The Blurb On The Back:
It’s Chinese New Year and Jack is excited to celebrate and watch the traditional lion dance. But in the Jade Kingdom the mythical New Year beast is real – and really dangerous!
Jack can’t help feeling scared to battle the creature that haunts his nightmares. Can he face his fears and save the Jade Kingdom?
TIGER WARRIOR: RISE OF THE LION BEAST was released in the United Kingdom on 20th January 2022. Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.
You can order TIGER WARRIOR: RISE OF THE LION BEAST by M. Chan from Amazon UK, Waterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK. I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.
The Review (Cut For Spoilers):
It’s Lunar New Year and one of Jack’s favourite times of the year. He, his mum and his grandfather, Yeye, spend it in the Chinese Community Centre, eating lovely food, listening to a storyteller, letting off firecrackers and finishing up by receiving money in red hongbao envelopes. The only thing Jack doesn’t like about Lunar New Year is the story of Nian, the lion-headed beast who hunts humans – and preferably children – but who can be scared off with loud noises and the colour red. Jack doesn’t want to admit it, but he finds Nian very frightening.
It’s also Lunar New Year in the Jade Kingdom where Nian is all too real and the people in the kingdom have to take precautions to make sure he stays away. So when the evil Dragon King finds away to cancel out the protection and lets Nian loose to hunt the people, the Kingdom needs the Tiger Warrior to save them. Helped by the Emperor’s daughter, Princess Li, and the zodiac creatures who lend him their powers, Jack has to find a way to scare off Nian, but how can he do that when he’s so scared himself?
The 3rd in M. Chan’s TIGER WARRIOR fantasy series for readers aged 6+ continues to make good use of the Chinese zodiac and mythology with Alan Brown’s illustrations adding to its energy. I liked the way Chan shows Jack’s fears and his relationship with the always fearful Rabbit and although the story is a little jumpy, younger readers will enjoy it – especially the martial arts scenes – and it does convey aspects of Chinese culture.
I haven’t read the second book in this series, but you don’t need to in order to follow the story here. I enjoyed the way that Chan gives younger readers a good idea of how people in the Chinese community spend Lunar New Year and also how Jack’s mum (who is not Chinese) nevertheless actively tries to keep Jack involved in that part of his heritage. There’s less Yeye in this book and also not so much Princess Li because the focus is much more on Jack and how he has to tackle his fear of Nian.
Chan does this particularly well by using the zodiac animal of Rabbit, who is generally afraid of everything, to teach Jack how to face his fears. I enjoyed the relationship between them and as someone whose own Chinese zodiac sign is a rabbit, I liked seeing him have a chance to shine plus he has a pretty cool power that he lends to Jack. I’ve also got a soft spot for Pig who is constantly eating and views everything through whether it affected his appetite.
The Dragon King remains a bit of a one-dimensional villain but the target readership won’t really worry about that as he’s suitably mean and evil.
Chan puts plenty of action into the book with some good fight scenes but the plot is a little jumpy – again, not something that the larger readership will pick up on but older readers who are helping them may notice. Alan Brown’s illustrations do add to the sense of pace and the manga-style feel works well with the nature of the story.
All in all, this remains a perfectly good read that the target readership will enjoy and as a Rabbit, I liked his central role. It’s still not a book that automatically hits my buttons but there’s enough here for young readers who are keen on Chinese mythology and martial arts.