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ARC Review: A Clash of Steel by C.B. Lee

A Clash of Steel by C.B. Lee


Two intrepid girls hunt for a legendary treasure on the deadly high seas in this YA remix of the classic adventure novel Treasure Island.

The sun is setting on the golden age of piracy, and the legendary Dragon Fleet, the scourge of the South China Sea, is no more. Its ruthless leader, a woman known only as the Head of the Dragon, is now only a story, like the ones Xiang has grown up with all her life. She desperately wants to prove her worth, especially to her mother, a shrewd businesswoman who never seems to have enough time for Xiang. Her father is also only a story, dead at sea before Xiang was born. Her single memento of him is a pendant she always wears, a simple but plain piece of gold jewelry.

But the pendant’s true nature is revealed when a mysterious girl named Anh steals it, only to return it to Xiang in exchange for her help in decoding the tiny map scroll hidden inside. The revelation that Xiang’s father sailed with the Dragon Fleet and tucked away this secret changes everything. Rumor has it that the legendary Head of the Dragon had one last treasure—the plunder of a thousand ports—that for decades has only been a myth, a fool’s journey.

Xiang is convinced this map could lead to the fabled treasure. Captivated with the thrill of adventure, she joins Anh and her motley crew off in pursuit of the island. But the girls soon find that the sea—and especially those who sail it—are far more dangerous than the legends led them to believe.

My Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I loved this book SO much. It’s so much more than a retelling of Treasure Island — it’s the pirate adventure I’ve been craving, with a delicious side of f/f romance, found family, and a thorough grounding in Vietnamese and Chinese history and culture. I had planned to pass my copy along after reading it, but nope; keeping this one for sure.

I was annoyed with Xiang for the first quarter of the novel because she was SO naive. And she missed some really, really obvious clues about who her mother actually was. It was almost like she didn’t want to see, and so she didn’t.

But she grows SO much once she’s left to sail with Anh. That was the best part of the novel for me – the slow passage of time as Xiang grows more confident, more capable, and freer with every task she sets her willing mind and hands to. She comes into herself aboard that ship, and it gives her the confidence and courage she needs to face the events of the latter half of the book.

The romance was slow and subtle and hinted in the corners, and I loved it. It’s my favorite kind of romance in fantasy novels. The closeness that comes with familiarity and time spent together.

I would desperately love a series of Xiang and Anh’s adventures. The ending was excellent, but it definitely left me wanting more. And really, that’s the best kind.

*Thanks to Bookishfirst and MacMillan Children’s Publishing Group for providing an advanced copy for review.

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