This book was a lot better than I was expecting. I picked it up from the Little Free Lending Library, thinking I'd quickly read it and put it back. But now I'm kind of hooked on the series and really want to find the second book.
The writing was simple, but still engaging. I can see it being a good read for young readers. There is a lot going on in this novel. I loved all of the story arcs. The descriptions are also well-done. You can really picture what is happening.
The story itself was very fast-paced. I loved finding out more about the characters. I read it pretty quickly because I was so taken in by the writing and the plot.
There were only two things that were not quite to my liking. One was the serious lack of female characters. I get it, I totally get it. But I feel like Stone set the story up in a way that was not inclusive for female characters. Not only that, but "femininity" is often seen as degrading and bad. Fu is furious when they have to hide "like a bunch of girls." Ying changes the title of "Brother" to "Sister" to further shame Fu. I understand where it was coming from, but I was disappointed with the mindset. Granted, there are some good things that happen to females (children in the village), but overall the presentation of girls and women was problematic.
Secondly, this book is pretty violent. It is not done poorly. The descriptions aren't gory. But it is something to be aware of for young readers. There are a lot of fight scenes with blood and such. In general, the mindset is to only use violence when it is absolutely necessary, but there is quite a bit in here. Again, it's not overly gross or anything, but it is something to keep in mind.
Overall, a fantastic book. I really look forward to reading the next one in the series.