Tiger Honor is the latest in the Rick Riordan series of global mythologies for middle grade readers, and this one stood out from others I’ve read. Instead of the common approach of a lengthy exposition leading to a climactic moment, this story focuses intensely on one primary event for the majority of the novel. Thirteen-year-old Sebin desperately wants to join the Space Forces, but they find themselves struggling to make the right choice when determining whether their family or the military holds greater importance. Incorporating non-binary characters, Korean culture, and supernatural elements, this story is an action-packed roller coaster ride for middle grade readers. Please see my full review below!
Family honor is mightily important to the Juhwang clan, but thirteen-year-old Sebin finds themself caught between their alliance to blood and their desire to serve in the armed forces. For as long as they can remember, Sebin has dreamed of joining the Thousand Worlds Space Forces and finding a place aboard a starship bound for destinations unknown. Sebin’s long-awaited acceptance into the Forces arrives on the same day as a notice of their Uncle Hwan’s treasonous actions, and Sebin is left puzzling out the behavior of the uncle they have looked up to for their entire life. Sooner than they expect, Sebin is given a bunk on board the space cruiser Haetae, where they must determine once and for all where their true loyalties lie.
This middle grade science fiction adventure is especially well suited to readers who appreciate a straightforward narrative and an abundance of high-intensity action sequences. The book itself is well-written, effortlessly incorporating Korean culture, non-binary characters, and supernatural elements into the story. Taking place over a relatively short amount of time, the plot focuses on one primary event with very little tangential conversation or delay. Newer middle grade readers will find this design to be particularly engaging as there is a limited amount of information to track as the story continues. Shapeshifting, questionable alliances, and supernatural occurrences taking place in the vastness of space make this a unique and memorable novel for middle grade readers.
Many elements of Korean folklore and mythology are found throughout the novel, and a pronunciation guide at the end of the book helps improve readers’ understanding of the myriad potentially unfamiliar words included within the narrative. Sebin fills an interesting role in that they must choose for themselves how they will proceed in an unprecedented situation when a blood oath binds them to their family even as their heart desires another path. The fact that Sebin can become a tiger adds a fascinating element to the story, particularly because they often refer to the smells of feelings they encounter, giving readers pause when these moments arise. Inclusive and exciting, this story is a great fit for middle grade science fiction fans who are looking for an unexpected twist to the genre.
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