The Girl With the Hickory Heart by Lauren Nicolle Taylor

Book Blurb:

Mulan meets The Last Airbender in this dark fantasy, set in an island nation akin to a wooden Hong Kong, where two Asian women from warring tribes must put aside their pasts in order to move forward.

For Luna, the price of peace in a time of war is a heart of hickory. But to have a hickory heart leaves no room for love. When the lives of her three brothers are tied to refugee siblings from the warring tribe, Luna must test the limits of her wooden heart, trust those she’s been taught to hate, and now she’s destined to destroy.

In an island nation akin to a wooden Hong Kong, two Asian women from warring tribes: Lye, a powerful slave of the Emperor and Luna, a Char defying tradition, must put aside their pasts in order to move forward.

I received this book from the author via BookSirens for free. All comments and opinions are entirely my own and this review is voluntary.

Rayleigh’s Review:

“Mulan meets Avatar the Last Airbender” is the line that hooked me into reading. That is a unique comp and the cover is absolutely beautiful. However intriguing this book may seem though, it struggled to live up to that intrigue within the pages.

I want to begin by saying the concept of the novel is absolutely not the issue here. The story world is so different and interesting; with a tribe that trades a body part for one made of wood that is supposed to benefit them in some way (the Char) warring with a tribe the controls elemental powers (the Shen). It is from the Char tribe that our “Mulan” character comes from, Luna, and the Shen tribe that issues in the Avatar The Last Airbender connection. The two literally collide on the battlefield in a dangerous and bloody way.

However, I felt like there was no real goal for the characters, which created no suspense or even want for me to continue their stories. For nearly 75% of the book, I felt like I was in the intro, yet I knew little about how the magic systems worked and I had so many questions about the Char. I really don’t understand how their magic benefits them–outside of the battlefield.

There were a lot of conflicting things about the story that kept me from enjoying the book fully as well, such as personality inconsistencies for background characters that left me so confused (Setsu being a huge one) and Shen Lye Li. I think Shen Lye Li was one of the most difficult characters to try to learn. In the first quarter of the book, she looks at herself as the most powerful being in the universe, full of pride because of her powers, and guilts herself into carrying the weight of every death she’s ever been associated with, to an incredibly large portion of the last half of the book literally hiding and doing absolutely nothing because she is “weak”. It just doesn’t line up to me.

I wanted to like the book, I really did. The prose is so captivating and I love how heavy the action and gore are, but I just had a hard time loving the characters and wanting to know more about their war.

Content warning: Gore and war brutality is high | some sexual comments–no scenes– some mention of nudity | no cursing (that I recall).


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