ARC REVIEW: “Stronger than a Bronze Dragon” by Mary Fan

Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon

Title: Stronger than a Bronze Dragon
Author: Mary Fan
Pages: 384

Release Date: June 11 2019
Publisher: Page Street Kids
Format: Hardcover

Genre: Fantasy
Goodreads Rating:  3.98 (of 47 ratings)



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When a powerful viceroy arrives with a fleet of mechanical dragons and stops an attack on Anlei’s village, the villagers see him as a godsend. They agree to give him their sacred, enchanted River Pearl in exchange for permanent protection—if he’ll marry one of the village girls to solidify the alliance. Anlei is appalled when the viceroy selects her as a bride, but with the fate of her people at stake, she sees no choice but to consent. Anlei’s noble plans are sent into a tailspin, however, when a young thief steals the River Pearl for himself.

Knowing the viceroy won’t protect her village without the jewel, she takes matters into her own hands. But once she catches the thief, she discovers he needs the pearl just as much as she does. The two embark on an epic quest across the land and into the Courts of Hell, taking Anlei on a journey that reveals more is at stake than she could have ever imagined.


Disclaimer: I received this ARC courtesy of Page Street Kids through NetGalley. I am grateful for the opportunity to review an ARC for my readers, but this will not influence my final rating. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and based solely on the book. 

Stronger than a Bronze Dragon hooked me on two keywords. “Dragon” and “thief.” I’m a sucker for books with either of those. The fact that the book is based on Chinese culture was an added bonus. I know nothing and I mean nothing about the Courts of Hell, but trust that I was ready to learn.

I will say I definitely got my two keywords in this book. The bronze dragons make many appearances and our thief is a key player early on. But I could predict everything. StaBD followed every trope line you would expect in a warrior girl/thief boy fantasy novel.

My frustration is really that the book has potential. Anlei is a passionate girl who hungers for a chance at adventure. Early in the book she realizes that the domestic life is not for her—especially unusual in a time when women are expected to wed young and be obedient.

When it comes down to it, though, the writing felt less like exploring scenes and more like pushing BIG MOMENTS at the reader. Anlei is kidnapped, Anlei escapes, Anlei saves an orphaned child, Anlei falls in a river, Anlei–* I love action scenes, really I do, but after a bit I was hungering for descriptive and introspective scenes.

*I made these up to avoid spoilers

Another thing that didn’t quite click with me was the narrative voice. StaBD is written in first person—a.k.a. Anlei’s voice—and while Anlei is seventeen years old, the though process shown to the reader is more similar to that of a thirteen or fourteen-year-old. Anlei acts without thinking, speaks without considering the feelings of others, and often scolds herself in her head in simplistic language. (Like a young child repeating what a parent has said.) It reads so oddly and often stilted. Honestly, I would recommend this book to younger readers for its tone and narration. It doesn’t read like upper YA, and I can see older teens having trouble connecting to Anlei.

One other thing: everything was so simple! Any struggle that arises, a solution is always found within seconds. (Even when it wouldn’t be logical.)

I think this book requires slight suspension of disbelief, which is an odd thing to say when reading fantasy. The world-building could have used a bit more development, as not all the details are understandable/believable even within Fan’s own universe.


rating:  3 crowns
representation: Chinese protag
content warnings: n/a


What do you think? Let’s discuss in the comments below!

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10 thoughts on “ARC REVIEW: “Stronger than a Bronze Dragon” by Mary Fan

  1. Great review, Sha! I was kinda keeping my eye on this one, the cover is beautiful! but I can totally see how the thought process of that character is off-putting and I love complex plots so maybe I can hold off on this a bit.

    Liked by 1 person

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