Book Review: Daughters of the Dragon by William Andrews

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Title: Daughters of the Dragon: A Comfort Woman's Story

Author: William Andrews
Release Date: January 8th 2014
Publisher: MADhouse Press 
Source: Sent for review 
Rating: ★★
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DURING WORLD WAR II, the Japanese forced 200,000 young Korean women to be sex slaves or “comfort women” for their soldiers. This is one woman’s riveting story of strength, courage and promises kept. 

In 1943, the Japanese tear young Ja-hee and her sister from their peaceful family farm to be comfort women for the Imperial Army. Before they leave home, their mother gives them a magnificent antique comb with an ivory inlay of a two-headed dragon, saying it will protect them. The sisters suffer terribly at the hands of the Japanese, and by the end of the war, Ja-hee must flee while her sister lies dying. Ja-hee keeps her time as a comfort woman a secret while she struggles to rebuild her life. She meets a man in North Korea who shows her what true love is. But the communists take him away in the middle of the night, and she escapes to the South. There, she finally finds success as the country rebuilds after the Korean War. However when her terrible secret is revealed, she’s thrown into poverty. In the depths of despair, she’s tempted to sell the comb with the two-headed dragon that she believes has no magic for her. Then one day she discovers its true meaning and her surprising heredity. And now she must find the only person who can carry on the legacy of the two-headed dragon… someone she abandoned years ago. 

Set within the tumultuous backdrop of 20th century Korea, Daughters of the Dragon by Mayhaven Award-winning author William Andrews will make you cry and cheer for Ja-hee. And in the end, you’ll have a better understanding of the Land of the Morning Calm. 

Daughters of the Dragon is inspired by The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini, Memiors of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, the books of Amy Tan and Lisa See.


My Review: 

I'm a big fan of historical fiction, ranging from stories based on real people from history and just about the time setting in itself. I didn't know much about Japan and Korea during WWII and the Korean War, let alone about 'comfort women', women who were kidnapped and forced into prostitution in the latter half of the 20th century. 

The subject matter is ambitious and bringing to light and writing about events and suffering that happened in history, but isn't as well known to the public, is certainly worthy of respect, however, it doesn't excuse the vast amount of problems this novel had. 

It's always difficult to write about another culture and try to sell that and have the reader connect with that character and relate, especially when it's a western audience reading about a culture in the east, where the culture and politics are so different. Andrews succeeds in this, with none of the characters just being a bunch of Asian stereotypes.

However, the writing is so rudimentary that the story falls flat. The narration is dull and overly simple and the author rushed through paragraphs just to get to the 'good stuff.' It definitely suffers from telling not showing and cutting up dialogue and cramming it into a paragraph to rush through to the next part. 

For example: 

"Maybe I can make this quick. I tell her I don't think I should have the comb and that I came to return it. She says I might change my mind when I hear her story. I ask her why but she doesn't answer and continues to stare at me. I fidget in my chair. I realize I don't know her name. I ask her what it is. "

Paragraphs like that are just randomly interjected between scenes of dialogue and it comes off as lazy and uninspired. 

There's little to no character development of Anna, the granddaughter of Ja-hee, which the story is about and is told to Anna through a series of flashbacks. I have trouble believing that an American would go to a Korean ghetto and believe the first person that tells her she's her biological grandmother and sit in her house and listen to her life story for hours. The set up was ridiculous. 

Overall, I was disappointed with Daughters of the Dragon since the concept was interesting, but the writing made the story fall completely flat. 

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