We then go to 16-year-old Xiang, who desperately wants her mother's approval and to see more of the world than the small village where she has been raised by her tutor and caregivers. When the chance comes, she proposes to come along with her merchant mother and learn the trade of the tea houses her mother runs. Xiang is determined to prove her worth. On her first day in the bigger city, she ends up meeting Anh and is caught up in her, disappearing for the whole day and coming home without the only thing of her deceased father's she has ever owned, a small pendant. The next day, when the teahouse and her dreams of working with her mother go up in flames, Anh returns with the pendant and a shocking reveal - inside is part of a map and a poem that seems to lead to the fabled treasure.
Seeking to prove to her mother that she has what it takes - and escape the marriage her mother is determined she will enter into, Xiang takes the map and heads out with Anh and her crew to seek treasure and fortune. What she finds is much more unexpected and wonderful than she could have anticipated.
What I loved: This was such a riveting tale of pirates, fortune, found family, and high seas adventure. A new story with ties to the original, I was completely caught up in Xiang, Anh, and their journey. Both were really compelling characters, and although most of the book is told from Xiang's perspective, I really loved them both (though I had some mixed feelings about both at first). They each grow in new ways during the story, and I loved how their time together helped them each to evolve and come into their own.
I found some of themes to be really thought-provoking about creating and following your own dreams and family. The found family aspect was really magical here, and I loved seeing Xiang come into her own as she finds her people, even when everything isn't idyllic. The suspense elements towards the end were also really fun, and it made the last half of the book feel really fast-paced.
The romance was also really sweet with a slow build and the right amount of tension. I also really enjoyed the one-bed-type trope and all their chemistry throughout. Anh and Xiang were so easy to cheer for.
Final verdict: A riveting and enchanting read, A CLASH OF STEEL retells the classic in an absolutely delightful and compelling way. Highly recommend for fans of FABLE, THE LAST VOYAGE OF POE BLYTHE, and IN DEEPER WATERS.