Title: The Fire Horse Girl
Author: Kay Honeyman
Genre: Young Adult; Historical Fiction
Synopsis: Jade Moon is a Fire Horse — the worst sign in the Chinese zodiac for girls, said to make them stubborn, willful, and far too imaginative. But while her family despairs of marrying her off, she has a passionate heart and powerful dreams, and wants only to find a way to make them come true.
Then a young man named Sterling Promise comes to their village to offer Jade Moon and her father a chance to go to America. While Sterling Promise’s smooth manners couldn’t be more different from her own impulsive nature, Jade Moon falls in love with him on the long voyage. But America in 1923 doesn’t want to admit many Chinese, and when they are detained at Angel Island, the “Ellis Island of the West,” she discovers a betrayal that destroys all her dreams. To get into America, much less survive there, Jade Moon will have to use all her stubbornness and will to break a new path . . . one as brave and dangerous as only a Fire Horse girl can imagine. (Goodreads)
I like a strong protagonist that doesn’t take crap from anyone and isn’t afraid to call people out. Jade Moon is someone who is the subject of a lot of scorn, all because of who she is. People around her don’t want her to be bold, loud, and brash, and they believe that she won’t ever make a good wife. Watching her have to go through all this, and then seeing how she ultimately learns and develops, made for a great read.
First, I adore the characters because of the different facets of their personality. Jade Moon is fierce but also caring. It would be so easy for her to be jaded (hehe) and cold to everyone because of how she’s been treated, but she uses her fire to care for others too. Sterling Promise, oh man, this guy. I have a roller coaster of hating/liking this guy, which is to be expected given his nature. One of my favourite secondary characters is Neil, it’s like he’s a big grizzly bear and he’s not just the typical “big muscled bodyguard” character. I think what I loved about the characters is seeing how they react to their situation, which brings unexpected results.
The character development is really where this book shines for me. Jade Moon doesn’t just get lucky nor do all of her problems vanish. She isn’t naturally talented with dealing with people or fighting, but she learns. She actually has to work to keep herself safe, earn respect from others, and keep going. Even though she gets knocked around, she still manages to find her feet and show her fire. I really like that in a protagonist.
The pacing was pretty good, no real complaints there. The book was neither too long nor too short. I definitely did not see some of the twists coming, and even had me internally yelling at the characters. There’s a lot going on around Jade Moon, but it is really her story and about her growth.
Overall: Five out of five for a really great read featuring a strong protagonist, good pacing, and multidimensional characters. Also, this book’s message really came through for me. The world can throw a lot of hardship and trouble at us, but it’s up to us to learn to deal and change, and decide what kind of person we become.