Our Tiger Honor book review is a spoiler-free discussion of the Dragon Pearl sequel by Yoon Ha Lee.
When Dragon Pearl was first released in 2019, it was amongst the initial three books to debut from the Rick Riordan Presents imprint, and like the others in its class, it certainly made a splash.
Combining science fiction with Korean mythology, the novel was a unique blend of old world fantasy and new age technology. In few other places could you find ancient creatures like fox spirits, goblins, and dragons fighting side by side on a battle cruiser in space.
The only downfall to Dragon Pearl was that we were meant to believe it was a standalone novel. While the book certainly has a concrete ending, there was so much magic written into each and every page that it would’ve been a detriment to never visit this world again.
Luckily, author Yoon Ha Lee has graced us with another novel within the Thousand Worlds series. That’s where Tiger Honor comes in, and while it is a direct sequel to Dragon Pearl, it’s also told from a different character’s point of view.
Instead of following the fox spirit Min around as she settles into her new life within the ranks of the Space Force, we meet Sebin, a non-binary tiger spirit whose first day as a cadet is a lot more than they bargained for.
Spoilers ahead for Dragon Pearl.
Sebin has wanted nothing more than to follow in their uncle’s footsteps and join the Space Force. Unfortunately, as they’re waiting for news of their acceptance, they also learn their Uncle Hwan—yes, that Uncle Hwan—is now a traitor and a fugitive.
As Sebin leaves their family’s compound, the Matriarch tells them to remember their duty and loyalty to their family above all else. Sebin is sure this entire situation is a misunderstanding and hopes to get to the bottom of it and clear their uncle’s name.
Of course, nothing goes according to plan, and Sebin gets a crash course on what it means to be in the Space Force on their very first day as a cadet.
Having re-read Dragon Pearl right before I started this book, I knew I would have a lot to say in my Tiger Honor book review. The two stories flow seamlessly together, with very little time elapsing between the two.
While this is not a pre-requisite for your enjoyment, I will say that it makes for interesting reading, having gone from one directly into the other.
Sebin is the exact opposite of Min. While Min flies by the seat of her pants and relies as much on luck as she does her powers of persuasion, Sebin lives for following the rules and sticking to protocol. Their military upbringing has made them vigilant.
Which makes their current predicament so difficult to handle. On the one hand, they’ve been raised to believe honor is the most important characteristic a tiger (or person) could have, as is loyalty to one’s family.
But what happens when you think your family is wrong? That they’re being dishonorable? For the first time in their life, Sebin must think for themself and decide what they believe is the right course of action.
Much of Tiger Honor is an inner monologue of Sebin’s contradictory thoughts as they try to navigate their current situation. On the one hand, they’re faced with their traitorous uncle and must decide whether to align with them. On the other hand, they’re living their dream to be a part of the Space Force and don’t want to do anything to jeopardize that.
Then there’s Min. When Sebin figures out what she really is, they feel as though they have to protect everyone from her powers of Charm. It’s interesting seeing Min through another’s eyes, especially since we know everything she’s been through and all the ways she’s proven her loyalty in the past.
As usual with Yoon Ha Lee’s books, there are a smattering of interesting and unique characters to contend with. Baik Jee is a human and a math nerd, excellent at hacking through any and all computer systems. Euna is a celestial who also happens to be a weapons expert, and Namkyu is a medical expert with dragon lineage.
It’s always fun to see the ways in which all kinds of people and creatures interact. There is some prejudice between humans and the supernatural, but for the most part, they’ve come to live in harmony, relying on each other’s strengths and filling in for the weaknesses.
Most importantly, to me at least, is Yoon Ha Lee’s frequent use of pronouns for each and every character. In the Thousand Worlds, not only is the sharing of one’s pronouns commonplace, but it is always honored. And Sebin isn’t the only non-binary character in the book—there are several others, always accompanied by gender neutral language (such as “auncle”) where appropriate.
Even as an adult, this sort of inclusivity is both eye-opening and heartily welcome, but I can imagine how much a story like Tiger Honor will mean to a child struggling to understand their own identity. As more books like this hit store shelves, I hope our own world becomes a more inclusive and welcoming place.
What did you think of our Tiger Honor book review? Have you had a chance to read either of these books, or the Cursed Carnival and Other Calamities short story “The Initiation” yet? If so, what did you think? Tweet us @SubjectifyMedia.
‘Tiger Honor’ hit store shelves on January 4, 2022
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