Title: The Library of Legends
Author: Janie Chang
Publication Date: 2020
Publishing House: William Morrow
The Library of Legends was actually my April 2020 book from Book of the Month. I highly suggest this monthly subscription box if you are interested in expanding what you read and don’t worry, if you don’t like the choices you can skip that month.
From Book of the Month
China, 1937. When Japanese bombs begin falling on the city of Nanking, nineteen-year-old Hu Lian and her classmates at Minghua University are ordered to flee. Lian and a convoy of students, faculty and staff must walk 1,000 miles to the safety of China’s western provinces, a journey marred by the constant threat of aerial attack. And it is not just the refugees who are at risk; Lian and her classmates have been entrusted with a priceless treasure: a 500-year-old collection of myths and folklore known as the Library of Legends.
The students’ common duty to safeguard the Library of Legends creates unexpected bonds. Lian becomes friends and forms a cautious romance with the handsome and wealthy Liu Shaoming. But after one classmate is arrested and another one is murdered, Lian realizes she must escape before a family secret puts her in danger too. Accompanied by Shao and his enigmatic maidservant, Sparrow, Lian makes her way to Shanghai in the hopes of reuniting with her mother.
During the journey, Lian learns of the connection between her two companions and a tale from the Library of Legends, The Willow Star and the Prince. This revelation comes with profound consequences, for as the ancient books travel across China, they awaken immortals and guardian spirits who embark on an exodus of their own, one that will change the country’s fate forever.
I really enjoyed this book. Over the past couple of years I have been doing my best to read books outside of my normal – especially those about other cultures and this story fits right in. It is a historical fiction set during WWII when the Japanese occupied China. The story is not a pretty one, there is death and poverty. Children are left behind when their refugee families can no longer feed them. Air raids leave students and refugees dead next to soldiers.
What I love about this book though is the hope and the resilience. These students carry their history across a war torn land learning and doing homework along the way. Knowledge and history are worth preserving at any cost because those are culture. This book is historical fiction. Lian and Shao didn’t exist but their story is based off students that actually did walk across China. How many of us would have walked miles everyday while listening to lectures? How many of us would have worked on term papers while listening for air raid sirens? It is an incredible part of history that should not be forgotten.
Woven within the text of war and history is a supernatural element. Gods, spirits, and stars walking among humanity. Seen by few but known by those who know their stories and read them in The Library of Legends. I recommend this book for fans of historical fiction, for fans of myth and legend and for those who enjoy learning about WWII. Happy reading.