A retelling of the Mulan legend for adults, based on the Qing dynasty novel Fierce and Filial by Zhang Shaoxian.
There were 21 million Americans who were under the age of 18 when they watched Disney’s Mulan. These people are now between the ages of 27 and 40.
Half of adults within this age demographic purchase and read at least six books per year, and 40% of adults prefer reading fantasy and historical fiction. Thus, the target audience consists of approximately 4 million people.
This novel is primarily targeted toward a mass market, as the story has been embellished to engage modern readers. Serious readers are a secondary audience. The book will include an exposition on the original text in an appendix, which is best read after finishing the entire novel first.
Many elements from Disney’s film adaptations—the avalanche, an enemy sorceress, and Mulan’s chest wound—are attributed to Zhang Shaoxian’s original masterpiece. As an adult novel, it also includes mature themes. Mulan develops nightmares after accidentally killing women and children, she is forced to betray friends, and her virginity is threatened. Upon joining the army, Mulan discovers that she must fight against her own people, who had fled into the mountains to escape the emperor’s tyranny.
In the process of writing Fierce and Filial, the authors have developed a compelling world by interviewing professors of Chinese history and consulting numerous texts from imperial China. While many scenes have been embellished and characters have been given more convincing personalities, this adaptation strives to remain true to Zhang Shaoxian’s original goal: To inspire the reader to live virtuously through conveying an entertaining and engaging story.
The Magnolia Sword: A Ballad of Mulan by Sherry Thomas (Tu Books, September 2019) is the most historically accurate Mulan retelling that is marketed toward adults. Fierce and Filial is unique because it explores the ancient Chinese worldview, especially how Mulan’s sense of virtue differs from Western ideals. Fierce and Filial also contains darker themes, such as traumatic deaths and moral ambiguity.
Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, May 2017) revolves around a strong female protagonist who, according to the author, was inspired by Mulan. Flame in the Mist features a boys-meets-girl romantic subplot; Mulan is already engaged when Fierce and Filial opens. While she begins as a naive girl, Mulan grows into a woman who must fight (and kill) those who threaten to steal her beloved.
The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang (Harper Voyager, May 2018) is set in a world that Kuang constructed using extensive research of both ancient and modern Chinese history. Fierce and Filial is similar in the depth of research that has been undertaken. Readers of Fierce and Filial will learn how political and social struggles led to one of the darkest eras in Chinese history. Understanding this dog-eat-dog world makes a tale of sacrifice even more outstanding.
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