Peasprout Chen, Future Legend of Skate and Sword Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2019-01-08 
Review Score: 3 out of 5 star From 0 user ratings

"I’m giving this 4 stars based on my own enjoyment, but I am an adult. This book gets my highest possible recommendation for middle grade readers, especially if they’re interested in fantasy or sci fi.

The world described in this book is totally different than anything else I’ve ever read. Basically, a skating/martial art called wu liu is foundational to society (and the fantasy society is loosely based on China/Taiwan/Japan). There’s a city called Pearl made out of a substance called pearl, which is a perfect skating surface. So everyone wears skates all the time and, since the pearl is white, they also wear sunglasses. So it’s all very cool in a Ninja Turtles-esque sort of way.

So I love the world-building! The plot is not as original, because the bones of it are the outsider-navigating-boarding-school-politics thing that we (adults) have read many times before. Peasprout is a great character, but many of the supporting characters are a little flat.

Again, though, a lot of it is amazing. I’m honestly really excited for kids to get to read it.
" said.

"Okay, here's the review that doubtlessly will piss people off this week: instead of an "OMG, this is the best book ever, and I LOVE Peasprout!" this book is going on my various "overrated" shelves.

If this were a skating performance at the end of the performance, I'd give it perhaps a 9 for originality, but 3 for technical execution. Like a hockey player getting tripped by an adversary, I found myself getting tangled in the plot, which whirls like a skater doing an axel and annoyed by Peasprout, the heroine. Plus I found the juxtaposition of stilted language meant to evoke Chinese phrases combined with the occasional argot of 2018 America jarring. I find it especially annoying from an Asian writer who probably doesn't want his book to sound as if the dialogue was ripped off from an old Charlie Chan movie!

I know people want to love this--and the concept IS great--and I know they're especially wanting to love it because of a teeny tiny twist featuring a LGBTQ character. But this ISN'T the focus of the plot, and the telling just doesn't really justify the raves. It's so uneven that I almost didn't finish this book, and the plot is full of holes and confusion.

And the fact that it doubtlessly is going to spawn at least 1 sequel irritates me.

" said.

"As I expected, delightful, and even more so on a second reading. Very nearly five stars for me: I took off one because (1) I loved Cricket and wanted to know more about his journey. Companion novel, please! (2) The world Mr. Lien creates, though fascinating, is sometimes extremely cruel and often extremely strange. This, btw, is why it pays to reread! (3) Also, I want a sequel!

Briefly, Peasprout Chen, 14, and her little brother Cricket are sent from their native Shin to the Wu Liu academy on Pearl. Both are good skaters (the martial art they study combines ice-skating and Wushu), but Peasprout is the better by far. Little Cricket is much more fascinated by architecture.

This proves a problem when buildings start to be sabotaged. As 'aliens', Peasprout and Cricket are the prime suspects. Peasprout realizes their lives are actually in danger--unless she can catch the culprit.

You don't need to have read "The Pearl Rehabilitative Colony for Ungrateful Daughter" to enjoy Peasprout Chen, but, if you have, you'll get kick out of seeing Peasprout and her friend Doi deal with Suki, their chief rival. There is character growth for Peasprout, a solid mystery, friendship, and some really crazy and difficult tests. Good fun!
" said.

"I don’t generally write reviews and I’d never write one on a book I didn’t love.

I’d just finished a huge required reading list of books for a workshop (many of which I hated with a passion) and returned from the workshop, when this book came to me. I’d read a couple of his short stories and loved them, so was expecting to love this book. I wasn’t disappointed.

It was such fun to read something that delighted and entertained. Yes, it’s about thirteen-year old Peasprout who has very fixed ideas about the way the world works, and about her superior talents. Henry Lien captures teenage girls perfectly. In all their infinite variety.

In Pearl, he creates a unique world where Wu liu, or martial skating is the primary sport. The city is made of pearl, a hard, white substance that takes the skate blade perfectly. Now throw in a boarding school with strange food, devious antagonists (the other classmates) and adults who seem oblivious to bullying.

Peasprout has her hands full trying to help her younger brother, defend her country and keep the other girls from destroying her chances at success. It’s a fun read that I loved and will reread. And that’s saying a lot. It’s a middle grade novel, but I’m way past that age and loved it. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone.

Can’t wait for her next adventure!
" said.

"I was elated to receive a copy of this book at an author panel event at my local library. Not only did Mr. Lien offer an easygoing presence, but I could tell that he was clearly passionate and content with what he was doing. That, in itself, earned the respect and interest of myself.

While this novel is geared towards middle-aged children, I found myself enjoying this book immensely. The heroine of this story, Peasprout Chen, was a dynamic character with a headstrong voice that resonated with me very well. Complemented by the imaginative world of Pearl...the descriptions of the environment wasn't just descriptions of a setting; it was a distinct universe itself. And I have to say, there were so many moments in this book where I found myself just smiling for the sake of it---for the joyous and animated moments throughout the story were entertaining and humorous to the core.

Through the eyes of an ambitious and spirited young girl, she brings to life the people and the world around her---shining beautiful sparks of life through the complex nature of kung fu skating.

For anyone looking for a whole new universe to fall in love with, or a story that will brighten your life, I think that Peasprout Chen will be a story that you definitely need to experience for yourself!

" said.

"Peasprout and her brother, Cricket, are sent from the country of Shin to the glorious city of Pearl to attend the Pearl Famous Academy of Skate and Sword. They are the first students from Shin to attend the school that teaches wu liu, a combinations of martial arts and figure skating. In Pearl, the floors and buildings are all built of pearl, a material that can be skated on. Peasprout has won many Shin awards for wu liu and is confident that she can become top of her class. Still, she has a lot to learn, including many of the more modern Pearl wu liu combinations. Peasprout soon gets the attention of the class bully and another girl who remains always apart and distant, even from her own twin brother. As the competition heats up, a vandal starts to attack the buildings of pearl on the campus and Peasprout as an outsider is the number one suspect!

I cannot stress enough how utterly captivating this children’s book is. It is like reading an anime in novel form or a manga in text. It has the same humor as those other art forms, combining wry laughs with epic battles and races. The pace of the book is brisk, the action scenes almost breathtakingly fast. Throughout there is a strong sense of place and one falls in love with Pearl and the Academy as much as with the characters.

And what characters they are! There is the confident Peasprout who rarely doubts that she is doing anything wrong, but when she does she grows and learns in an honest and organic way. Cricket is small and quiet but also gifted in a different way than his sister. The twin siblings offer Peasprout a chance at first love but also a great tug of rivalry and friendship. And everyone needs a good villain to round it all out.

A bright and unique novel that is pure joy to read. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
" said.

"Peasprout has come to the legendary PEARL FAMOUS ACADEMY OF SKATE AND SWORD with one goal: to become the greatest practitioner of the deadly and beautiful martial art known as wu liu, performed on and with ice skates. She must pass the six grueling Motivations, competing against her elite classmates to become the best. But Peasprout is seen as an outsider, perhaps even a spy for her home country. When someone starts attacking the school, everyone believes she’s responsible and begin calling for her arrest and imprisonment. So not only must she excel at the Motivations, she also must prove her innocence and catch the true vandal.

The world-building in this story is as exquisite as the architecture of the school – every building is carved out of a mysterious, milky-white substance called the pearl, so bright that students must wear smoked glasses during the day, and perfectly suited to the skates they wear all hours of the day. The world of Pearl has its own delightful traditions, a beautiful map with delightful names of buildings (“Hall of Lilting Radiance,” “Palace of the Eighteen Outstanding Pieties,” “Great Gate of Complete Centrality and Perfect Uprightness”), a song the author wrote (and PERFORMED WITH IDINA MENZEL!: idioms (“ten thousand years of stomach gas!”), cultural quirks (you can’t say “four,” because it sounds like the word for “death,” so you say “lucky” instead). Peasprout is a perfectly flawed heroine to root for. ("I don't tell people this very often because I'm a humble person, but I was swimming champion for all of Shui Shan Province five times before the age of nine.") I absolutely adored this book from cover to endpapers, and cannot wait to revisit Peasprout and Pearl again in book 2.
" said.

"I won't lie: I had my doubts about a book that promised to combine figure skating and martial arts. But oh, was I wrong to have those doubts. As it turns out, Peasprout Chen, the novel's protagonist, is fetchingly imperfect and so single-minded in her pursuit of victory that she loses sight of what really matters. I loved how thoroughly described and creatively envisioned this world was, and I never hesitated for a moment to believe in the possibilities of what I was reading. It's never easy to be the new student or the new person in a situation, and in Peasprout's case, she and her brother, Cricket, are the first ones from Shin to attend the top wu liu (a combination of ice skating and kung fu) academy in Pearl. It is clear almost from the start that relations between the two countries are fractured, and there is great mistrust on the part of the other competitors toward Peasprout. To bring honor to her country, Peasprout must perform well and win the multi-phased competition. Although she is the best back home, she faces still competition in the form of her nemesis, Suki, who sows seeds of discord about Peasprout, and from champion skater Doi Niu. She also must take care not to damage her blade since she cannot afford new equipment while the other competitors change out blades with abandon since they can afford to do so, a detail that reminds readers of the inequities that exist in this world as well as our own. While Peasprout experiences some triumphs during the competition, she also faces betrayal and makes mistakes because of her impulsiveness and single-mindedness. My heart broke when she destroyed her brother's architectural model and when she learns the truth about Hisashi, and several of the lessons she learns come at a high price. This is a well-written middle grade novel filled with skating and racing scenes that will have readers' hearts racing as well as philosophical ponderings about life and the choices we face. Not only is it fresh and original, but it has a complexity that stands up to a second reading. There is no doubt that I, for one, will be standing in line to snatch the second book in this promised series. Even if all readers take from the book and Peasprout's journey are these salient words--"I don't know much about these things. But it seems deeply wrong that love should ever be a reason for hate" (p. 310)--then that will be enough. Would that everyone could read those lines and adjust their own thoughts and deeds. Ultimately, this is an impressive debut novel that reminds readers that fame and being a legend count for little if one loses oneself. " said.

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