book review – the fallen hero by katie zhao

i received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. all opinions below are my own.

this post is part of the blog tour for the fallen hero by katie zhao, organized by caffeine book tours. thank you so much for the opportunity! i absolutely loved the first book in the series, the dragon warrior – you can read my review here.

The Fallen Hero by Katie Zhao

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Faryn Liu thought she was the Heaven Breaker, a warrior destined to wield the all-powerful spear Fenghuang, command dragons, and defeat demons. But a conniving goddess was manipulating her all along…and her beloved younger brother, Alex, has betrayed her and taken over as the Heaven Breaker instead. Alex never forgave the people who treated him and Faryn like outcasts, and now he wants to wipe out both the demons and most of humanity.
Determined to prevent a war and bring Alex back to her side, Faryn and her half-dragon friend Ren join the New Order, a group of warriors based out of Manhattan’s Chinatown. She learns that one weapon can stand against Fenghuang–the Ruyi Jingu Bang. Only problem? It belongs to an infamous trickster, the Monkey King.
Faryn sets off on a daring quest to convince the Monkey King to join forces with her, one that will take her to new places–including Diyu, otherwise known as the Underworld–where she’ll run into new dangers and more than one familiar face. Can she complete her mission and save the brother she loves, no matter the cost?

trigger warnings: death, violence

last year, i read and LOVED the dragon warrior, and the fallen hero, packed to the brim with elements of chinese folklore, heartwarming moments, and brilliant jokes, was just as amazing! katie zhao’s writing really never fails to impress

there are so many things i absolutely adored about this book:

  • growing up, the monkey king legend (also known as journey to the west 西遊記) was a large part of my life. the story’s often reimagined in chinese popular culture – as a kid, i enjoyed it in the form of comic books and tv shows, and more recently, i got to read the original text, which was quite the experience, to say the least. in the fallen hero, the author breathes new life into this widely loved tale, portraying wukong as a prideful trickster deity and fatherly figure to his monkeys. this meant the world to me – it was a pleasant surprise meeting wukong again!
  • faryn’s story is proof that you don’t have to be “the chosen one” to be capable of great things. her former title of “heaven breaker” may be no more, but she’s just as fierce and brave as she was before! there is nothing she cannot do – she’s fought demons, bargained with notoriously dishonest gods, and literally gone to diyu and back.
  • katie said there was going to be tired older sister rep, and she delivered on her promise! i like how faryn always has an eye on alex even when they are far apart 😏
    (i found it a bit sad though, because they were nearly inseparable in the dragon warrior – let’s just hope they’ll resolve their sibling beef in the next book!)
  • kids being kids! what i love about middle grade fiction is that it always makes you feel like a child again, and the dragon warrior was no exception. faryn, ashley, and jordan are not your typical tweens – they travel around in an airborne chariot, wield magical weapons, talk back to powerful gods, and most importantly, have the fate of the world in their hands. despite this, their innocence and youthfulness is still present in what they say and the way they approach things, and i’m so here for that.
  • the portrayal of family relationships and ancestors in this book is the most tender and wholesome thing ever. 🥺 my heart melted when faryn called upon her ancestors and they showed up, shielding her from danger and guiding her along the way. (also, i miss ye ye – i wish we’d had the chance to seen more of him!)
  • the little glossary at the end of the book was equally hilarious, interesting, and informative – the author explains chinese terminology and introduces folklore characters in such a concise, clear, and fun way, if all my textbooks for school were written like that, i’d definitely have much better grades.

this was such an incredible sequel to the dragon warrior, and i cannot wait to read more about faryn’s adventures!

Katie Zhao is a 2017 graduate of the University of Michigan with a B.A. in English and Political Science, and a 2018 Masters of Accounting at the same university. She is the author of Chinese #ownvoices middle grade fantasy THE DRAGON WARRIOR (Bloomsbury Kids, October 2019 & 2020), as well as a young adult author. She is a mentor for Author Mentor Match. She is currently open to freelance editorial services for young adult and middle grade manuscripts.

have you read the fallen hero? what were your thoughts? let me know in the comments below!


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