Although after reading his introduction to Pahua and the Soul Stealer, we’re already cheering for the dancing mushroom spirits. This book has dancing mushroom spirits, people . . . not to mention shaman warriors and magical guardian elephants! How can anyone possibly resist its charms?
Read more of Rick’s praise for the book below. On-sale date is Tuesday, September 7. We’re less than a week away!
Be Careful. Some Gongs You Can’t Un-Ring.
I never say this about books, but in the case of Pahua and the Soul Stealer, you should start at the end. The author’s note from Lori M. Lee offers powerful insights into how this book was created, how challenging it can be to draw on tales from an oral-storytelling tradition when writing a novel, and how much Pahua will mean to young readers who have never seen themselves represented in a fantasy adventure before.
I will admit I knew next to nothing about Hmong culture and their traditional stories before reading Pahua. Now I understand how much I’ve been missing. Check out the glossary, also at the end. You’ll get a preview of the rich and fascinating world that awaits you, full of secretive gods, brave shaman warriors, ubiquitous spirits, restless ghosts, formidable dragons, magical guardian elephants, multiple realms of reality, and a talking invisible cat named Miv (which, spoiler alert, means cat).
But you don’t have to know anything about Hmong stories to appreciate this book. If you’ve ever felt like you don’t fit in, like you’re too different to belong, you will relate perfectly to the predicament of our young hero, Pahua. Like most eleven-year-olds, Pahua just wants to have a normal life. Alas, she worries she’ll never make friends in her tiny adopted hometown of Merdel, Wisconsin. Not only is she Hmong is an overwhelmingly white town . . . Not only is her family struggling to get by since her dad left them . . . Pahua also has a secret she can’t even share with her mom or her little brother: She has always been able to see spirits all around her.
Pahua can’t even get dressed without having her fashion choices criticized by her cat spirit buddy, Miv, or by the fire spirit who lives in their stove. She can’t walk down the street without encountering dozens of dancing mushroom spirits, tree spirits, and air spirits. At least those are friendly. She can’t say the same for human ghosts and demons from other realms. . . .Usually, Pahua is able to steer clear of dangerous apparitions, but one day, when she reluctantly follows some classmates to the local haunted bridge, she makes the mistake of trying to be nice to a little girl ghost. This simple act of kindness starts a domino effect of spiritual mishaps that threatens to tear Pahua’s world apart and take her brother Matt away forever. Of course, being tough, smart, and brave, Pahua tries to set things right. She grabs her aunt’s old shaman tools—a gong for summoning spirits and a dull-edged sword that can only hurt otherworldly entities—and returns to the bridge . . . where she immediately manages to make things even worse.
Bummer. It’s going to take Pahua a while to learn to be a true shaman warrior. Unfortunately, she’s only got three days to save Matt. Along the way, she’ll have to handle a whole lot of dragons, ghosts, demons, and monsters, including a poj ntxoog (tiger spirit) with questionable fashion sense, and a malevolent god who looks suspiciously like Kylo Ren.
I love the adventures Pahua has in this book. I also love the sense of humor, the clever plotting, and the fantastic cast of characters. But most of all I love Pahua: her courage, her kindness, and her love for her family. You’ll be cheering for her to succeed, even if she does occasionally make mistakes and, you know, summon entities into the human world that could destroy everything she cares about. You always have to be careful with mythological forces, after all. Some gongs you can’t un-ring. One thing I can promise you, though: You’ll be glad you made friends with Pahua!