I have been a fan of Julie ever since her debut, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns. I remember receiving the ARC from a friend and being smitten ever since. Song of the Crimson Flower is no different.
Will love break the spell? After cruelly rejecting Bao, the poor physician’s apprentice who loves her, Lan, a wealthy nobleman’s daughter, regrets her actions. So when she finds Bao’s prized flute floating in his boat near her house, she takes it into her care, not knowing that his soul has been trapped inside it by an evil witch, who cursed Bao, telling him that only love will set him free. Though Bao now despises her, Lan vows to make amends and help break the spell.
Together, the two travel across the continent, finding themselves in the presence of greatness in the forms of the Great Forest’s Empress Jade and Commander Wei. They journey with Wei, getting tangled in the webs of war, blood magic, and romance along the way. Will Lan and Bao begin to break the spell that’s been placed upon them? Or will they be doomed to live out their lives with black magic running through their veins?
In this fantastical tale of darkness and love, some magical bonds are stronger than blood.
Song of the Crimson Flower is a story about class and love that defies boundaries. It’s about the truth of love that will transcend words even when the world seems to be pulling us apart. Is it more important for us to be proper than the image of propriety? For us to be honorable or to seem honorable? Dao also examines the ways we build people up in our head and put them on a pedestal. We end up seeing what we want to see, what will be most comfortable to us.
While there’s this plot where the fate of the kingdoms hang in the balance, the story is centered around Bao and Lan’s relationship. The ways they challenge each other, but also the way they defy each other’s expectations. Bao made my heart hurt. He just wants so desperately to be loved, to have a family, to belong. And when he begins to get a taste of what he wants, he realizes that maybe it isn’t what he wanted at all. We are asked if our nature is what will win out, our blood, or the qualities from those who have nurtured us.
We might come to regret when we have exactly what we wanted. Throughout Song of the Crimson Flower there are different characters who struggle with their inner desires versus what they should do. Stuck between their heart and their duty. Will we let ambition persuade us above the dead bodies in the street, and those we sacrifice?
At the same time, Song of the Crimson Flower is a story about being honorable, asking for forgiveness, and moving forwards. Love is rarely ever simple and it can come from the most unexpected places. But at the end of the day, we should be able to choose the paths of our lives. Whether we embrace or deny power.
About the Author
Julie C. Dao (www.juliedao.com) is a proud Vietnamese-American who was born in upstate New York. She studied medicine in college, but came to realize blood and needles were her Kryptonite. By day, she worked in science news and research; by night, she wrote books about heroines unafraid to fight for their dreams, which inspired her to follow her passion of becoming a published author. Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is her debut novel. Julie lives in New England. Follow her on Twitter @jules_writes.
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