“The Library of Legends is a gorgeous, poetic journey threaded with mist and magic about a group from a Chinese university who take to the road to escape the Japanese invasion of 1937 – only to discover that danger stalks them from within. Janie Chang pens pure enchantment!” —Kate Quinn, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Alice Network and The Huntress
From the author of Three Souls and Dragon Springs Road comes a captivating historical novel—the third in a loosely-connected trilogy—in which a young woman travels across China with a convoy of student refugees, fleeing the hostilities of a brutal war with Japan.
“Myths are the darkest and brightest incarnations of who we are…”
China, 1937: When Japanese bombs begin falling on the city of Nanking, nineteen-year-old Hu Lian and her classmates at Minghua University are ordered to flee. Lian and a convoy of more than a hundred students, faculty, and staff must walk a thousand miles to the safety of China’s western provinces, a journey marred by hunger, cold, and the constant threat of aerial attack. And it is not just the student refugees who are at risk: Lian and her classmates have been entrusted with a priceless treasure, a 500-year-old collection of myths and folklore known as the Library of Legends.
Her family’s past has made Lian wary of forming attachments, but the students’ common duty to safeguard the Library of Legends forms unexpected bonds. Lian finds friendship and a cautious romance with the handsome and wealthy Liu Shaoming. But after one classmate is murdered and another arrested, Lian realizes she must escape from the convoy before a family secret puts her in danger. Accompanied by Shao and the enigmatic maidservant Sparrow, Lian makes her way to Shanghai, hoping to reunite with her mother.
On the journey, Lian learns of the connection between her two companions and a tale from the Library of Legends, The Willow Star and the Prince. Learning Shao and Sparrow’s true identities compels Lian to confront her feelings for Shao. But there are broader consequences too, for as the ancient books travel across China, they awaken immortals and guardian spirits to embark on an exodus of their own, one that changes the country’s fate forever.
Based on true events, rich in Chinese history and lore, The Library of Legends is both an illuminating exploration of China’s recent past and an evocative tale of love, sacrifice, and the extraordinary power of storytelling.
Chang (Dragon Springs Road) explores the effects of the Second Sino-Japanese War on students in this spellbinding tale. In 1937, after the Japanese bomb Nanking, students at Minghua University flee to an interim campus in Chengtu, including a group entrusted with Minghua's sacred 147 encyclopedia volumes from the Ming dynasty, known as the Library of Legends. Hu Lian, 19, enrolled in Minghua to study the volumes. Now, on the journey with them to Chengtu, she is intent on letting her mother in Shanghai know about the evacuation as she befriends fellow student Liu Shaoming "Shao" and his servant, Sparrow. Their travels are fraught with the perils of bombing raids and poor living conditions, yet Lian continues her research on Willow Star, a legend about an immortal princess who returns to Earth with each of her reincarnations, and begins falling for Shao. In a supernatural twist, Lian discovers Sparrow is Willow Star, and fears that as long as Sparrow remains on Earth, Shao will never return her love. As the journey becomes more dangerous, Shao and Sparrow join Lian as she veers off for Shanghai where she hopes to find her mother. Chang expertly weaves mysticism and historical details, and sets up a cast of memorable characters. This will charm readers from the very first page.
I loved the interweaving of supernatural and historic elements in this story of China’s past. By the time I finished the book the two elements seemed inseparable. Meirong was spot on when she said “maybe legends are truer to our natures than serious literature.” And so what happens to us as a culture when we forget, trivialize or eschew our legends?
Beautifully told story.