3.5 stars. My niece and I enjoyed this book, and as a former martial arts instructor I especially appreciated that this story got so much about martial arts (not just kung fu) right. Martial arts, when taught properly, teaches students volumes about mental, emotional, and physical self-control. This book takes that concept and stresses, as properly taught martial arts does, that through self-control one ultimately achieves strength, self-determination, and freedom. I loved
that this book featured female martial artists, and showed them as strong, capable people who were able and confident enough to set and follow their own paths in life.
I honestly don't know how much of all of that my niece got out of the book, though. I think she just thought it was a good story. She was more concerned that Wu Mei shaved her head in accordance with Shaolin practice. When Mingyi decided to devote herself to learning kung fu, my niece exclaimed, "does this mean she's going to shave her head?!" Not really the pertinent point in the story, but whatever.
This book was far too long and meditative to hold my nephew's attention. He couldn't have cared less about it. He just wanted to skip the life lessons and get down to the fighting. Remember that self-control I mentioned above? Let's just say that some properly taught martial arts would not be wasted on the boy.