Book Review of The Fire Horse Girl by Kay Honeyman

Posted February 18, 2013 by Kara in Uncategorized / 27 Comments

Publisher: Arthur A. Levine
Release Date: January 1st, 2013
Pages: 336
Genre: Young Adult-Historical
Source: NetGalley

Description from GoodreadsA fiery and romantic adventure, perfect for fans of Grace Lin, Kristen Cashore, or Lisa See!

Jade Moon is a Fire Horse — the worst sign in the Chinese zodiac for girls, said to make them stubborn, willful, and far too imaginative. But while her family despairs of marrying her off, she has a passionate heart and powerful dreams, and wants only to find a way to make them come true.

Then a young man named Sterling Promise comes to their village to offer Jade Moon and her father a chance to go to America. While Sterling Promise’s smooth manners couldn’t be more different from her own impulsive nature, Jade Moon falls in love with him on the long voyage. But America in 1923 doesn’t want to admit many Chinese, and when they are detained at Angel Island, the “Ellis Island of the West,” she discovers a betrayal that destroys all her dreams. To get into America, much less survive there, Jade Moon will have to use all her stubbornness and will to break a new path . . . one as brave and dangerous as only a Fire Horse girl can imagine.

Review: Well this was a nice surprise! This book received a couple of positive reviews from my friends, but only a few read it, and there has not been a ton of hype or blogging activity over this book. And that is a damn shame. Because The Fire Horse Girl is possible my favorite read of 2013 so far. I know, I know, I only gave it 4 stars, but what it does have in minor flaws, it makes up for in originality, creativity, and bad-ass writing.

Jade Moon is the type of protagonist I am always searching for but rarely find. When the story begins she is in the Chinese village she has grown up in. Jade moon is a Fire Horse girl (fire sign born in the year of the horse) and according to Chinese astrology, this means her family is cursed. If she stays in Guangdong Province, she is doomed to be married to a 4th son bricklayer because that is the best match her family can obtain for her. So when the opportunity arises for her to immigrate to America, she takes it. 

And this is just the beginning. The prose is utterly gorgeous and captivating. I loved Jade’s voice and characterization. She was strong, a fighter, and determined to stand up for herself in a completely patriarchal society. Which brings me to my next point. The Fire Horse Girl is well-researched and historically accurate. You will not likely enjoy the male characters in this book. As annoying as this is, it is as it should be. Because unfortunately females in China during this time were seen as the lesser sex and had to answer to the men in their lives. I just want to warn any female readers going into this one. That if this is not something you can handle, I would not recommend this book for you.

One other complaint? I didn’t much care for the way one plot thread was concluded. I wish I could talk about it, but without giving spoilers, I cannot. If you have read the book though and wish to discuss this with me, I’d be happy to. 

This book was rich in atmosphere; each new setting was brilliantly rendered, and the book was exciting enough to keep me flipping from page to page and I never once wanted to put it down. There was a portion of the book towards the halfway point–the immigration section–that was a little slow for me, but I found it interesting enough to keep turning the pages even so. I feel like I learned a lot from this book, and I had really no interest in visiting San Francisco, but now I do. WHOA. I must see Chinatown! 

I highly recommend this book to almost any reader. And you guys know how much I love Asian fiction. The ones I have been reading lately have let me down, but not this one. It was fabulous. I would even reread it if I had time. Unfortunately I don’t, but I don’t think you will be disappointed with this one if you decide to read it. It pretty much blew me away!

4/5 Stars

27 responses to “Book Review of The Fire Horse Girl by Kay Honeyman

  1. Sam

    I’ve been seeing a few positive reviews from friends for this too. It always annoys me a little actually when a good book isn’t given the marketing attention it deserves. But anyway, I think I’ll definitely be picking this up. Despite the conclusion to one of the plot threads not being quite what you wanted, I’m glad you were impressed with the rest of it. Brilliant review!

  2. I’m so glad you enjoyed this one! I loved it and am thrilled it’s finally getting the attention it deserves. I can’t wait to see what Honeyman writes next!(:

  3. Amy

    I haven’t heard of this one, but it sounds really great!! I know that it had to have been really good if it’s one of your favorite reads this year so far. Great review!!

  4. I really liked this and have a review coming up this week for it. My big complaint was that I thought the America sections were much more interesting than the beginning China sections-it seemed to take a while for the book to hit its stride but once it did, I could not put this down!

  5. Right. So after reading this review, I am definitely eager to get my paws on a copy of this book. Being Chinese myself, it’s always interesting for me to read stories like this, I mean a historical YA novel with a Chinese protagonist? Yes. Yes please. Now I’m hoping my local bookstore starts stocking copies of this. Great review!

  6. As soon as I saw this I knew you’d be reading it! I’m so glad you liked it. The few people I’ve seen review this book have tended to enjoy it, and while I’m not the biggest fan of overbearing male characters, I can deal with it when it’s historically and culturally accurate. I’m definitely going to pick this one up as soon as the chance arises.

    Also – I really love the cover. I love the gender-benderness about it, and I love that the cover model is (GORGEOUS) Asian!

    • Oh you know my reading tastes so well! Male characters in Asian novels generally piss me off, but that’s because of the way their culture and customs are. In this case it is historically accurate as annoying as that is, so I let it slide.

      I love that there is an Asian girl on the cover but I don’t love it otherwise. That said, it does relate to the novel so it works for me even if it isn’t a favorite.

  7. I saw this on Netgalley but I hadn’t heard anything about it, now this is the second positive review I’ve seen of it and I really like the sound of the MC and the setting sounds so rich and wonderful!


    I am utterly 100% thrilled that you loved this. Seriously, thrilled. Because you know, I was nervous you wouldn’t because you have higher standards than I do and it’s always a little nervewracking when someone you like reads a book you like and that whole element of omg omg what if they think less of me for liking something they didn’t. Alas, I am totally neurotic.


    I loved Jade Moon and how she basically just grabs what she wants and shapes her own fate. I definitely agree about how awesome she is as a protagonist.

    One last YAY from me! YAYYYYY!

    • I have higher standards than you? Nuh uh. This is news to me. I don’t believe you! 😀 But I do know what you mean. There is someone on Goodreads reading this right now and I am super nervouse she won’t like it because she has higher standards than I do! So I can totally relate here.

      I totally agree about Jade Moon. She was fabulous!

      Also, I loved this comment!

  9. I have never heard of this book before, but wow I love the cover! It’s really striking.
    Jade sounds like a look a great character. I’m pretty sure that I will like her since she seems so badass!
    I’m glad to hear that you learned something from this book. Isn’t that the greatest feeling ever? I love when a book teaches me something that I don’t know. I’m definitely adding this book to my wish-list!
    Great review, Kara and thanks for spotlighting it! 🙂

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