Sebin, a young tiger spirit from the Juhwang Clan, wants nothing more than to join the Thousand World Space Forces and, like their Uncle Hwan, captain a battle cruiser someday. But when Sebin’s acceptance letter finally arrives, it’s accompanied by the shocking news that Hwan has been declared a traitor. Apparently, the captain abandoned his duty to steal a magical artifact, the Dragon Pearl, and his whereabouts are still unknown. Sebin hopes to help clear their hero’s name and restore honour to the clan.
Nothing goes according to plan, however. As soon as Sebin arrives for orientation, they are met by a special investigator named Yi and his assistant, a girl named Min. Yi informs Sebin that they must immediately report to the ship Haetae and await further instructions. Sebin finds this highly unusual, but soon all protocol is forgotten when there’s an explosion on the ship, the crew is knocked out, and the communication system goes down. It’s up to Sebin, three other cadets, and Yi and Min to determine who is sabotaging the battlecruiser. When Sebin is suddenly accused of collaborating with the enemy, the cadet realizes that Min is the most dangerous foe of all…
I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.
Review will contain minor spoilers for Yoon Ha Lee’s Dragon Pearl
A tightly written military sci-fi middle-grade novel, that serves as a not-quite-sequel to Lee’s first foray into Middle Grade, Dragon Pearl (read my 3* review here). A year after Min’s adventure into Dragon Pearl, we meet Sebin, a young, non-binary tiger spirit whose life dream is to follow their uncle’s path into the Thousand World Space Force. However, after their uncle’s actions in Dragon Pearl, he’s been labeled a traitor and Sebin is determined to clear his name.
Unlike the grand sweeping adventures of Dragon Pearl, one of my favorite elements of Tiger Honor is the tightness of the plot and pacing. The bulk of the story takes place over only several days, as things go wrong from almost the moment Sebin boards their first ship assignment. While the first 30% of so start fairly slowly to set the scene (Sebin is a very detailed narrator), the pacing quickly speeds up as alliances are made and broken, and hidden identities revealed.
Personally, I had mixed opinions about Sebin. On one hand, their strive for honor in all things, to read and follow every rule assigned, will easily make them a fan favorite to overachieving students (like myself, had I read this as a child). On the other hand, their strictness to rule-following did get frustrating at times. I did wish the rest of the cast was more fleshed out since the focus of this book was very much Sebin, but I can easily see further development in future novels in this world.
Amusingly, I think reading this book as an early twenty-something (very much not the target demographic here), it’s amusing to recognize that Sebin and their fellow cadets are very much child soldiers shuttled along to fight in wars. That being said, this is a MG novel and as an adult, a strong suspense of disbelief is required. I loved that Sebin and the other cadets are regarded with full respect from their adult commanders and their age was never a factor when presenting information to the adult characters.
Overall, I rate this a 4/5. The pacing starts slowly but quickly kicks into high gear as the puzzle pieces settle into place. Lee has once against constructed a vivid military sci-fi world inspired by Korean mythology.
r/Fantasy 2021-22 Bingo Squares:
- 1st Person POV
- Trans/NB Character (hard mode)