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Monday, May 6, 2013

NICOLE'S REVIEW: The Fire Horse Girl by Kay Honeyman

Title: The Fire Horse Girl
Author: Kay Honeyman
Format Acquired: Hardcover
Publication Date: January 1 2013
Publishing House: Arthur A. Levine Books
ISBN: 9780545403108
Source of Copy: Purchased from Fully Booked


Jade Moon is a Fire Horse - the worst sign in the Chinese zodiac for girls, said to make them stubborn, reckless and far too headstrong. While her family despairs of amrrying her off, she dreams of traveling far beyond her tiny village, living out a story as big as her imagination.

Then a young man named Sterling Promise offers Jade Moon and her father an incredible opportunity: the chance to go to America. As they travel, Sterling Promise's smooth manners and Jade Moon's impulsive nature strike sparks again and again. But America in 1923 doesn't welcome Chinese immigrants, and when they are detained at Angel Island - the so called "Ellis Island of the West - Jade Moon uncovers a betrayal that destroys all her dreams. To get into America, much less survive there, she will have to use every bit of her stubborness and strength to break a new so brave and dangerous that only a Fire Horse girl could imagine it.

This marvelous adventure is as fiery, bold and romantic as Jade Moon herself - and just as unforgettable.

(Image and information courtesy of Goodreads; Summary lifted from actual book)


If there's one thing that never fails to pique my interest, it's Asian historical fiction, especially  when it's told in the perspective of a Chinese girl who's too headstrong and stubborn, too brash and bold for traditional China.

It's a belief in China that girls born a Fire Horse bring nothing but misfortune to those around them. Jade Moon is a Fire Horse girl, she's treated as the village pariah and is looked down upon by her own neighbors and her family. Cursed, they say. All she wants is a little bit of freedom, to not be looked down upon and maybe to find a little love and acceptance. Then Sterling Promise appears seemingly out of the blue with papers that will take her and her father to America. Jade Moon jumps at the chance to leave the country, the hope for a better future and her need for a little freedom spurring her on. But when she sets foot onto America soil she finds out that all is not what it seems and she fears that those shiny promises and wistful dreams are nothing more but a lie, a trap that she falls into. It  will take every ounce of Jade's stubbornness and refusal to give up to survive in America.

One of things I liked about The Fire Horse Girl is well, how well the author managed to capture traditional China. Generally speaking, girls in traditional China are supposed to be docile creatures, pretty and meek, able to cook and sew and should basically make a good wife. Jade is no such thing, she's fiery and willful and that alone makes her stand out from the crowd. And its not something people appreciate. It was undeniably easy to empathize with her plight and I had to admire her spunk and courage. It was great seeing her grow into herself and accept that she has the power to pave her own path despite her insecurities.

Truthfully, I actually liked Jade Moon and Sterling Promise's relationship, even if they did start off on the wrong foot and had a few unsavory incidents between them. While their romance may seem rushed, their circumstances weren't exactly conducive to a normal courtship.

While I admit to not being knowledgeable on history and such - so maybe my opinion on this doesn't really account for much - but I loved how realistic everything was;  the prostitution, the brothels, turf wars. The book also had a certain accent to it, like if Chinese was translated properly it would sound something like that. Maybe it's just me but it certainly added to the whole setting of the book and gave more personality and soul to Jade's voice. I enjoyed how the author also managed to blend in old Chinese traditions, like their zodiac system and their belief in luck and curses, into an American setting.

Kay Honeyman's debut novel The Fire Horse Girl gives readers a glimpse of the realities of the Chinese immigration through the voice of Jade Moon, a fiery and impulsive heroine that one can't help but root for. I admit to this book being one of my favorite 2013 debuts and I'm definitely looking forward to more books by this author. (And just in case any of you are wondering, I'm a Water Monkey.)




  1. Oh, I love your new blog design. Awesome! I feel the same way about Asian historical fiction. I can never have enough of the stuff. Memoirs of a Geisha is my favorite book! Anyway, I loved this one too. And I am a fire monkey. :D

    1. Glad to know you feel the same way about Asian historical fiction. It's very interesting to read. Yay! You're also a Monkey. :> Hihihi. Thank you for stopping by!