Hua Minglan is a force to be reckoned with. When her sister is killed during a Kou attack on the capital city, dying right in front of her, Hua’s need for revenge consumes her thoughts. With the help of her Nainai (grandmother), Hua leaves for war, pretending to be the older son Gen Minglan never had. But she has a secret, one she must guard with her life and it isn’t that she’s a woman. Hua Minglan is dragon-blooded.
Commander Jian Li is the brother of the emperor and has suffered great loss. Like Hua, he is out for revenge against General Athan, the Kou leader, who killed the woman he loved years earlier, but it clouds his judgment leading to the slaughter of his men in a surprise attack. I love Jian. He is a lost soul, truly. He knows his place, serving as commander of his brother’s army, but he doesn’t want it. Jian is young and never wanted the responsibility or burden of leading. He only wants to serve his brother well and revenge his lost love. Now this revenge has led to many deaths that weigh heavy on his shoulders. As a result, he takes on the responsibility of training the new recruits that are arriving daily.
The plot of this story revolves around Hua and her training under Jian. While there is a lot of action and excitement, twists and turns throughout the book, Dragon Rising is character-driven. With chapters alternating POV between Hua and Jian, I found myself captivated. I loved seeing Hua through Jian’s eyes. Jian sees her as a young man, too young to be in the army, but also his best fighter. Hua sees through Jian to the loneliness he hides behind the stern Commander facade.
Overall I really enjoyed Dragon Rising. I loved the author’s spin on the classic tale of Mulan, and I cannot wait to learn more about the dragon-blooded. While the story focuses on Jian and Hua, I absolutely adore Luca, a side-character that is Jian’s best friend and Hua’s betrothed. Luca brings levity to the story, hiding Hua’s secret and feeling guilty for keeping it from Jian. Common ground for Hua and Jian is that they both care for Luca, which shows throughout the story. If you enjoy YA fantasy retellings, I highly recommend you grab a copy of Dragon Rising. It will not disappoint!