Please note that this a sequel, there will be major spoilers of book one, The Dragon Warrior. but I will keep it spoiler free for The Fallen Hero.
Faryn Liu thought she was the Heaven Breaker, a warrior destined to wield the all-powerful spear Fenghuang, command dragons, and defeat demons. But a conniving goddess was manipulating her all along…and her beloved younger brother, Alex, has betrayed her and taken over as the Heaven Breaker instead. Alex never forgave the people who treated him and Faryn like outcasts, and now he wants to wipe out both the demons and most of humanity.
Determined to prevent a war and bring Alex back to her side, Faryn and her half-dragon friend Ren join the New Order, a group of warriors based out of Manhattan’s Chinatown. She learns that one weapon can stand against Fenghuang–the Ruyi Jingu Bang. Only problem? It belongs to an infamous trickster, the Monkey King.
Faryn sets off on a daring quest to convince the Monkey King to join forces with her, one that will take her to new places–including Diyu, otherwise known as the Underworld–where she’ll run into new dangers and more than one familiar face. Can she complete her mission and save the brother she loves, no matter the cost?
The Fallen Hero follows Faryn and her friends in a quest to save the world (again). Along the way, she reunites with old friends, meets new deities (and demons), and grows so much. Once again, Katie Zhao delivers an action-packed story with the perfect heartwarming moments and best jokes. This is such a thoughtful and nuance series, at its core a story about family.
To say I was excited to read this series, it’s an understatement. So many twitter friends have loved it and it has some of my favorite elements; best friends turned rivals turned friends, messy sibling relationships, adventures, a sarcastic main character, and a world based on mythology. Book one was an exploration of the chosen one trope, Faryn making her way as a warrior with the help of her friends and family. So I was pleasantly surprised when Katie turned around the trope, making her protagonist not the great warrior anymore. It was such a great plot twist, with Alex betrayal right there, too.
What happens when you are not the chosen one anymore?
Although I appreciate and enjoy chosen one stories, I’m even more excited to see the journey of someone who’s ordinary, who has to work hard and needs help to accomplish their goals. See, this series is about family and relationships at its core, and Faryn was never alone like she thought. She may not be the Heaven Breaker, but she’s a warrior in her own.
I adore how this sequel developed more Faryn’s friendships, from her old and new friends. This one of my favorite things of the series, how complex and messy sometimes the relationships are. They tease and laugh, but also hold hands in hard times. Faryn’s love is so fierce and strong and it’s her relationships, her connection with her brother, father and ancestors that make her grow. I really liked the new siblings, Ashley and Jordan, and it was great to see REDACTED. Sorry not sorry, you will have to read book to scream with me about them.
I also appreciated how The Fallen Hero expands Faryn’s family, she’s reunited with her father and meeting her ancestors, but she also realizes that her friends are part of that family too. Found family makes my heart happy.
This story has such beautiful gut-punching moments because this such an emotional charged book, from fierce love to frustration, The Fallen Hero had me in tears many times. I would never say this is a sad book but it does have a melancholic tone as what Faryn wishes for (and what we wish for her), her reconnection with Alex, feels so far away and impossible.
Her voice, the narration, is something I adore, too. This book is genuinely funny, very charming and it feels like talking with a friend. Faryn’s conflicted feelings go beyond the page, bringing me to tears, and the next page she will make smile with one of her sarcastic remarks. I think this is just one my favorite things from middle-grade novels; the way they can make a joke after making very honest and raw comments and it feels natural.
And Faryn is such a charming main character. I adore her in book 1 and even more in here. She’s so unapologetic in her beliefs, with a big heart and to see her grow more confident in herself and her own strengths is incredible. The more we see of her messiness, the more I adore her. She can have quiet the temper and she likes fighting with her friends, she gets angry at the Gods and just wants to be do what’s right, even when it’s hard. Seriously, all the love to her.
It was great to see here more about the world-building in here. The series is based on Chinese mythology, where the Gods move to the west as people immigrated. In different Chinatowns across the United States, warriors are trained to protect society from demons. In book one we saw San Francisco’s Chinatown, home of the Jade City society, but book two is set in Manhattan and these new warriors are nothing like the ones Faryn knows. Throughout the book we got to see new deities like the Monkey King and King Yama. I love stories where the magic is set in contemporary times, hiding from society. There are all these small details to cover up this whole world and they’re justified as quirks of cities.
I’m going to be honest, I thought this was a duology. I was getting closer to the last chapter, I realized we would need a third book because there was not time for all the things I needed to happen. So I’m very excited to see how the adventures end. And I hope Katie doesn’t make us cry too much, please let our children have the happy endings they deserve!
About the author
Katie Zhao is a 2017 graduate of the University of Michigan with a B.A. in English and Political Science, and a 2018 Masters of Accounting at the same university. She is the author of Chinese #ownvoices middle grade fantasy THE DRAGON WARRIOR (Bloomsbury Kids, October 2019 & 2020), as well as a young adult author. She is a mentor for Author Mentor Match. She is currently open to freelance editorial services for young adult and middle grade manuscripts.