Hi everyone, I’m back for another blog tour, this time for Song of the Crimson Flower by Julie C. Dao. The tour is hosted by Rafael (The Royal Polar Bear Reads) and Erika (The Nocturnal Fey). I was excited for this release and tour since I really enjoyed both of Julie’s previous books, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns and Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix. I reviewed FOTL back in 2017, so if you want to check out that review, here’s the link.
From the acclaimed author of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns comes a fantastical new tale of darkness and love, in which magical bonds are stronger than blood.
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?
This story was different in tone from the first two Rise of the Empress books, but it had its own appeal. It’s a lot quieter, in my opinion, but not in a bad way. It’s a beautiful story about the power of love, both familial and romantic.
One of the major themes of the book is the discrepancy between expectations and reality when you’re infatuated with someone. Both of the main characters, Bao and Lan, deal with a painful awakening when the person they admired turns out not to be the person they imagined in their head. In the aftermath of this pain, the two begin to learn what love with substance looks like.
The relationship between Lan and Bao goes through a lot of change throughout the story. It starts out as a one-sided infatuation on Bao’s part, and there is a rift between Lan and Bao because Bao helped Lan’s crush deceive her. There’s a very tangible awkwardness between the two as they begin their journey, but gradually, the two are brought closer together not only by their shared quest to break the curse on Bao but a openness to giving the other person a chance. It’s a very subtle and tender relationship that touches the heart.
I really liked Bao’s character. If you’re looking for soft boys, Bao is a perfect example. His defining feature is his kindness and compassion for others, which shows in his work as a physician’s apprentice. He’s also a romantic who loves music and poetry and expresses himself through these things. One of his greatest desires is a family and a place to belong, making him a very sympathetic character.
By contrast, Lan comes off as a bit spoiled and naive at first, but she becomes more likable as the story progresses. Though she may not have any extraordinary magic or fighting skill, she does have a good heart and is willing to do what she must to help Bao.
Besides the romance, another of the engaging aspects of the story is the exploration of family ties. Bao starts off not knowing any of his blood relations but later learns his mother is still alive and waiting for him to reunite with her. However, his desire to connect with her and be loved by her conflicts with his own sense of morals after learning her history and her current activities (I won’t spoil what exactly she’s doing, but it’s not pretty). He has to make some tough choices about his family’s legacy.
While Song of the Crimson Flower is a companion novel to two other books, it does work as a standalone. I personally think reading the Rise of the Empress duology first will make for a deeper appreciation of the book because it includes some supporting characters whose backgrounds are explored in the original duology. Plus, if you read this book first, there will be some spoilers since it takes place after the events of the original duology.
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.
Website – http://www.juliedao.com/
Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15215228.Julie_C_Dao
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/juliecdao
Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32605126-song-of-the-crimson-flowerAmazon – https://www.amazon.com/Song-Crimson-Flower-Julie-Dao/dp/1524738352
Barnes & Noble – https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/song-of-the-crimson-flower-julie-c-dao/1130550411
Book Depository – https://www.bookdepository.com/Song-Crimson-Flower-Julie-C-Dao/9781524738358
IndieBound – https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781524738358