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Song of the Crimson Flower

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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 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?


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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 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?

30 review for Song of the Crimson Flower

  1. 5 out of 5

    Elise (TheBookishActress)

    YA fantasy romance is a genre that rarely serves me, a lesbian, this well, but Julie C. Dao understands tenderness and was ready to give it to us. This was excellent. She looked up and saw the love in Bao’s eyes—the love that had never left him, not even in his anger—and she couldn’t help feeling that it might all be worth it. It wasn’t just the right thing to do; she knew now that even without a spell, it was what she wanted to do. As Song of the Crimson Flower begins, upper-class Lan is in YA fantasy romance is a genre that rarely serves me, a lesbian, this well, but Julie C. Dao understands tenderness and was ready to give it to us. This was excellent. She looked up and saw the love in Bao’s eyes—the love that had never left him, not even in his anger—and she couldn’t help feeling that it might all be worth it. It wasn’t just the right thing to do; she knew now that even without a spell, it was what she wanted to do. As Song of the Crimson Flower begins, upper-class Lan is in love with Tam, a wealthy nobleman, who, though he keeps delaying the wedding, also sends her letters and (she thinks) plays his flute every evening for her. When she first finds out that it was never real, that she was never loved by Tam, she is angry and upset and takes it out on Bao, the boy who truly loves her. When she goes to apologize, she finds that Bao has been cursed, and they must journey much further to attempt to break his curse. Julie C. Dao avoids the trap of simply berating Lan for this (of course nasty) action. Instead, she is given room to understand the true nature of the world: the fact that there are men (and people in general) far nobler and kinder than her ex-fiancé. And along the way, she discovers that she may truly want different things than she has allowed herself to hope for. Lan’s character arc is subtle but very wonderful, revolving around her journey learning to separate herself from selfish men, and the grounding force of this whole book. I really really appreciate that this romance does not depend on Lan having to figure out that she was wrong to ever not want Bao; instead, it depends on her falling for him, independent of guilt. Bao is a well-written character in his own right, one I found instantly easy to sympathize with. He is in a bad situation but still manages to be kind and caring and considerate towards others, and it is this that endears him both to Lan and other characters. A wide cast of side characters were easy to root for, as well; one is a character who I did not particularly like in Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, but found easy to empathize with here. While the major conflict involving side characters is perhaps not particularly narratively relevant, I enjoyed both of the characters enough to get invested anyway. I absolutely loved how concisely and cleanly the beginning set the tone and mood of the book — I was instantly hooked. Bao’s character introduction in particular immediately made me love him, establishing him as kind and generous and already finding ways to solve his desperate need for a family. Bao and Lan’s scenes together are equally perfectly paced and well-timed, gaining your sympathy for them both and growing your appreciation for Bao’s kindness. The opening also establishes the world through conversations that feel like genuine explanations; we learn about this world’s problems as Lan does, in a way that is satisfying to the audience. I say this all because Forest of a Thousand Lanterns had me struggling slightly with pacing of plot and character development. With this book, however, Dao was right-off-the-bat fixing that issue. “I’ve never stopped caring for you,” he said shakily. “I don’t know if I ever could.” “Well, then,” she said, “stop taking your affection out on me.” This romance was just… so tender. Bao is kind and undemanding in his love for Lan on a level that I think really resonated with me. And I really really loved seeing their relationship build over time. spoilers on a romance I stan: (view spoiler)[I loved the bit where Bao is checking Lan’s legs for injuries and she’s like “god I wish your hands were higher”. Also, the bit where Lan is like “are you afraid you’ll see my ankles and be seduced” and Bao says “I already have… WAIT, I MEANT SEEN YOUR ANKLES” is so so cute. (hide spoiler)] The thing is, as a reader, I really really love love. Romance and tenderness are such important forces. The romance genre, however, and the ya romance genre, often play with depictions of relationships that feel really alienating to me. Putting aside the many books about men who treat everyone around them badly and are quickly forgiven for it when they decide to treat their love interests well: I do not personally resonate with characters who fall in love while hardly knowing each other. Song of the Crimson Flower is based on a story about a boy who falls in love with a girl while not quite knowing her, but its arc is based around a realization of similarity deep down. This book was an excellent reading experience for me and after Forest of a Thousand Lanterns didn’t quite click for me (though I loved the writing), I’m really glad this book worked so well for me. @ Julie C. Dao thank you. Blog | Twitter | Instagram | Spotify | Youtube | About |

  2. 5 out of 5

    Hamad

    This Review Blog Twitter Instagram Actual Rating: 3.5 stars “Love isn’t waiting for someone to remember me. Love isn’t dreaming about them all alone. Love is talking together, forgiving each other, finding common threads in the lives we want. I’ve learned that now. You taught me.” I picked this book in a moment of excitement when it was available for downloading on Edelweiss for everyone. I was having second thoughts as I started to read less YA books and I did not want to be harsh and This Review ✍️ Blog 📖 Twitter 🐦 Instagram 📷 Actual Rating: 3.5 stars “Love isn’t waiting for someone to remember me. Love isn’t dreaming about them all alone. Love is talking together, forgiving each other, finding common threads in the lives we want. I’ve learned that now. You taught me.” ★ I picked this book in a moment of excitement when it was available for downloading on Edelweiss for everyone. I was having second thoughts as I started to read less YA books and I did not want to be harsh and unfair to this book. So I kept procrastinating reading it until I was finally in the mood recently. ★ This is my second book by the author, I read her Forest of a Thousand Lanterns last year and it was good. I liked her anti-hero protagonist. This book takes place in the same world and we got glimpses to some of the characters but this can be read as a standalone and it has totally different vibes to it. ★ Speaking of vibes, this had the same vibes that the old fairy tales I grew up with had, this book made me nostalgic and this explains why I enjoyed it. If you look at the synopsis you may understand why: It is basically a love story with a magical curse (The guy is trapped into a flute) by a witch! Weird and new and unique! Book: The bloodpox disease is a dangerous disease where people ooze blood from every orifice they have!! Me, a doctor: It is called DIC (Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation). ★ The characters were well written but I confess that Lan, the female MC was hard o love at first because she was being so rude, but she realizes that and tries to fix it through the story so bonus points for her growth. ★ The writing was good, I can’t say that the plot surprised me, just like the fairy tales I mentioned. The ending could be guessed as soon as you are oriented to the story and it is under 300 pages so it was not hard to go through. ★ Summary: This book made me go back to my first reading days! The story was simple, predictable and well written with characters that grow through the story. I can recommend for fans of fairy tales! You can get more books from Book Depository

  3. 4 out of 5

    Yun

    In Song of the Crimson Flower, Lan, the daughter of a wealthy nobleman, cruelly rejects Bao, a poor physician's assistant, when he declares his love for her. But when a curse traps Bao's soul inside his flute, Lan wants to make amends for her terrible words and goes along with Bao on a quest to break the curse. The story reads like a fairy tale, full of heroic moments and strong characters. Dao is masterful at building beautiful landscapes and backdrops without overdoing it, and reading her books In Song of the Crimson Flower, Lan, the daughter of a wealthy nobleman, cruelly rejects Bao, a poor physician's assistant, when he declares his love for her. But when a curse traps Bao's soul inside his flute, Lan wants to make amends for her terrible words and goes along with Bao on a quest to break the curse. The story reads like a fairy tale, full of heroic moments and strong characters. Dao is masterful at building beautiful landscapes and backdrops without overdoing it, and reading her books always feels like gazing upon a lush, vibrant painting. The characters are all so kind and selfless that you can't help but cheer for them. It's a sweet and heartwarming story that leaves me feeling happy and fuzzy. If there's any downside, it may be that everything is a little too sweet, with all the characters being so thoroughly pure and good. Even the villain is fairly toothless, and so the plot proceeds without the usual amount of tension that would drive a story forward. The reading experience is pleasant, but never charged up or at the edge of your seat as you would normally expect in a good versus evil story. And yet, there is something compelling about it even though it is predictable. It starts out a little slow, but soon enough, I was wrapped up in the story and couldn't turn the pages fast enough. Obviously as an adult, I know this isn't what love really is like. But perhaps it's the nostalgia of getting in touch with a younger me, who believed in fairy tales and thought love was so simple. No matter the reason, I thoroughly enjoyed this story, as I have enjoyed all of Dao's books, and I hope she continues to write more.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Vicky Who Reads

    very lovely! it was much more tender than I was expecting, which I really enjoyed.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Namera [The Literary Invertebrate]

    ARC received in exchange for an honest review - thank you! So, confession time: I didn’t actually finish this book. I wouldn’t normally rate it, but I did get 55% of the way through and I knew I would end up giving it this rating anyway, even if I managed to struggle all the way though to the end. So, why such a low rating? Because the heroine is a COW. Lan is the daughter of a wealthy government official, Minister Vu. She comes from rich and happy family home, filled with family who loves ARC received in exchange for an honest review - thank you! So, confession time: I didn’t actually finish this book. I wouldn’t normally rate it, but I did get 55% of the way through and I knew I would end up giving it this rating anyway, even if I managed to struggle all the way though to the end. So, why such a low rating? Because the heroine is a COW. Lan is the daughter of a wealthy government official, Minister Vu. She comes from rich and happy family home, filled with family who loves her and everything she could possibly want. She even has the requisite romance: Tam, the son of her father’s friend, is courting her, and it’s a relationship approved of by both their parents. Yes, Tam is taking distressingly long to choose a wedding date… but at least he rows beneath her window every night to read her beautiful love poems, right? Wrong. Because it isn’t Tam at all: it’s Bao, a poor orphan apprenticed to Tam’s father. Bao has been in love with her his whole life, and when he seizes the opportunity to reveal the truth, he expects to at least be met with a courteous refusal, if not a reciprocal admission of love. Lan reacts to his confession badly. I can forgive her for that: she, having just discovered that the boy of her dreams was nothing more than a figment of her imagination, falls sick – but not before viciously reminding Bao of his poverty, orphan-hood, and negligible social status. Mean? Yes. But like I said, with the shock she’d just suffered, I could understand and accept it. Only, Lan NEVER stops being the biggest bitch on the face of the planet. Bao gets cursed into a flute by a river witch, and Lan’s the only person who can keep him in his physical form, so she agrees to travel with him to find a way to break the curse. This is her penance. So far, so good. But the blurb claims that ‘Bao now despises her’, and I was expecting something approaching apology and humility from her, considering she’d absolutely destroyed his heart for no good reason. Bao does not despise her. Not even a little bit. He continues loving her, and it’s painfully obvious. He gets a little miffed off with the bitch, for having been a raging bitch to him, but then HE APOLOGISES TO LAN FOR IT! Lan keeps flouncing around expecting apologies, even though she’s supposed to be the one doing penance, and she has no right to be upset with Bao for trying to protect his heart! The bit where I completely gave up on their romance comes about 45% in. Lan informs Bao that he’s sulked enough over her having shattered his heart. She thinks it’s time he ‘stopped being rude’ to her. He was never rude to you, you absolute spoiled cow! But he just folds and AGREES WITH HER. Ugh. Assorted other reasons for the low rating: ❌ There was no sense of urgency to the action , even though Bao has two weeks before the curse becomes permanent. This is partly because they don’t even get underway in the journey until halfway through the book. ❌ Admittedly, I haven’t read Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, the ‘prequel’ to this one. But I know it features a romance between Xifeng and Wei. Even though Xifeng is dead now and I never read her story, I didn’t like seeing Wei falling in love with someone else. ❌ Things, and people, were poorly described. ❌ Since this is supposed to be a standalone, not enough worldbuilding was done for those of us who are new to the series. The two-star rating is only because I felt so sorry for Bao, and also because the concept of a Vietnamese fantasy world was fascinating. It’s just a shame the book didn’t live up to it. [Blog] - [Bookstagram]

  6. 4 out of 5

    ♠ TABI ♠

    I'm ready

  7. 5 out of 5

    Alaina

    Not bad... not bad. Song of the Crimson Flower is a book that I definitely read out of order. Doesn't even matter to me because I still liked everything about this book. It probably made me even more excited to dive into the first two books because this novella definitely delivered. In it, Lan and Bao were adorable. I honestly couldn't help but ship them because an enemies to lovers romance is something I could get behind. Yeah, they were crushes before.. but eh, details. The adventure was so much Not bad... not bad. Song of the Crimson Flower is a book that I definitely read out of order. Doesn't even matter to me because I still liked everything about this book. It probably made me even more excited to dive into the first two books because this novella definitely delivered. In it, Lan and Bao were adorable. I honestly couldn't help but ship them because an enemies to lovers romance is something I could get behind. Yeah, they were crushes before.. but eh, details. The adventure was so much fun in this book. I listened to the audiobook of it (which is weird because I own all the books in this series as audios.. so yeah still listened out of order (lol)). Each chapter made me smile with glee because it just kept bringing me deeper into their story. Plus it didn't hurt that Bao and Lan were easily likable. Overall, really enjoyed this book and definitely can't wait to dive into the first two books of this series.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Dani ❤️ Perspective of a Writer

    Check out more reviews @ Perspective of a Writer... The Buzz I enjoyed Forest of a Thousand Lanterns and I was excited to read about a "good" couple rather than an evil villain set in the same world. And I do like the idea of this being a companion novel and not a third book in the series. While the cover isn't drawing me in I do find it pretty and it gives the feel of an old fashioned fairy tale which is definitely the tone of Song of the Crimson Flower. I don't hate the title either, it fits Check out more reviews @ Perspective of a Writer... The Buzz I enjoyed Forest of a Thousand Lanterns and I was excited to read about a "good" couple rather than an evil villain set in the same world. And I do like the idea of this being a companion novel and not a third book in the series. While the cover isn't drawing me in I do find it pretty and it gives the feel of an old fashioned fairy tale which is definitely the tone of Song of the Crimson Flower. I don't hate the title either, it fits with the titles for the others in the series. The Premise We get to see a different side of blood magic when a nobleman's daughter cruelly rejects an orphan physician's apprentice in Song of the Crimson Flower. Bao gets cursed due to his love and is embroiled in a family feud that is rooted in a coming drug war. I really enjoyed the fairy tale feel of this story. It's set in the same Asian based fantasy world as the Rise of the Empress duology so it has that old fashioned feel of a folklore or fairy tale. And we get a witch, a curse and true love that revisits some of the powerful characters from Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix. The entire journey in Song of the Crimson Flower is really heartfelt and showcases both Bao as a physician's apprentice and what a lovely wife Lan would make for him. I also really enjoyed Commander Wei and his little romance! Friendship and camaraderie was highlighted along their journey and the war aspect brought tensions high. My Experience I was really taken with Bao, our curse victim. First I love orphans and his parentage plays a big part in the story. But that is just a jumping off point. Bao is awkward, anxious and sooooo adorable!! He gets himself into a really bad situation and its all due to love and admiration. I really loved how he wasn't a macho man but was sensitive, poetic and compassionate. He really made me want to root for him and I gladly followed him as he learned about his past. Lan makes a major mistake, but for once I was really sympathetic to her. Anyone caught unawares like she was wouldn't have reacted well. And I loved how she chose to come back from it and commit to doing whatever was in her power. Many would feel like the time frame of the story makes this an instalove story but I felt like Lan was so genuine in how her awareness of Bao totally changed her attitude toward him. She really captured my heart. Song of the Crimson Flower is a lovely epilogue to the Rise of the Empress duology. We meet a new couple who must navigate a curse, learn the history of the crimson flower and befriends many of the old heroes of the land. If you enjoyed the duology then you'll need to snatch this up and see how it all ends! ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Authenticity ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Writing Style ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Plot & Pacing ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ World Building B+ Cover & Title grade Thanks to Bookish First and the publisher for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review. It has not influenced my opinions. ______________________ You can find this review and many others on my book blog @ Perspective of a Writer. Read my special perspective under the typewriter on my reviews... Please like this review if you enjoyed it! *bow* *bow* It helps me out a ton!!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Carole (Carole's Random Life in Books)

    This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life in Books. I had a fantastic time with this book! It has been a long time since I was able to read an entire book in a single day but it was so easy to get lost in this book. This wasn't a long book with less than 300 pages but I thought it told a big story. The story grabbed me from the start and the story progress at a perfect pace to keep the pages turning. I am so glad that I took a chance and decided to give this book a try. This book is This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life in Books. I had a fantastic time with this book! It has been a long time since I was able to read an entire book in a single day but it was so easy to get lost in this book. This wasn't a long book with less than 300 pages but I thought it told a big story. The story grabbed me from the start and the story progress at a perfect pace to keep the pages turning. I am so glad that I took a chance and decided to give this book a try. This book is listed as a companion book to the author's Rise of the Empress series. When I started reading this book, I had no idea that it had any connection to another book and I still wouldn't if I didn't happen to see it on Goodreads. This book reads wonderfully as a stand-alone story. I am thinking I may need to read the other books in the series though just because I enjoyed this one so much. This was a wonderfully imaginative fantasy. Bao has grown up as an orphan and knows that he is not worthy of those in the upper class. He has lived with a local physician and his family and is training as an apprentice. Lan is the daughter of an important man and has lived a rather charmed life. She is looking forward to setting a date for her wedding. Things fall apart for both Bao and Lan and their lives are forever changed. They must work together to beat a witch's curse and will have quite the adventure working towards that task. I really liked both Bao and Lan and wanted to see them together. They have both made mistakes in their lives but they were really a victim of circumstances more than anything. When Bao needed help, Lan didn't hesitate and I loved seeing them work together towards a common goal. They didn't ask more of each other than they thought they would be willing to give. It was really nice getting to see them get to know each other away from the opinions of society. I loved the way some magic was worked into the story. I thought that the curse was very well done and I liked how it evolved over the course of the story. I liked that the magic wasn't an overpowering part of the story but there was enough to add a really nice element to the story. This book had a very nice balance of action, romance, and magic. I would recommend this book to others. I thought that this was a really well-done story that was a lot of fun to read. This was the first book by Julie C. Dao that I have had the chance to read but I wouldn't hesitate to pick up more of her work in the future. I received an advanced review copy of this book from Philomel Books via Bookish First. Initial Thoughts So I read this whole book today. I had a goal of reading a book today so there is that. This is also a rather short book at less than 300 pages. But the important point is that I actually didn't want to put this one down. It was so easy to finish in a day because it was just a really well-told story. I read is as a stand-alone so it works great if you haven't read any of this author's previous work. I just really enjoyed Bao and Lan's story and all of its magic.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Alexa

    3.5 stars! A Vietnamese YA fantasy that reads like a fairytale and includes mentions of characters and events and details of a world I’m already familiar with? Yes, please! This book was one I flew through in what basically amounts to one sitting, and I truly enjoyed the experience. The characters, the story, the world - everything came together really well!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca McNutt

    Anyone who knows me knows I'm not really a romance genre person, but Song of the Crimson Flower was actually a pretty decent book to me in spite of my personal preferences. Dao writes wonderful characters who find love through experience and eventual friendship, and there's a good moral message that you shouldn't fall for the person with the most money and prestige, but with the person who genuinely cares about who you are. It's a short book, but it manages to tell a well-crafted tale that can Anyone who knows me knows I'm not really a romance genre person, but Song of the Crimson Flower was actually a pretty decent book to me in spite of my personal preferences. Dao writes wonderful characters who find love through experience and eventual friendship, and there's a good moral message that you shouldn't fall for the person with the most money and prestige, but with the person who genuinely cares about who you are. It's a short book, but it manages to tell a well-crafted tale that can be read very quickly. There is also a lot of wit and dry humour in this book, making it a fun read, as well. I wish it had been a bit longer, but overall I still really enjoyed Song of the Crimson Flower and its traditional-styled story, which seems to incorporate basic themes from fairy tales and create something truly original.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jessie_Book

    This best way I can describe this book is simple. The writing is simple but pretty. Its has a slow in the beginning but picks up after the love interest gets turned into a flute (its that kind of fairy tale). The two main characters are simple and fun to read. I think this is the first time I have read of the boy love interest being awkward and bumbling instead of the girl. The other characters were more just background noice and I think might have meant more if I had read the other two This best way I can describe this book is simple. The writing is simple but pretty. Its has a slow in the beginning but picks up after the love interest gets turned into a flute (its that kind of fairy tale). The two main characters are simple and fun to read. I think this is the first time I have read of the boy love interest being awkward and bumbling instead of the girl. The other characters were more just background noice and I think might have meant more if I had read the other two companion novels. Also the ending isn't particularly strong, if you've read the synopsis you can probably guess the entire ending. Actually you could probably guess the whole book. Besides the romance and writing nothing about this book is particular engaging. Its just a simple and quick read for those whole like fairy tales.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kitty Marie

    This book has a vibe that is charming and positive. The short length (under 300 pages) and rather fast pace makes this an ideal choice for people who need a break after a large and/or intense read or just want a relaxing reading experience in general. The story presented here is simple but in a classical way, resembling a fairy tale. What drew me to this title initially is the unusual romance, one of the more notably unique aspects of this title. I’ll just go into details that are already This book has a vibe that is charming and positive. The short length (under 300 pages) and rather fast pace makes this an ideal choice for people who need a break after a large and/or intense read or just want a relaxing reading experience in general. The story presented here is simple but in a classical way, resembling a fairy tale. What drew me to this title initially is the unusual romance, one of the more notably unique aspects of this title. I’ll just go into details that are already presented in the back cover summary and avoid spoilers. The heroine is Lan, a young noblewoman. Her love interest is Bao, an aspiring physician and orphan. Though of two very different social classes, they were childhood friends. As adults, she is in love with another and rejects Bao in anger- granted, she has what I think many will consider good reasons for doing so. Her words are cruel nonetheless and tarnish his idealized image of her. Filled with regret after the fact, she wants to make amends and finds that he’s been cursed by a witch. The two go on a journey to locate the witch and undo the curse. Time is ticking and his soul might otherwise be forever trapped. During their journey, she starts to see him in a new light. Conversely, he tries to close his heart off to her. The nature of their love story is a sort of childhood friends-to-enemies, then enemies-to-lovers setup that I immediately wanted to read about. Both characters grow and change in their perceptions of each other. While I feel the large concept is teeming with the potential for intensity and drama, it’s surprisingly a surprisingly cute and easygoing romance overall. It’s also quite chaste and all-ages friendly, not any problematic aspect that I can recall. Next area I want to cover- the reversal of fairytale stereotypes. I was very pleased to find this in Song of the Crimson Flower. For example, one of the side characters has a nuanced portrayal despite usually being of a type that is treated as uniformly evil in fables/fairytales. Next, rather than a hero saving a heroine, the hero is the one in dire straits with a heroine keen on helping to save him. Moreover, the female characters are on equal footing with the male ones in terms of power, conversation, and a zest for adventure. Aside from undoing Bao’s curse, the characters also find out troubling things about a substance called “black spice” that has been spreading throughout multiple kingdoms and having very negative effects. The spice seems to originate from a place called the Gray Kingdom, a location which lies at the center of breaking Bao’s curse. The setting is historical Vietnam with a touch of magic. The visuals of this world are simple to grasp yet often beautifully described. The magical energy that permeates this land is tangible and the side characters have some worthwhile development and relationships, with bits of back story. That aspect could have been broader, but it’s not bad for the page count. Plot-wise, there was one event toward the end that I felt could have been situated differently for greater emotional impact. A small change would have injected a revelatory element of surprise for which this perhaps too even-keel novel would have benefitted from. There is a noticeable absence of any controversial or particularly grim elements. In addition to the YA demographic, middle grade readers branching into YA might be one possible audience. But the main characters are on the older side of teenaged and behave in ways that are gracefully smart and reasonable. I think a lot of adults would find something to like here as well. Tracing back to the fairytale comparison, there is a potential wide reach and appeal for this title. Why You Should Try It – Graceful characterization. Feels like a light and airy fairytale, but reverses stereotypes in a neat way. Well-paced and short (under 300 pages) with what I think would be wide appeal to middle grade, YA, and adult readers. The romance is interesting. The setting is a unique and well-realized, a fantasy-infused historical Vietnam. Lovely writing style. I’m definitely eager to try more books by this author that pertain to this universe. Why You Might Not Like It – The short length keeps many facets brief and fast-moving in a way I sense could make it less memorable over time. Moments that could have been more harrowing or surprising are missed in favor of keeping to a consistently light and positive tone. I found some of the assorted kingdom world-building chatter tedious and side characters too numerous for the page count, though perhaps other books in this universe may aid in fleshing them out properly. Note : Received an ARC of this title from BookishFirst for the purpose of this review.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Cindy ✩☽ Savage Queen ♔

    So excited for a book steeped in Vietnamese culture =D

  15. 4 out of 5

    Nia •ShadesOfPaper•

    You can find this review on my blog Shades of Paper. “Soon, she would make Ba and Mama proud, and she would have everything: a lovely, elegant wing of the Huynh’s home, servants to tend to her every wish as a cherished daughter-in-law, and Tam, the handsome young man who wove his love for her into the melody o a flute beneath the moon.” After completely falling in love with Forest of a Thousand Lanterns two years ago I knew I had to read everything Julie C. Dao publishes, and since this book You can find this review on my blog Shades of Paper. “Soon, she would make Ba and Mama proud, and she would have everything: a lovely, elegant wing of the Huynh’s home, servants to tend to her every wish as a cherished daughter-in-law, and Tam, the handsome young man who wove his love for her into the melody o a flute beneath the moon.” After completely falling in love with Forest of a Thousand Lanterns two years ago I knew I had to read everything Julie C. Dao publishes, and since this book was a standalone set in the same world as her debut novel, I got even more excited. It took me a while to get into the story because I was a bit confused at the very beginning by what was happening. It took me a couple of chapters to start to understand everything that was going on, because even though I was a bit familiar with the world, the book started a bit suddenly, but once I kept reading I found the story to be more fast paced and easy to get into. My main issue with this book was that it was too short. All the actions that took place in Song of the Crimson Flower happened very fast and I feel it didn’t have time to build up anticipation or to make the reader engaged enough in the story to want to keep reading. I feel if the novel was longer and the pacing slower in a way, the reader could have gotten more time to grasp everything and become more connected with the story, but with the way it was done I feel a bit underwhelmed by everything that was going on. For example, I think the book had so many great subplots that were unexplored, because the story was a bit too focused on the romance. I think the bloodpox thing was a very interesting element to add to the story, but overall was unexplored and frankly a bit forgotten by everything that was going on. There were certain times where nothing was really going on and it felt like the story was dragged, instead of flowing smoothly as I hoped. ”I’m going on an adventure at last, Bà nôi, she thought, looking up at the sky. Just like we always talked about.” The ending happened a bit fast, and though it was very action-packed and it’s solve the conflict of the story and wrapped up the plot nicely, I would have preferred it to be more slow burn than what it was. Though I have to say that I really enjoyed those last few chapters and think that’s where the essence of the story was the most, so even though I had my issues with the pacing and would have loved to get to know certain things a bit more, the story had its redeemable qualities. Though I ended up liking these characters, and was so happy to see some cameos from Forest of a Thousand Lanterns in there, the characters felt a bit flat sometimes. It’s true that we know a basic information about them and their motivations and the journey they went through, but there was something missing about them. It took me a while to see any chemistry between the two main characters, and so that made the romance appeared quite forced to me. Though I ended up liking some of their dynamics and interactions and I could totally see a romance happening, I would have liked for them to be more complex. Overall, I think Song of the Crimson Flower had its good and bad things. I adored Julie C. Dao’s writing and think it was so lushed and beautiful, and even though I had my issues with the length and the pacing of the book, I think it had some elements that I really enjoyed seeing in a book. TW: abandonment I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. This doesn’t change my opinion whatsoever. All thoughts are my own. “Tam had not written her the love song. Tam had not played her such beautiful music. Tam had not bothered to come and see her.” .... .. Thank you Philomel Books for the ARC. Blog | Twitter | Instagram | BlogLovin’

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kate (GirlReading)

    Julie C. Dao is officially the Queen on fantasy. I don't make the rules, I just state them. This read beautifully, with a fantastic, classic fairytale vibe and Disney had better jump on it and turn it into an equally beautiful movie asap.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rec-It Rachel

    I love that all of Julie's books so far have been set in the same world but have such different (but complementary) vibes

  18. 4 out of 5

    Renee (The B-Roll)

    This book is so gorgeously written, dense, emotional, magical, and atmospheric. From the start, there is an almost fairy-tale like quality to this book that really makes you want to read it more and more. I loved how well both the characters and the plot are developed so quickly in this story and how the plot begins and does not let up until the very end and the book is over! The atmosphere and environment just feels so lush with details and descriptors, almost as if you can actually This book is so gorgeously written, dense, emotional, magical, and atmospheric. From the start, there is an almost fairy-tale like quality to this book that really makes you want to read it more and more. I loved how well both the characters and the plot are developed so quickly in this story and how the plot begins and does not let up until the very end and the book is over! The atmosphere and environment just feels so lush with details and descriptors, almost as if you can actually see/smell/hear the city and the overall setting. I loved the love story of this book and the overarching idea of love and how it can change through time and experience. This book, with its interesting plot-line and Magic is a must read!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kelly Brigid ♡

    Not wholly unique, but entertaining nonetheless! Having been mostly unfamiliar with the original Magic Flute tale might've prevented me from fully appreciating certain aspects of this retelling. The prose is beautiful, which I had expected from reading Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, and I'm glad that the pacing never faltered! Overall a pretty fun little fantasy! ♡ Not wholly unique, but entertaining nonetheless! Having been mostly unfamiliar with the original Magic Flute tale might've prevented me from fully appreciating certain aspects of this retelling. The prose is beautiful, which I had expected from reading Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, and I'm glad that the pacing never faltered! Overall a pretty fun little fantasy!

  20. 4 out of 5

    USOM

    Song of the Crimson Flower is a story about class and love that defies boundaries. It's about the truth of love that will transcend words even when the world seems to be pulling us apart. Is it more important for us to be proper than the image of propriety? For us to be honorable or to seem honorable? Dao also examines the ways we build people up in our head and put them on a pedestal. We end up seeing what we want to see, what will be most comfortable to us. While there's this plot where the Song of the Crimson Flower is a story about class and love that defies boundaries. It's about the truth of love that will transcend words even when the world seems to be pulling us apart. Is it more important for us to be proper than the image of propriety? For us to be honorable or to seem honorable? Dao also examines the ways we build people up in our head and put them on a pedestal. We end up seeing what we want to see, what will be most comfortable to us. While there's this plot where the fate of the kingdoms hang in the balance, the story is centered around Bao and Lan's relationship. The ways they challenge each other, but also the way they defy each other's expectations. Bao made my heart hurt. He just wants so desperately to be loved, to have a family, to belong. And when he begins to get a taste of what he wants, he realizes that maybe it isn't what he wanted at all. We are asked if our nature is what will win out, our blood, or the qualities from those who have nurtured us. full review: https://utopia-state-of-mind.com/revi...

  21. 5 out of 5

    Alice

    3.5 stars I really, *really* love the concept of this book and I was so ready 5 star this until it started telling over showing important plot and character details. While I'm completely behind how the story DOES end, the progression to that ending feels unnaturally truncated. To reiterate, I fully support how the whole plot was outlined. However, the Bao and Lan relationship along with Mistress Vy's characterization suffered the most from this truncation. It's like the writing had a great plan 3.5 stars I really, *really* love the concept of this book and I was so ready 5 star this until it started telling over showing important plot and character details. While I'm completely behind how the story DOES end, the progression to that ending feels unnaturally truncated. To reiterate, I fully support how the whole plot was outlined. However, the Bao and Lan relationship along with Mistress Vy's characterization suffered the most from this truncation. It's like the writing had a great plan but ran out of steam while trying to get to the finish line. Positives: - Lan and Bao have great character concepts. Lan almost has a Moana-like arc, where she's expected to fill a certain role but her iconoclast grandmother encourages her to do otherwise. She becomes more outspoken about her personal desires and takes action to protect what is important to her. Love that local noble youth story line. I gobble it up everytime. Bao's got some abandonment issues and clings to an idealistic vision of what it's like to be loved. Despite harboring deep feelings of abandonment and being looked down upon by the upper class, he still remains a good boy at heart. Over the course of the story he has to come to terms with the reality of his family and others around him. - The setup for Lan and Bao's character arcs and romance was sooooo good. The initial misunderstanding was so juicy and well done. - The reveal about Gray City and Bao's origins - Wei finally gets a happy ending after like 25 years wow. He stuck the landing. - The scene where Lan rejects Bao was so emotional I was gripping the book hard - Jade and Koichi (view spoiler)[ are expecting their first kiddo! And Jade is empress while Koichi is supporting his wife as consort. (hide spoiler)] Needs work: - Too much dialogue packed into the end. There was a lot of time wasted when the writing defaulted to recap events we already saw happen to one group of characters in the POV of another group of characters (see: when Lady Yen, Lan and Huong escape the dungeon). - Vy's character was completely rushed over and not fully characterized. Huong was used as a mouthpiece to tell the audience what Vy is "truly" like instead of letting the reader come to their own conclusion about her. There was even a comparison made to Xifeng which was rejected by Vy herself, but the denial of it rings hollow because the book has already decided Huong's stance on Vy is the one closest to the truth. Vy could have worked SO well as the book's antagonist but she really got the short end of the stick because we only get like one or two scenes where we see her directly interacting with Gray City citizens and there's not time to develop a more layered view of character because right after these scenes, Bao's just like "you bad, mother! you bad. how could you?" @ her actions without skipping a beat. - Bao x Lan happy ending was too easily attained. Okay, we KNEW Lan would be the one to break the spell, probably in the same manner she did in the end. That being said, you can still develop a delectable romance with a preset ending. Bao and Lan are set up to be happily ever after, and the starting point works. The middle point works. I ship them, they're adorable. But I needed something more than (view spoiler)[Lan crawling through the sewers to save Bao (hide spoiler)] . Bao's view of Lan has changed and Lan has changed herself, so I see the progression of Bao falling for the new, real Lan. Bao remains more or less the same while embracing his true inner feelings over being an orphan and Lan learns to see Bao for his true self. This is all good stuff: the kiddos have both developed as people. I just wish Lan's realization/admition of her love for him was shown in a more climactic manner than "I'm willing to get dirty for you." I really wanted her to say "screw my parents' expectations" before the spell was broken, not after when EVERYTHING IS FINE and she's got nothing to lose if she says it now. Where are the stakes? *shrugs* - The battle was completely skipped. Why put it in and spend so much talking about it if it's not going to show up? ---- Pre-review: Yaaasssss, Julie! Edit: Wow this is the first time I've ever received an ARC by just contacting the publisher directly! Thank you Penguin for sending me Song of the Crimson Flower for review :D

  22. 5 out of 5

    michelle (magical reads)

    4.5 stars read on my blog **I received an ARC for this blog tour and from a giveaway. These are my honest opinions, and in no way was I compensated for this review.** Love isn’t waiting for someone to remember me. Love isn’t dreaming about them all alone. Love is talking together, forgiving each other, finding common threads in the lives we want. I’ve learned that now. You taught me. I never got around to reading Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix, and it’s been a little over two years since I read 4.5 stars read on my blog **I received an ARC for this blog tour and from a giveaway. These are my honest opinions, and in no way was I compensated for this review.** Love isn’t waiting for someone to remember me. Love isn’t dreaming about them all alone. Love is talking together, forgiving each other, finding common threads in the lives we want. I’ve learned that now. You taught me. I never got around to reading Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix, and it’s been a little over two years since I read Forest of a Thousand Lanterns. However, you could honestly read this book as a standalone. Song of the Crimson Flower was absolutely stunning, a beautiful tale of the powers of real love. Honestly, just the first page of the glossary had me in tears; reading all these Vietnamese names, ones that my family members have and ones that I encounter often, in a fantasy was so powerful. Thank you, Julie, for writing a gorgeous ownvoices Vietnamese-inspired fantasy! I also loved how this one still feels a bit Western because the intersection of being Vietnamese-American is very much a mix of Vietnamese and Western culture. (Also, side note: friendly reminder that I have a master-list of books with Vietnamese main characters and/or written by Vietnamese authors.) The plot was enthralling. You can’t help but be pulled into Feng Lu, a world of magic and mischief. Bao and Lan are going on a dangerous adventure to cure Bao of his curse and find his family, even if they shouldn’t be found. There’s an awkwardness between them because they’re connected by the curse, but Lan had just harshly turned Bao down after he professes his love for her. Except, the thing is, Lan really isn’t a bad person; she was caught off guard because she had just found out that the man, who she thought was in love with her, wasn’t. Over the years, she’s built up a fantasy version of him in her head, and Bao has done the same with Lan. Both of them operate of faint imitations of love, infatuation really, because they don’t actually know the person they thought they loved. They grow to realize that the versions of people we create in our heads aren’t necessarily the ones we want and definitely not who these people actually are. This character growth is so amazing; to realize the falsehoods of love when approached by the real thing is such a strong message. Going along with this, the romantic development stole my breath away with the longing of it all. The prose is gorgeous as well! Julie has really grown as an author, and I loved her beautiful and more succinct writing in this book. The prose laid out a soft and gentle tone, one that gives the book a quiet beauty and emphasizes its message of love. Song of the Crimson Flower was a gorgeous read that really shows how you can’t be in love with a person if it’s just the version of them you’ve made in your head. I loved the characters and their arcs, as well as the romance. Even if you haven’t read Dao’s other books, don’t let it stop you from picking Song of the Crimson Flower up as soon as possible! original review: my heart is so full

  23. 4 out of 5

    Justine

    Originally posted to I Should Read That I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This is a spoiler-free review. Julie C. Dao is one of my auto-buy authors -- I totally fell in love with Forest of a Thousand Lanterns and adored The Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix,/i>. I thought that with the completion of the Rise of the Empress duology, we would leave the world of Feng Lu forever. So imagine my surprise and delight to discover that Song of the Crimson Flower, her latest Originally posted to I Should Read That I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This is a spoiler-free review. Julie C. Dao is one of my auto-buy authors -- I totally fell in love with Forest of a Thousand Lanterns and adored The Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix,/i>. I thought that with the completion of the Rise of the Empress duology, we would leave the world of Feng Lu forever. So imagine my surprise and delight to discover that Song of the Crimson Flower, her latest book, was set in the same world! This book completely stands alone from the Rise of the Empress duology, but will still delight fans of the original books with some familiar faces and themes. Much like the Rise of the Empress series, Song of the Crimson Flower has the feeling and nostalgia of a gorgeous fairy tale in an East Asian setting. It has the same fairy tale structure, tropes, and characters that we so often see in classic tales, giving it a lovely, warm feeling of nostalgia. Reading Song of the Crimson Flower feels like you’re sinking into a favourite childhood tale or storybook, which is one of the most rewarding reading experiences for me. The fact that this takes place in Feng Lu, the well-established world of The Rise of the Empress duology, doesn’t mean that Dao slacks on worldbuilding at all. She expands the Grasslands with much more detail than previously seen and paints a picture of both the wealth and poverty that our characters experience. Magic and medicine, both good and bad, are woven through the story in an incredibly effective way. This is particularly effective in the way that the Black Spice drug is portrayed -- it causes horrible addiction and tears apart families, but could also be a miracle cure to a horrible illness that haunts the Grasslands. I loved the way that she balanced these themes and coloured this book with shades of gray. The romance is a major driver for the plot and characters, and I really enjoyed the growing relationship between Lan and Bao. Neither is perfect at the start and both desperately need to grow in order to become more understanding people, which I always love. I particularly enjoyed Lan’s character arc -- her journey to see past her privilege was a pleasure to read. My favourite romance, however, was one between two minor characters. I was completely and totally invested in their story and would have happily have read from their point of view too.  I was also thrilled to see many familiar faces in this book and loved that we got to see old favourites eight years after the events of the first series. Song of the Crimson Flower will delight fans of Dao’s previous books, but also stands alone as a fine YA fantasy tale for newcomers to her writing. This is the perfect book to cosy up with and binge read on a cold winter night! CW: Drugs and discussion of addiction, abandonment 4.5 out of 5 stars

  24. 5 out of 5

    Katherine Wren

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Okay, so my first thought on this is that I'm using the Goodreads rating system of 1/5 stars means "I did not like it." I feel horrible about rating any book one star, but that's the description that fits me for this book. It was not horrible. I just... didn't like it. At all. I had no idea until I was about 90% of the way through this book that it is a companion (not exactly a sequel) to the Rise of the Empress series which I have not read. It is meant to stand on its own, but there is so little Okay, so my first thought on this is that I'm using the Goodreads rating system of 1/5 stars means "I did not like it." I feel horrible about rating any book one star, but that's the description that fits me for this book. It was not horrible. I just... didn't like it. At all. I had no idea until I was about 90% of the way through this book that it is a companion (not exactly a sequel) to the Rise of the Empress series which I have not read. It is meant to stand on its own, but there is so little world building that this book should be read after the other books by this author. I might have liked it more that way, as I probably would have understood more about the politics of this society and the illness that has befallen its people. Because this book relies so much on others, it feels very shallow. The story plays out exactly like I expected it to after finishing the second chapter. There are no twists and, despite the witch's warning, no sense of urgency in the plot. I didn't feel that anything was really at risk for the main characters. I actually felt more for the "side couple" in this story than I ever felt for the main characters. Lan is also an unlikable main character. I feel like the author forced her to change to fit the plot, not that she ever genuinely grew up or became any less selfish. This meant I didn't feel the romance at all between Lan and Bao. It felt like they fell in love with preconceived ideas of one another, not the person actually in front of them. I don't see their romance lasting long term. Overall, the writing is not horrible. Younger YA readers who are suckers for romance but want something that isn't the same old contemporary Kasie West novel churned out again and again with a different title might like this book.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Aimie

    Song of the Crimson Flower is a story that reads like a beautifully woven fairytale. Song of the Crimson Flower follows the story of a daughter to a wealthy nobleman, Lan, and a poor physician's apprentice, Bao. After Lan rejects Bao, he leaves heartbroken and ends up crossing paths with a witch who places a spell upon him that will only love can break. Lan, regretting the way she treated him, vows to help him break the spell. I absolutely adored this book, from its characters to the story, Song of the Crimson Flower is a story that reads like a beautifully woven fairytale. Song of the Crimson Flower follows the story of a daughter to a wealthy nobleman, Lan, and a poor physician's apprentice, Bao. After Lan rejects Bao, he leaves heartbroken and ends up crossing paths with a witch who places a spell upon him that will only love can break. Lan, regretting the way she treated him, vows to help him break the spell. I absolutely adored this book, from its characters to the story, everything came together so wonderfully that you just couldn't help but fly through it. Though it is a part of the Rise of the Empress series, it can be read as a standalone. While the characters from previous books in the series make appearance, it is fun to read about the adventures and action Lan and Bao face in this particular story. While I love fantasy with a bit more action than this book provided, it was actually enjoyable to read the way the characters were brought together and how they combatted the obstacles laid before them together. Another aspect of Song of the Crimson Flower I throughly enjoyed was the romance between Lan and Bao. Though Bao has loved her more years, Lan calls him out for loving an idealized version of her he conceived then the real person herself. Through the trials and tribulations of their journey, he comes to know the real Lan. I did enjoy reading the romance between Lan and Bao, however I personally enjoyed reading Wei and Yen's story a bit more as they were a bit more captivating to read. If you enjoy tender characters and a heartfelt story then I recommend checking out Song of the Crimson Flower. ARC was kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sofia Casanova

    This is everything I wanted in a YA Vietnamese inspired fantasy. I feel so validated.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Carina Olsen

    This was my first book by this author. And it will not be my last. I must be honest and say that this would normally not have been a book for me. But when I saw it on Edelweiss I had to read the summary. And I got the need to read it right away. So glad I was able to do so. Because this book was beyond adorable and cute. Giving it four stars, as it was almost perfect for me. I only wish it had been a little bit more. A little longer. A bit more details about things. But oh my gosh how I liked This was my first book by this author. And it will not be my last. I must be honest and say that this would normally not have been a book for me. But when I saw it on Edelweiss I had to read the summary. And I got the need to read it right away. So glad I was able to do so. Because this book was beyond adorable and cute. Giving it four stars, as it was almost perfect for me. I only wish it had been a little bit more. A little longer. A bit more details about things. But oh my gosh how I liked this book. The story was truly exciting and interesting. The characters were truly adorable. The romance killed me. I could not help but love every moment of it. I wanted to read this book because of how painful the summary makes it sound. Painful, but hopeful too, with her regretting her actions. And I am so happy that I decided to get this book. And read it right away. Because, yes, the beginning was painful. But then it became fun and cute and simply such an amazing story. The book is short and easy to read. The writing was beautiful. I know there were a lot of details about the two other book set in this world, and full of spoilers for them both, but I do not mind that. It made me want to read them as well. Though I fear they will be more painful than this one, haha. I so do not know how I will write this review of mine. All I have in my thoughts right now is love. Love for Bao and Lan and this gorgeous setting as well. This book tells the story of Bao and Lan. It is told from both point of views, and I loved that. Because they both have a lot to say and it was needed to be in both heads. And I also pretty much loved them both to pieces from the very beginning. Lan is a rich girl living with her parents and her older brothers. She has been in love with a boy named Tam for ages, as their marriage have been planned since they were little. At least, she thinks they are in love. He has been cold towards her, and she is still waiting for a wedding. Then there is Bao. A poor orphan boy who has no one that loves him. He have been alone for so many years. And getting to know his life was pretty heartbreaking. Yet so good too. I could not help but love this boy to pieces. He have been in love with Lan for years now. But too shy to speak much to her. Except for the past two weeks he have been playing the flute for her in the river outside of her house at night to her. Sharing with music how he loves her. Except she is positive that it is Tam on the river, playing for her. Oh. And when Bao finally works up enough courage to tell her the truth, that Tam's parents have been paying him to make it seem like Tam still wants to marry her, when he does not, it does not go well at all. Lan is heartbroken. And she sadly takes it all out on Bao. He is finally confessing his feelings for her. And she hits him and yells at him and it being beyond cruel. But she sees this, sees it on his face, how much she is hurting him. But it is too late by then. But at least now she finally knows the whole truth about Tam too. Which is how this book begins. Okay, it took almost a hundred pages, all of that. But it was so interesting. And I loved getting to know them both so very much. Lan feels guilty after how she treated Bao, she want to make up for it. But he has left, never to return. Because of how much she hurt him, and since he truly has no one now. But that does not go well for him, as he ends up meeting the river witch. And she curses him. Which must be undone in two weeks, or he will be trapped in his flute forever, where is soul is now. I will not go into more details than that, just that it was all kinds of exciting and rude. Lan ends up finding the flute with Bao trapped inside, as she is the only person that Bao loves. And so she is the one that can help him have a true form until the curse can be broken. And so they set out on a journey together. With her willing to help him, to make up for how she treated him. He speaks so rudely to her at times, but she answers him, and he explains better, and I loved their sort of banter so very much. It was so well written. There is so much going on in this book. Despite how short it was. And I couldn't help but treasure every moment that Bao and Lan spent together. He loved her so much. And she ruined his heart. Yet he is now growing to care for her again, with the time they are spending together now. And it was the cutest thing to read about. Their growing friendship was too cute. Truly written well. And I loved the world this story was set in. I loved the different customs and everything else. Mostly I simply loved Bao and Lan, though. Sigh. I would say that this book was a love story. The love story between a rich girl and a poor boy. The story of how she was so cruel to him and how he ended up being cursed because of this. Starting their two weeks long journey to save him. With them slowly starting to care more for each other. With her seeing him truly, finally. And I loved every single moment of it. I mean, sure, there were other parts to this story too. Some side characters that were interesting as well. But honestly. This was a love story. And it was done so well. Song of the Crimson Flower was everything I needed it to be and more. It was adorable and fun and so heartbreaking too. I loved almost every second of it. The characters were incredibly well done. And the romance pretty much killed me. The ending was great, though I wish it had been longer. This book was almost perfect for me. And it was just what I needed. Can't wait to own it when it comes out in November and read it again. Thank you to the publisher for my eARC via Edelweiss. So happy I could read it early. --- This review was first posted on my blog, Carina's Books, here: https://carinabooks.blogspot.com/2019...

  28. 5 out of 5

    Cindee

    I loved this book so much it had the most perfect ending that I have read in awhile and one of the best romances that I have read in awhile. The characters were so amazing I really loved being back in this world again the characters that I loved most were Lan and Bao. I know Lan made a mistake she did everything she could to make up for it Bao was one of the best Male Lead's I have read about in awhile he was kind compassionate and loving. I loved the romance between them it was slowly built up I loved this book so much it had the most perfect ending that I have read in awhile and one of the best romances that I have read in awhile. The characters were so amazing I really loved being back in this world again the characters that I loved most were Lan and Bao. I know Lan made a mistake she did everything she could to make up for it Bao was one of the best Male Lead's I have read about in awhile he was kind compassionate and loving. I loved the romance between them it was slowly built up as they both started to love the other deeply I really loved how at the ending there was a role reversal on a marriage proposal I found that fitting for that character that they would do what they wanted n asking for anything to do with their relationship. I loved the plot of this book it started with Lan making a mistake being so cruel to Bao she regretted it not long after and just wanted to apologize to him. So the curse happens he reluctantly accepts her help they set off to find the witch that cursed him. The story builds from there with a horrible tyrant and a awful sickness and the eventual ending that is very much happily ever after. So overall I loved this book I would definitely read more in this world if the author decided to write more,

  29. 4 out of 5

    Nikki Sojkowski

    I am SO thrilled and excited for another Julie C. Dao book. This book takes place within the same world of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, but with all new characters. If the YA trend of cutthroat, cold hearted, sword-wielding army girls is getting to you, this is the PERFECT book to pick up. Lan and Bao are soft human beings who are questing to break a curse. Bao is a healer, a physician’s assistant, and Lan is a noblewoman, rarely allowed to leave the household. Together they strike out for the I am SO thrilled and excited for another Julie C. Dao book. This book takes place within the same world of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, but with all new characters. If the YA trend of cutthroat, cold hearted, sword-wielding army girls is getting to you, this is the PERFECT book to pick up. Lan and Bao are soft human beings who are questing to break a curse. Bao is a healer, a physician’s assistant, and Lan is a noblewoman, rarely allowed to leave the household. Together they strike out for the witch who cursed Bao and get tied up in a stunning adventure! Seeing soft, emotional characters in my fantasy adventure setting was exactly what I needed. It made Lan and Bao a lot easier to connect to because they acted more like I would, and they had heartwarming, vulnerable scenes that open them up to the reader. The only reason this book isn’t getting 5 stars is because nothing seemed high-stakes and nothing in the last 40 pages or so was really shocking. It’s a sweet story, but I thought I’d be on my toes a bit for the finale and I wasn’t.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Alexandra Nae

    I won an ARC of this from a giveaway a few weeks ago. It’s my first every physical ARC and I am so grateful! I thought I’d have to read the first books in the series first, but I realized this was a companion novel and it could stand alone. And so, I dived in! This book was a nice, short read! The story weaved tales of unrequited love, dark magic, forgiving mistakes, fulfilling destinies, and families. Actual rating is 3.5 stars! Elegant yet funny writing From the get-go, the writing style of this I won an ARC of this from a giveaway a few weeks ago. It’s my first every physical ARC and I am so grateful! I thought I’d have to read the first books in the series first, but I realized this was a companion novel and it could stand alone. And so, I dived in! This book was a nice, short read! The story weaved tales of unrequited love, dark magic, forgiving mistakes, fulfilling destinies, and families. Actual rating is 3.5 stars! Elegant yet funny writing From the get-go, the writing style of this book was pretty elegant and formal, and I thought I wouldn’t have a lot of fun with it, but I was wrong! There were several quirks, funny lines, and funny moments. It was serious, yes, but the author managed to insert great moments that made me laugh throughout the book. I also love how the writing had a deeply emotional touch of unrequited love. The way the author described it—the feelings, the experience—its was amazing, and I loved it. Great characters I also adored the characters! Bao is just a big ball of sunshine and I want to wrap him up in a blanket and protect him from the whole world. He has so much hope for the people and so much positivity in life, you can’t help but be in awe of him. Lan, on the other hand, it took quite some time for me to warm up to her. At the end of the book though, I was so glad to see her bloom and grow and achieve that character development! There were a few interesting minor characters, too! Huong, Lady Yen, Commander Wei, and of course, Mistress Vy. I loved her as a villain, and for me, all her actions and logic just made so much sense. Uncomplicated yet exciting plot The plot of Song of the Crimson Flowers was fairly uncomplicated, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. It was uncomplicated in a way that it wasn’t too complex, not too hard to follow for a YA Fantasy book. Sometimes YA Fantasy novels can get so tangled up when it comes to their plots, but this book, for me, was not like that. It was exciting in its own way and I was still so interested with the characters and curious as to how the story will take shape. Also, apart from the main plot, the subplots will also hook you. There were elements about family, about identity, about love and marriage, about war and politics. I loved it! Nice world-building but… As a whole, I found the world-building nice. It was great to read about an East Asian-inspired fictional world. However, as much as I loved reading all about it, I can’t help but wish the book had a map. I haven’t read the two main books in the series, so I guess that’s why I had a little trouble imaging their nation, the kingdoms, and other relevant places in the story. It would have been nice to see a map as well just so the visualization was better. I really enjoyed this book! I hope I get to read more of the author’s works soon! (This book review was first published on Enthralled Bookworm.)

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