendary hero, Faryn Liu and her younger brother, Alex, have been ostracized by the rest of the secret Jade Society. But when the gods choose Faryn to embark on a quest to prove her worth, she and Alex finally have a chance to restore their family’s reputation. With demons at every turn, capricious gods pursuing their own agendas, and a tight deadline, Faryn will have to make hard decisions and painful sacrifices. Zhao reimagines classic Chinese deities and monsters in an accessible, entertaining manner while filtering the adventure through Faryn’s snarky, relatable voice. With engaging characters, a fast-paced plot, and a skillful blend of modern culture and ancient traditions, this series opener will appeal to fans of Percy Jackson and Aru Shah. Ages 8–12. Agent: Penny Moore, Aevitas Creative Management. (Oct.)
Gr 4–7—Demons have been dormant in San Francisco for decades, but despite a warning from her sick grandfather, Faryn ventures into the city for his medicine on Lunar New Year. Faryn is stunned when she comes face to face with a powerful nián. Using her warrior training, she defeats the demon with the help of an anonymous stranger, who reveals himself to be the God of War and issues a challenge that will determine the fabled "Heaven Breaker," a champion of the Gods. When Faryn is able to carry the legendary spear meant only for the Heaven Breaker, the community who ostracized her family sends candidates of its own. Together with her brother and best frenemy, Faryn undertakes an epic quest that she hopes will not only redeem, but reunite, her family. This disparate group bands together to solve riddles, fend off foes, and uncover a devious plot to end the world. By embracing her role as Heaven Breaker, Faryn finally meets her destiny—but it comes at a cost. The integration of Chinese terms and cultural influences richly elevates the story with authentic details. VERDICT Inspired by classic Chinese mythology, this #OwnVoices fantasy adventure delivers on action, humor, and heart. Share with fans of Rick Riordan and Roshani Chokshi.—Sophie Kenney, Delray Beach Public Library, FL
Chinese folklore and fantasy intersect in this adventure.
Faryn and her younger brother, Alex, were lovingly raised by Ye Ye, who's now seriously ill. Viewed as outcasts by their Jade Society community, the family lives outside of San Francisco's Chinatown but still are dedicated to worshipping the gods and train to fight demons. During a risky trip into Chinatown to get Ye Ye's medicine, Faryn subdues a nián monster with the help of a stranger. The stranger later appears at their society's annual banquet, revealing himself to be Erlang Shen, the god of war. He shares the Jade Emperor's decree that whoever can complete a quest and arrive at the banquet atop the heavenly mountain on Peng Lai Island will be deemed the Heaven Breaker, the ultimate warrior, inspiring several hopefuls to race for the title. Spurred by Erlang Shen's hints and sudden attacks by demons, Faryn reluctantly wields Heaven Breaker's weapon, Fenghuang, and takes off, accompanied by Alex. The two hope they can also find their missing father, lost during his quest to find Peng Lai. Attempts to call in favors earned by their father prove largely futile, however. Zhao seamlessly incorporates Chinese terms and themes into the fast-paced plot. Unfortunately, the book's humor relies heavily on Asian stereotypes. Still, the story takes intriguing twists with its cultural background, and they keep the pages turning. Faryn and Alex are multiracial: Chinese on Ba's side and a mix of Mediterranean heritage on their mother's.
An ambitious debut with imperfect execution—here's hoping the sequel is smoother. (Fantasy. 9-12)
In this page-turning debut, Zhao weaves an exhilarating tale that shimmers with adventure, love, and loyalty. Readers will be enthralled up to the incredible and absolutely breathless end.” —J.C. Cervantes, NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author of THE STORM RUNNER
“Zhao's impressive and captivating debut adventure novel brings mythology and magic to life ... an ideal choice for fans of Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series and Roshani Chokshi's Aru Shah and the End of Time. ” —Booklist, starred review
“Inspired by classic Chinese mythology, this #OwnVoices fantasy adventure delivers on action, humor, and heart. Share with fans of Rick Riordan and Roshani Chokshi.” —School Library Journal
“With engaging characters, a fast-paced plot, and a skillful blend of modern culture and ancient traditions, this series opener will appeal to fans of Percy Jackson and Aru Shah.” —Publishers Weekly