Book Review: Wild Orchid

Title: Wild Orchid

Author: Cameron Dokey

Genre: YA, Romance

Pages: 203 pages

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Publishing Year: 2009

2015 Reading Challenge: A book you can finish in a day

Wild Orchid by Cameron Dokey tells the story of Mulan, a young girl in China, who can shoot an arrow just as easily as she can use a sewing needle. In China, it was very rare to have these very different skills. Most girls never learned to read or write, let alone use weapons.

“Acting with discipline requires you to know your true nature and, having come to know it, to bring it under control. On the surface I might have appeared unruly and unladylike, preferring boy’s tasks to my own…There wasn’t a girl in all China who had my unusual combination of skills, no matter that I looked like a simple country girl on the outside.” – Wild Orchid by Cameron Dokey.

Very similar to Before Midnight, Mulan’s mother dies in childbirth and after hearing of his wife’s death, Mulan’s father named General Hua is filled with anguish. He decides to continues to fight for the emperor, and doesn’t return to his estate for thirteen years. General Hua and Mulan’s mother married for love, which was rare in China at the time, most marriages were arranged and love followed. Therefore General Hua thought that it was his fault for following his heart, an omen that caused Mulan’s mother’s death. He forbids anyone from speaking Mulan’s mother’s name again. Mulan is raised by Min Xian and Old Lao who are sort of like the housekeepers for the Hua family compound.

“Because I am a child created by true love when my parents were granted their hearts’ desires. So it only makes sense that I would wish to follow my heart too.” – Wild Orchid by Cameron Dokey.

When he does finally return, Mulan is a young girl and nothing like he thought she would be.

“I thought that I would never return to this place, he said quietly. I did not wish to, after your mother died. I have been a soldier almost all of my life. I have seen death. I have taken away life. Death on the battlefield is something I understand. It may not be easy, but if one dies performing his duty, a soldier dies an honourable death.” – Wild Orchid by Cameron Dokey.

When the emperor asks each family to send at least one male to fight in the great army, Mulan answers the summons to save her newfound father and bring her family honour. And this is where her adventure truly begins.

“‘This was a lot easier when I could dress like a boy,’ I said. General Yuwen smiled. ‘I’m sure it was, and I sympathize. Unfortunately you are not a boy.'” – Wild Orchid by Cameron Dokey.

This was by far my favourite book in the Once Upon a Time series (I also read Before Midnight and Golden this week). I have been disappointed in the past with these books in terms of character development and lack of climax. I’ve just been wanting more from the over

Also this one to me felt closest to the tale of Mulan that I know from my childhood. There are a few differences, but maybe not as drastic as having no hair like in Golden.

I still wish from Wild Orchid that there had been more detail/storyline when she joined the army. She unceremoniously has her hair cut, she joins the army, and she luckily enough ends up with the elite archers due to her military connections, and then a few days later they’re in a battle. It seemed like the story was sped up significantly. When people join the army do they not undergo training? What about showering or bathing (I’m assuming in a river), wouldn’t the men figure out she’s not a boy? They never discussed these interactions/activities in the book, and so it seemed like she had a fairly easy time covering up her sex. I don’t think that would have happened in real life.

There is a prophecy mentioned at the beginning of the book that one of the emperor’s sons will help to determine the fate of China, and by the end the prophecy doesn’t turn out exactly how everyone thought. And I think it leaves a clear message that you can change your destiny, you can be anything that you want to be. And I think that is evident with many of the characters, including Mulan. Also in terms of role models, I have always thought that Mulan is a character that young girls should emulate. She’s not perfect, but her determination and discipline to be herself, even if that is different from the norm, is a great model for young girls trying to find themselves.

Overall great read and very easy read. I finished it in less than a day. It helped that I was at the cottage, but still one could finish it in a very short amount of time. I give this book a 4 out of 5. I thought the story carried a bit better, and I liked the ending much better than Before Midnight and Golden, however there were still a few plot holes that needed clearing up.

Next on my list is Foxcatcher by Mark Schultz (with David Thomas). And I am off the cottage again next weekend so it will hopefully be a good reading week.

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