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Chinese Cinderella and the Secret Dragon Society    by Adeline Yen Mah order for
Chinese Cinderella and the Secret Dragon Society
by Adeline Yen Mah
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2005 (2005)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Instead of a prince and a happy-ever-after (probably dull) life in a palace, this Chinese version of Cinderella reflects a life of discipline and adventure, and the opportunity to make a difference in the world. The story takes place in early 1940s Shanghai, during WW II. After the bombing of Pearl Harbour, 16 U.S. planes took off from an aircraft carrier to bomb Japanese cities. Afterwards, most of these 'Doolittle Raiders' crashlanded in China, some in Japanese held territory. The fates of this story's heroine, Ye Xian, and of her adopted mixed race ('za zhong') brothers, are entangled with those of the young American airmen.

Ye Xian lives with her wealthy father and hateful, controlling stepmother in Shanghai. One day, on her way to visit her beloved 'Big Aunt', she stops to watch a team of boy acrobats. David gives her a card advertizing a martial arts academy, the 'Dragon Society of Wandering Knights'. At her aunt's home is a visitor who names the girl 'Chinese Cinderella', CC for short. Sadly, Big Aunt is leaving for a visit to the island of Nan Tian. The next day, after a vicious clash with her stepmother, CC is thrown out of her home. Her aunt gone, she wanders the streets until she remembers the card and finds refuge with the Dragon Society. There, she finds welcome from a group of similar strays, of various religions.

CC learns about 'Qi', the life force in all living things, and is trained in kung fu. There are three boys - David is half-American, Marat half-Russian, and Sam half-German. All have suffered. Soon after CC is accepted into the Society, she and the boys act as secret agents in a dangerous mission to help Doolittle Raiders reach safety. That alone would make an exciting tale, but there's more. There's betrayal and tragedy, and a daring prison break engineered by CC, who finally must leave Shanghai with the new family who've taught her that 'the future belongs to us!'

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