Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee (Rick Riordan Presents)

Dragon Pearl (Rick Riordan Presents)

Yoon Ha Lee, Author

Disney Hyperion, Fiction, 2019

Suitable for ages: 8-12

Themes: Brother and sister, Space adventure, Korean Mythology, Magical creatures, Ghosts, Science Fiction, Fantasy


Thirteen-year-old Min comes from a long line of fox spirits. But you’d never know it by looking at her. To keep the family safe, Min’s mothers insists that none of them use any fox magic, such as Charm or shape-shifting. They must appear human at all times. She dreams of joining the Space Forces like her older brother, Jun. Together they dream of seeing all of the Thousand Worlds and to find a way to help their own neglected, dust-ridden and impoverished planet, Jinju. 

When a special investigator arrives at Min’s home and informs her family that Jun is suspected of deserting the Space Force with other cadets to go search for the Dragon Pearl, Min knows that something is very wrong. Jun wound never desert his battle cruiser, Pale Lightning, even for a powerful mystical object.  Min has only one option — to search for Jun. Using her fox-magic, she uses her shape-shifting and Charm casting abilities to navigate gamblers, pirates, vengeful ghosts and sneak onto find her brother’s ship. 

 What to like about this book:

This is the second Rick Riordan Presents novel I’ve reviewed (even though I didn’t read his series.)  The blurb I remember seeing for Dragon Pearl was “space opera meets Korean mythology.” This pretty much encapsulates the book.  It isn’t contemporary, but crafted out of Korean mythological themes. The mythology is never explained in this compelling story, because it is the the foundation for the world and characters.

Dragon Pearl is high adventure with a lot of risks. The world-building is seamless. Min is a courageous character dedicated to finding her brother and clearing his name, while risking her own life at the same time. Her fox traits (like heightened hearing and scent recognition) are an immense help to her. And she is clever with charms that distract and manipulate people. There are many unexpected plot twists in Dragon Pearl and a special ending that surprised me. I love not being able to guess the ending and won’t give away any SPOILERS.  

Kudos to Yoon Ha Lee for the way she handles gender variances as an accepted fact of life. Cadets in the Space Force wear pronoun pins that tell them how to refer to each other. Lee also addresses racism through the tension between the supernatural beings, like the dragons, goblins, tigers, and foxes.

I recommend Dragon Pearl to lovers of science fiction, fantasy, mythology and space adventures. It will transport you to a world far beyond your imagination. I hope there is a sequel.

Yoon Ha Lee is a Korean American who grew up in both Texas and South Korea, learning folktales of wily foxes, shape-shifting tigers, and benevolent dragons. Yoon was inspired to write about foxes in space because everything is better in space — except the ice cream. Yoon is also the author of the Machineries of Empire trilogy: Ninefox Gambit, Raven Stratagem, and Revenant Gun. For more information, follow Yoon on Twitter @motomaratai. 

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

15 thoughts on “Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee (Rick Riordan Presents)

  1. Sound like a great story to escape into on a lazy summer day. Min’s character is the perfect choice to pull off this adventure. You certainly have me intrigued with the plot twists you held back. Thanks for featuring on Marvelous Middle Grade Monday!


    • Didn’t dare share the ending for anyone who hasn’t read the book. I’m really enjoying the Rick Riordan Presents novels — because they represent different cultures. You’d like this adventure.


  2. Well this sounds like a really entertaining read! I’m so curious to read it after your description of the mythology and space elements!


  3. It’s awesome how many exciting new and diverse series are coming out of the Rick Riordan Presents imprint! Dragon Pearl sounds like a great read—the embedded Korean mythology and selection of plot twists sound excellent, and I love the detail you mention about the pronoun pins (we need those in real life)! Thanks so much for recommending this book!


    • Riordan is really trying to help spread the word and support authors from other cultures. I’ve read two books now and loved them both. Both had Korean mythology, but written very differently. The space component was fun!

      Liked by 2 people

    • I’m delighted you’re enjoying The Last Fallen Star — it is the first one of the book (and I think I learned about it from an interview on your blog). I can’t wait for the sequel next summer. The Dragon Pearl is also includes Korean mythology, but in a very different way from the book your reading. So we get the best of both.


  4. Oh – great! I’m looking for another book for my big reader 12-year-old grandson who LOVED Amari and the Night Brothers. This has a similar theme in that the sister needs to find and “save” the brother. Would you recommend this for those who liked the Amari-type fantasy?


    • It is an exciting read. Yes, it has been likened to Amari and the Night Brothers, but different. There is another book I reviewed in the Rick Riordan Presents series, The Last Fallen Star by Graci Kim, which is outstanding, and a favorite. Wrote a review around June.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you so much! I will start with The Last Fallen Star. I think I’ll read it at the same time my grandson does ! I am so happy with these wonderful middle grade books that of course I wish I had when I was 12. But guess what? I can enjoy them just as much now.


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