Tall Poppy Review: “Dragon Springs Road,” Orphan’s Tale

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In Dragon Springs Road (William Morrow Paperbacks), Janie Chang constructs a magical, rich and compelling historical novel set in the early twentieth-century about Jialing, a girl of Eurasian descent, as she navigates her life as an orphan near Shanghai, China.

The Western Residence of Dragon Springs Road is the place Jialing calls home. Abandoned by her mother, a mistress to the estate’s owner, who is forced to flee with him after his financial demise, Jialing is befriended by Fox, a mystical creature who becomes her guide. Fox drifts in and out of Jialing’s life in both animal and female form as Jialing works as the bondservant of the Yang family, the new owners of the Western Residence. With the Yangs, Jialing is thrust into a life of servitude and exploitation and learns the harsh realities of her lowly status in society.

When she attends a Christian mission school, Jialing encounters a world that is both beautiful and cruel, to which she responds with vulnerability and courage. Readers will see her both succumb and fight, though as she reaches adulthood, Jialing grows into a force that she herself doesn’t yet understand. Her friendships are precarious; her romantic relationships are marred by history and patriarchy. She has only one wish: to find her mother. When Jialing is finally old enough to take the journey to find her mother, she is embroiled in a scandal that could potentially destroy her. All the while, Fox remains her lifeline, her connection to her past, and her key to survival.

Dragon Springs Road is a wonderful read. The author was precise in defining Jiajing’s challenges; she pulled no punches in providing the reader context and nuance in the choices Jialing made to survive. Cultural norms in twentieth-century Shanghai subjected girls and women to little choice— and Jialing is maligned even more because of her mixed race—their worth handed to men who could trade them as goods. Yet, the author was also able to breathe hope into the novel through magic, fantasy and superstition.

Dragon Springs Road was captivating, written with elegant prose and a light touch of romance. Readers are sure to read it from cover to cover with bated breath in anticipation of Jialing’s safety and eventual triumph.

Dragon Springs Road is available for purchase.

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ABOUT JANIE CHANG: 

Janie Chang writes historical fiction with a twist of supernatural and deep personal connections. She belongs to a family with 36 generations of recorded genealogy and always brings stories about her ancestors into her books.

Her first novel, Three Souls, was a finalist for the 2014 BC Book Prizes Fiction Award and one of nine Canadian books nominated for the 2015 International Dublin Literary Award. Her second novel, Dragon Springs Road, was a Canadian bestseller. She is also the founder and main organizer of Canadian Authors for Indies, a national day of support by authors for independent bookstores, which ran from 2015 – 2017; this event is now run as Canadian Independent Bookstore Day by the Retail Council of Canada.

Born in Taiwan, Janie has lived in the Philippines, Iran, Thailand, and New Zealand. She now lives in beautiful Vancouver, Canada with her husband and Mischa, a rescue cat who feels the staff could be doing a better job.

Tif believes in and writes about heart-eyes romance, the strength of families, and the endurance of friendship. A veteran Army Nurse with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Master of Public Administration, she is a craft enthusiast, food-lover and the occasional half-marathon runner. As a military spouse, she has moved nine times, and this adventure shows in some of her free-spirited characters. Tif currently lives in the DC area with her own real life military hero and four children. The Journey to the Heart series is her debut series, with a forthcoming women's fiction novel "The Key to Happily Ever After" to be released in April 2019.

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