A fox spirit ("gumiho") masquerading as a human, 13-year-old Min has a dismal life on Jinju, a poor, half-finished planet in the Thousand Worlds league. Her mom and aunties bog her down with mundane chores, and it's unsafe for her to practice her fox magic openly--her ancestors used their shape-shifting abilities to "lure lonely travelers" and "suck out their lives," so people aren't too keen on fox spirits. The only thought getting her through this life is that in two years she can take the entrance exam for the Space Forces, an elite, interstellar military order, and follow her brother, Jun, into the service.
Then, her family receives word that Jun has been accused of deserting his training cruise to search for the Dragon Pearl, "a mystical orb with the ability to... transform"--or destroy--"an entire planet in a day." Min won't allow her brother's reputation to be ruined; she runs away to find Jun and clear his name. She quickly realizes that the situation is more complicated than it appears and the fate of the whole league may rest in her inexperienced hands.
In Dragon Pearl, Yoon Ha Lee (the Machineries of Empire series) melds elements of Korean myth, science fiction and adventure stories into a strong, cohesive narrative that fans of multiple genres will enjoy. Rigged gambling parlors, pirate attacks and battle simulations are layered over conjuring goblins, weather-controlling dragons and vengeful ghosts. Lee's epic romp through space also includes discussions about prejudice, nonbinary identity and inequality between rich and poor. Lee handles these topics sensitively without burdening the audience. Dragon Pearl shoots for the moon and lands flawlessly, delivering a rollicking and meaningful space adventure. --Lana Barnes, freelance reviewer and proofreader