My Adventures As Brother Rat by Lin Yao, Dowager Queen, Land of Five Dragons

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An orphaned Chinese girl quickly learns she stands a better chance of survival disguised as a boy, and adopts the nickname Brother Rat. Over the years she excels in many incarnations, as soldier, horse trainer, healer, and as tactful ambassador. Dressed as a beautiful young woman she attracts and marries a prince. Brother Rat risks all for the lives of the kingdom and becomes a living legend. More

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Review by: Dixiane Hallaj on April 20, 2012 : star star star star star
My Adventures as Brother Rat was fast-paced and well written. Even though it was probably written for a younger audience, I enjoyed every minute of it. Set in a China of long ago, the story portrays a feudal society with warring kings and plenty of intrigue, brimming with prophetic dreams and ghosts--who are as likely to be helpful and benevolent as not.

Lin Yao, a young girl orphaned by marauding soldiers, trains as a healer and later as a warrior. The nickname Brother Rat hides her gender from all but a select few. Lin Yao's sense of duty to her country forces her to maintain her dual identity through a long and adventurous life that has moments of humor as well as tears. Her wisdom, compassion, and boundless capacity for love make Brother Rat an unforgettable character.

I whole-heartedly recommend this for readers of all ages.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)

Review by: Andrea Green on Feb. 17, 2012 : star star star star star
“My Adventures as Brother Rat, by Lin Yao, Dowager Queen, Land of Five Dragons” by Washington state author Lenora Rain-Lee Good is an unexpected treat for readers of all ages.

Orphaned after her village is massacred by bandits, young Lin Yao makes her way to the kingdom of Wu Shi-en. There she is taken in by the king’s elderly Healer and raised as his niece and protégé. But Lin Yao’s fate is not what it seems. One night she is visited in dreams by a mysteriously beautiful woman who calls her by her childhood nickname of Brother Rat and demands to fight her. Frightened by the nightmare, Lin Yao confides in her healer uncle, who deduces the identity of the mysterious woman as none other than the dreaded Jiang Li, a fierce female warrior of the enemy kingdom Yueh who may have mystical powers. The dream must be a warning. Thus Lin Yao begins on her path of destiny.

It is decided she must train as a soldier under the kingdom’s legendary General Sun Wu if she has any hope of surviving a future confrontation with Jiang Li. To keep her preparations secret, she assumes the male persona of Brother Rat during her military training, while maintaining her apprenticeship as the Healer’s niece Lin Yao. Through her adventures as Brother Rat, she becomes a trusted soldier who excels in healing arts on the battlefield and gains ties to a powerful family. As Lin Yao, she shows masterful diplomacy as a tactful ambassador, falls in love with a foreign prince and saves a kingdom.

Set during China’s Warring States period, which ranged from around 476 BCE until the country was unified in 221 BCE, “Brother Rat” is an epic tale in the tradition of a classic Chinese adventure story. While there is less emphasis on martial arts and mysticism than is usually present in Wuxia novels (a genre of popular martial arts adventure novels set in ancient China), the intent is similar, with themes of conflict, honor, romance, and courtly intrigue running throughout the story of one girl’s destined rise from penniless orphan to beloved and powerful queen.

Although it’s marketed as a Young Adult novel, this epic adventure story has wide appeal. Fans of martial arts cinema, from the grand classic “Return of the Condor Heroes” to the more mainstream “The Forbidden Kingdom” (starring Jackie Chan and Jet Li) will enjoy the chance to savor a Wuxia-esque novel in English. Fantasy readers will enjoy the carefully crafted window into ancient China, and anyone who liked Disney’s “Mulan” will appreciate Lin Yao’s transformation into a strong, confident woman -- whether she’s wearing a dress or not.

No matter what your tastes, “Brother Rat” will hook you from the first page and keep you intrigued until the last lines come to a close.
(reviewed the day of purchase)

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