Saturday, January 24, 2015

Review: The Wild Orchid: A Retelling of "The Ballad of Mulan" (Once Upon A Time Fairytales) by Cameron Dokey

"Once upon a Time" Is Timeless

Wielding a sword as deftly as an embroidery needle, Mulan is unlike any other girl in China. When the emperor summons a great army, each family must send a male to fight, tom-boyish Mulan is determined to spare her aging father and bring her family honor, so she disguises herself and answers the call.
But Mulan never expects to find a friend, let alone a soul mate, in the commander of her division, Prince Jian. For all of Mulan's courage with a bow and arrow, is she brave enough to share her true identity and feelings with Prince Jian?

I'm a huge fan of the Disney portrayal of Mulan, and we discussed the Ballad of Mulan in college, so I was curious about how this retelling of the Ballad of Mulan would play out.

The Wild Orchid tells the story of a young girl named Mulan, who is the daughter of a famous general. Unlike most girls, Mulan has a lot of skills that are usually only known to males. When the Huns threaten to invade China again, Mulan decides to serve in her father's place.

This particular retelling is somewhere in the middle of the Disney version and the older versions of The Ballad of Mulan. That is, obviously, there are no dragons here, but unlike the original stories, there's a love interest.

The style is relatively formal, which helps make it easier to imagine that this was written by a woman in Ancient China. Occasionally, there were Chinese words and phrases, but their meaning in English were stated immediately so comprehension isn't a problem.

The twists about Mulan's parents and her father not coming home right away is something new and adds depth to the story and Mulan's motivations. Mulan's childhood friend was interesting, and I'm glad that it wasn't made into a love-triangle sort of thing.

I liked the characters in this book a lot, however, I felt like the story was too short for me to be appropriately invested in their futures.

I'm glad that Mulan has a love interest in Prince Jian, who is certainly a match for her. My favorite moment between them was their impromptu archery contest. However, I felt like their romance was unexpectedly fast. Unlike in the Disney movie wherein Shang and Mulan were able to interact as male-male and male-female in combat and you can practically see the sparks, here it feels like insta-romance, almost.

I would have liked if the story was extended a bit so that Prince Jian and Mulan had at least one more scene to solidify their attraction/love.


  1. There are interesting plot twists.
  2. The characters are likable.
  3. The family drama makes Mulan's story more interesting. 


  1. Mulan and Prince Jian's romance feels rushed. 

All of us show many faces to the world. No one shows her true face all of the time. To do that would be dangerous, for what is seen can also be known.

  1. Mulan is your favorite Disney princess.
  2. You like reading fairy tale re-tellings.
  3. You like heroines that are smart and brave.




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