*BLOG TOUR STOP: Song of the Crimson Flower review

It’s finally here! I can’t believe I’m able to say that! AH!

When I was notified that Second Hand Pages had been chosen to be included in the INTL Blog Tour of Song of the Crimson Flower hosted by The Nocturnal Fey and The Polar Bear Reads, I was OVER the moon!

Thank you for allowing us to join this wonderful tour, and to the publisher for providing an advanced readers copy for this blog tour!

***SPOILER ALERT***
While my reviews are typically spoiler free, there are large spoilers below. I have labeled them before hand, but please consider yourself warned.

★ ★ ★ ★

Author: Julie C. Dao
Publisher: Philomel
Format/Source: E-Arc

From GoodReads:
From the acclaimed author of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns comes a fantastical new tale of darkness and love, in which magical bonds are stronger than blood.

Will love break the spell? After cruelly rejecting Bao, the poor physician’s apprentice who loves her, Lan, a wealthy nobleman’s daughter, regrets her actions. So when she finds Bao’s prized flute floating in his boat near her house, she takes it into her care, not knowing that his soul has been trapped inside it by an evil witch, who cursed Bao, telling him that only love will set him free. Though Bao now despises her, Lan vows to make amends and help break the spell.

Together, the two travel across the continent, finding themselves in the presence of greatness in the forms of the Great Forest’s Empress Jade and Commander Wei. They journey with Wei, getting tangled in the webs of war, blood magic, and romance along the way. Will Lan and Bao begin to break the spell that’s been placed upon them? Or will they be doomed to live out their lives with black magic running through their veins?

The Book Dragon/Cat Lady
Breaks Down…..

Plot: ★★★★ 1/2
World: ★★★★
Writing: ★★★★★
Character Development: ★★★★

…the writing…..

The Cat Lady: Julie has such a unique writing style. It is so vivid and beautiful that it is easy to get lost in it. But it is also simple and easy to understand. I love that she has expanded her world and ties them all together. There is so much allure in companion novels versus a trilogy. You stay in the world but get to meet new characters that you fall in love with. That is what happened with this novel for me.

The Book Dragon: As usual, Dao’s writing is gorgeous! From her simple but elegant descriptions to the heart felt dialogue between characters, it’s easy to see why so many have been captivated with Dao’s worlds since the beginning. The quality of writing never falters, allowing me to fall seamlessly back into the world. There are many books that I have struggled with companion or sequels because the writing has suffered in some capacity. With Dao, however, this has never been an issue – and that marks the sign of a very talented writer.

…the plot….

The Cat Lady: The plot is immediately intriguing. Our main character, Lan, is set on marrying Tam. Turns out he doesn’t want to marry her (which she should have realized, he keeps pushing off the wedding.) Lan then turns around and takes it all out on Bao who is madly in love with her. Bao leaves in tears (which broke my heart,) and gets curses. Thanks Lan, now you did it! Lan discovers that he has been cursed and now we are off on an adventure! The story progresses quickly and holds your attention the entire time.

I love that Julie worked her previous books into this world. It has been a while since I read Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, but as soon as I saw Xifeng’s name I was like, “HEEEEYYYY GIRL!!”

The Book Dragon: Cyrano meets Beauty and the Beast is what jumped out at me when I began to read this novel. Immediately immersed in a beautiful world where we meet Lan, who is constantly daydreaming about the man she is to marry, Tam. Every night, Tam comes to her window via river boat and serenades her – but wait! PLOT TWIST – it isn’t Tam at all!

Upon discovering the truth – that Tam has no desire to marry her – and the boy playing in his stead, Bao, has always been in love with her – Lan lashes out, creating a ripple effect that changes to course of both of lives.

This novel is definitely at a much faster pace than A Forest of A Thousand Lanterns, with an event happening almost every chapter. I enjoyed the pace of the novel, it helped prevent stagnancy in the story line.

While some of the plot twists were completely predictable, others were not and this led to a pleasant mixture of surprise and satisfaction. Whether you are a master at unlocking puzzles with the small clues given, or someone who just enjoys letting it unfold without much thought – SotCS gives both.

I also enjoyed the references to previous characters, as well as the inclusion of some of those in the direct story line.

...the characters…

The Cat Lady: Lan is kind of spoiled, I said it ok? At the beginning she is so adamant about having things exactly her way. This quickly dissipates though, and her she really starts to grow as a character. She becomes much more self sacrificing and is a lovable character.

Bao is just SO DAMN SWEET. He’s so sweet I have cavities now. I love him and I want to bundle him up and take him with me everywhere. If anyone touches baby Bao, they will deal with The Cat Lady’s wrath! But seriously… he is the perfect character to be opposite of Lan. They balance each other perfectly and grow together throughout the story.

Tam is rude, and we never meet him… thankfully!

The Book Dragon: One of the things I genuinely loved about this book is that the character list was very short! There were a handful of secondary characters, but truly there were only a small group of characters that were truly focused on – that being Bao, Lan, and Mistress V.

So let’s tackle Lan first, shall we. As Rachel had mentioned, Lan is kind of spoiled. Only not kind of, REALLY spoiled. Like, someone else brushed her hair and dressed her spoiled. Being in the royal court does do that to a girl though, so who can blame her. That being said, Lan ended up really surprising me. While the initial event of her nastiness towards Bao sets her in a harsh and unforgiving light, we quickly find out that her true demeanor is much more loving and kind. She tries persistently to make up for her wrong doing when she realizes the harm that she has caused to Bao. These qualities make her very endearing, even though I went in fully intending to hate the hell out of her spoiled rear. (LOL) She really grew on me over the course of the story, blossoming into the person that Bao had loved all the while.

**Spoiler Alert***

The second MC in this tale of love and family is Bao. Bao is that shy boy that always follows around the cool kids, hoping to finally be noticed by someone. The 14 year old in me could totally relate. This story is as much about adoption, and finding a true family, as it is about romance and finding the one that balances you. I think that is what really kept me hanging on to the very end. For adoptable kids, this story really could hit home on so many fronts.

Bao’s relationship with his mother, Mistress V is a storyline that I found all too familiar. The desire to know where you come from, to have a mother, can be such an overwhelming feeling, especially when dangled in front of you. It was no surprise that this propelled him forward, and accepted her presence in his mind. There was a specific quote that pulled at me the moment I read it.

“I think I’ll always miss you, but maybe that’s better than having you.”

This quote tore my heart out of my chest and then disintegrated right before me. So often, people believe that meeting family will be a fairytale, an instant connection of love and embrace – of forgiveness and redemption. It’s not always like that, and the relationship between Mistress V and Bao really showcased this in a perfect way.

….final thoughts…

The Cat Lady: This story is captivating from beginning to end. We are immediately sucked into the story and the world. The characters hook you from the beginning and never let go. This book can absolutely be read by itself, but I think readers will pull a lot more from it if they have read Julie’s previous two books.

The Book Dragon: While this book went in a direction I did not initially expect, the result was a well rounded, heart warming tale of what it means to be yourself, and to be loved for that completely. I really felt like this was a book that any one could enjoy, regardless of what style of plot unfolding they prefer.

tl;dr

Song of the Crimson Flower is the perfect in between book. It is short, fast paced, and simple. With it’s lovable characters and intriguing storyline, be sure to pick this one up as your next read.

About the Author:

Julie C. Dao (www.juliedao.com) is a proud Vietnamese-American who was born in upstate New York. She studied medicine in college, but came to realize blood and needles were her Kryptonite. By day, she worked in science news and research; by night, she wrote books about heroines unafraid to fight for their dreams, which inspired her to follow her passion of becoming a published author. Forest of a Thousand Lanterns was her debut novel. Julie lives in New England. Follow her on Twitter @jules_writes.

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