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by Kay Honeyman
Published January 2013
Rating: 4 out of 5
Summary from Goodreads: A fiery and romantic adventure, perfect for fans of Grace Lin, Kristen Cashore, or Lisa See!
Jade Moon is a Fire Horse -- the worst sign in the Chinese zodiac for girls, said to make them stubborn, willful, and far too imaginative. But while her family despairs of marrying her off, she has a passionate heart and powerful dreams, and wants only to find a way to make them come true.
Then a young man named Sterling Promise comes to their village to offer Jade Moon and her father a chance to go to America. While Sterling Promise's smooth manners couldn't be more different from her own impulsive nature, Jade Moon falls in love with him on the long voyage. But America in 1923 doesn't want to admit many Chinese, and when they are detained at Angel Island, the "Ellis Island of the West," she discovers a betrayal that destroys all her dreams. To get into America, much less survive there, Jade Moon will have to use all her stubbornness and will to break a new path . . . one as brave and dangerous as only a Fire Horse girl can imagine.
Historical fiction has always intrigued me. There's something almost fantastical about the way it is a story about a different version of the world we live in now. And it's a heck of a lot more fun than a textbook. Sometimes, the historical setting overwhelms the story and characters, but not in The Fire Horse Girl.
It's the 1920s, and China is decades behind the United States in terms of development. Jade Moon was born in the year of the Fire Horse, meaning that she is not the docile and obedient girl desired by her father. She longs to make her family proud, but can't control her fiery personality. When her father accepts a proposition to go to America and decides to bring Jade Moon with him and a young man named Sterling Promise, she is over the moon. Maybe in America she will finally find her place. But the journey to America is not as easy as she imagined, and her path isn't as clear as she once thought.
I adored The Fire Horse Girl. It is pretty sad I haven't seen very much about it around the blog-o-sphere, because it deserves a lot of attention. It's rich in historical detail, characterization, and heart. I learned a lot about the Chinese culture and both China and America in the 1920s, but I didn't even realize it.
The absolute best thing about this book was the characterization. Though I didn't always agree with what Jade Moon did or said (I am probably the opposite of a Fire Horse Girl, I kept wanting to tell her to keep her mouth shut and not make trouble) I understood her motivations. She had hopes and dreams that are applicable to anyone, at any period in history, and that made her easy to connect to. Honeyman also wrote the secondary characters really well, but always through Jade Moon's eyes.
The plot of The Fire Horse Girl moved at a great pace, almost in three different parts. I enjoyed seeing Jade Moon's development while also learning some things about America's past that I hadn't known before. The pace was a bit slow in the beginning, but it wasn't long before I was fully invested in the story.
Though there is a little bit of romance, it certainly wasn't the focus of the story. It served to be just another way to show Jade Moon's development throughout the book. I loved how Honeyman included many different perspectives on love, its purpose, and its consequences throughout the novel. She had some great insights and really made me thing about things.
The Fire Horse Girl is a great novel about finding your own path in life, no matter what you think your destiny is. Honeyman paints a rich and detailed picture of life for Chinese immigrants in the 1920s, and though some parts may be a little unrealistic, the growth of Jade Moon is completely believable. I suggest anyone who is a fan of historical fiction pick it up.
Note: I also have to point out that I love love love the cover. It features an Asian girl head on, and that's just fantastic.