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A Clash of Steel: A Treasure Island Remix

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Two intrepid girls hunt for a legendary treasure on the deadly high seas in this YA remix of the classic adventure novel Treasure Island. 1826. The sun is setting on the golden age of piracy, and the legendary Dragon Fleet, the scourge of the South China Sea, is no more. Its ruthless leader, a woman known only as the Head of the Dragon, is now only a story, like the ones Xi Two intrepid girls hunt for a legendary treasure on the deadly high seas in this YA remix of the classic adventure novel Treasure Island. 1826. The sun is setting on the golden age of piracy, and the legendary Dragon Fleet, the scourge of the South China Sea, is no more. Its ruthless leader, a woman known only as the Head of the Dragon, is now only a story, like the ones Xiang has grown up with all her life. She desperately wants to prove her worth, especially to her mother, a shrewd businesswoman who never seems to have enough time for Xiang. Her father is also only a story, dead at sea before Xiang was born. Her single memento of him is a pendant she always wears, a simple but plain piece of gold jewelry. But the pendant's true nature is revealed when a mysterious girl named Anh steals it, only to return it to Xiang in exchange for her help in decoding the tiny map scroll hidden inside. The revelation that Xiang's father sailed with the Dragon Fleet and tucked away this secret changes everything. Rumor has it that the legendary Head of the Dragon had one last treasure—the plunder of a thousand ports—that for decades has only been a myth, a fool's journey. Xiang is convinced this map could lead to the fabled treasure. Captivated with the thrill of adventure, she joins Anh and her motley crew off in pursuit of the island. But the girls soon find that the sea—and especially those who sail it—are far more dangerous than the legends led them to believe.


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Two intrepid girls hunt for a legendary treasure on the deadly high seas in this YA remix of the classic adventure novel Treasure Island. 1826. The sun is setting on the golden age of piracy, and the legendary Dragon Fleet, the scourge of the South China Sea, is no more. Its ruthless leader, a woman known only as the Head of the Dragon, is now only a story, like the ones Xi Two intrepid girls hunt for a legendary treasure on the deadly high seas in this YA remix of the classic adventure novel Treasure Island. 1826. The sun is setting on the golden age of piracy, and the legendary Dragon Fleet, the scourge of the South China Sea, is no more. Its ruthless leader, a woman known only as the Head of the Dragon, is now only a story, like the ones Xiang has grown up with all her life. She desperately wants to prove her worth, especially to her mother, a shrewd businesswoman who never seems to have enough time for Xiang. Her father is also only a story, dead at sea before Xiang was born. Her single memento of him is a pendant she always wears, a simple but plain piece of gold jewelry. But the pendant's true nature is revealed when a mysterious girl named Anh steals it, only to return it to Xiang in exchange for her help in decoding the tiny map scroll hidden inside. The revelation that Xiang's father sailed with the Dragon Fleet and tucked away this secret changes everything. Rumor has it that the legendary Head of the Dragon had one last treasure—the plunder of a thousand ports—that for decades has only been a myth, a fool's journey. Xiang is convinced this map could lead to the fabled treasure. Captivated with the thrill of adventure, she joins Anh and her motley crew off in pursuit of the island. But the girls soon find that the sea—and especially those who sail it—are far more dangerous than the legends led them to believe.

30 review for A Clash of Steel: A Treasure Island Remix

  1. 5 out of 5

    CW (The Quiet Pond) ✨

    This is probably my favourite pirate book in existence. A retelling of Treasure Island, darling and daring queer Asian girls go on an adventure in search of legendary treasure. I LOVED this. - Follows Xiang, a sheltered girl who discovers that the pendant left by her dead father may contain clues to treasure - and goes off on a whirlwind adventure with a motley crew of sailors, including the alluring girl named Anh, in search of treasure - and also herself. - I loved how this book puts Zheng Yi Sa This is probably my favourite pirate book in existence. A retelling of Treasure Island, darling and daring queer Asian girls go on an adventure in search of legendary treasure. I LOVED this. - Follows Xiang, a sheltered girl who discovers that the pendant left by her dead father may contain clues to treasure - and goes off on a whirlwind adventure with a motley crew of sailors, including the alluring girl named Anh, in search of treasure - and also herself. - I loved how this book puts Zheng Yi Sao or Cheng Shih, one of the most notorious and most successful pirates - who was a woman! - in history, front and center. I've been craving for a story about Zheng Yi Sao and A Clash of Steel integrates her significance in history into this story. - This book balances the thrills of adventure with the tenderness of first love. It's also about found family, what it means to trust someone and to find yourself. - The romance in this was gorgeous. I loved Xiang and Anh so much and loved their slow-burn romance. - Love the 'there's only one bed' and 'our clothes were wet so let's take them off to dry them off even thought there's so much romantic tension between us' tropes? You'll love this. Content warning: death of loved one, physical violence (sword and fist fight scenes), alcohol consumption I received a digital advanced reader's copy in exchange for an honest review.

  2. 5 out of 5

    katie ❀

    so... pirate sapphics, anyone?? // god this was perfect, rtc!

  3. 4 out of 5

    May

    Read this book if you like: ↝Historical fiction and retellings ↝Pirates and learning about the “Dragon Fleet” ↝Found Family ↝Sapphic slowburn romance with one bed trope This book meant the world to me. Seeing Asian (Chinese and Vietnamese) sapphics that made me feel represented get their adventure made me so happy it hurts <3 Pacing and Plot I took off a star since I think this book definitely struggles a bit with the pacing. The first 1/3 was just build up about Xiang’s background that I found bearabl Read this book if you like: ↝Historical fiction and retellings ↝Pirates and learning about the “Dragon Fleet” ↝Found Family ↝Sapphic slowburn romance with one bed trope This book meant the world to me. Seeing Asian (Chinese and Vietnamese) sapphics that made me feel represented get their adventure made me so happy it hurts <3 Pacing and Plot I took off a star since I think this book definitely struggles a bit with the pacing. The first 1/3 was just build up about Xiang’s background that I found bearable but could have used a speed booster. The second 1/3 was where the found family of the crew developed. It might’ve seemed slow but I think it was like Six of Crows type of event like (sword fighting lessons) that make you fall in love with the characters and setting. The last third was INCREDIBLE. So many events that I didn’t see coming and left me thinking “just one more chapter”. The plot overall was enjoyable and loved the historical events infused into it. Xiang and Anh Omg my love for these characters is infinite. Xang was the sheltered girl with wit and quick learning. Her character flaws and growth was so much fun to see. Anh on the other hand was experienced at sea but struggled to not deflect emotions (I saw some of myself in her and was very grateful for the Vietnamese representation)They were the perfect pair. Their love felt very natural and fills your heart with warmth. Side Characters I think this book had a common problem of the side characters needing more development. However, I think they played a nice part in the found family and added funny moments. A special place is in my heart for Captain Hoa because she was an incredible leader and mother. Thanks Netgalley and Macmillan Children Publishing for an earc in exchange for honest opinions. ~~~~~ Thank you netgalley gods for coming through, I’m screaming of excitement right now!!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Shelley Parker-Chan

    A wonderfully sapphic remix of Treasure Island (or, if you haven’t read Treasure Island, you can think of it like a remix of that other Treasure Island remix, Pirates of the Caribbean) ft. girls who want more than they were given, fresh and non-exoticised settings on the South China Sea, and China’s absolutely badass female pirate Ching Shih. The women of this story are so much fiercer than you’ll expect, and a key event totally wrung a joyous cry of “oh no you DIDN’T” out of me. It’s a ‘true YA’ A wonderfully sapphic remix of Treasure Island (or, if you haven’t read Treasure Island, you can think of it like a remix of that other Treasure Island remix, Pirates of the Caribbean) ft. girls who want more than they were given, fresh and non-exoticised settings on the South China Sea, and China’s absolutely badass female pirate Ching Shih. The women of this story are so much fiercer than you’ll expect, and a key event totally wrung a joyous cry of “oh no you DIDN’T” out of me. It’s a ‘true YA’, if you know what I mean, so dive in for the feminist action-adventure rather than steamy romance vibes. But there IS a romance, and it’s definitely sapphic.

  5. 4 out of 5

    megs_bookrack

    I love the sounds of this new series, from various authors, releasing in 2021. I think the folks at Feiwel and Friends are definitely onto something with this! Treasure Island is one of my favorite classics. I'm really looking forward to seeing C.B. Lee's spin on it. Bring it on! I love the sounds of this new series, from various authors, releasing in 2021. I think the folks at Feiwel and Friends are definitely onto something with this! Treasure Island is one of my favorite classics. I'm really looking forward to seeing C.B. Lee's spin on it. Bring it on!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    4 STARS Sapphic pirates? Um, yes please. How could I not read a historical fantasy book featuring Asian sapphic pirate MC's? I know I say this a lot but I feel like this book was made for me. A Clash of Steel is a young adult historical fantasy novel. It is a retelling of Treasure Island, but with queer Asian girls. When Xiang's pendant is stolen by a girl named Anh, they strike a bargain that leads to them setting sail in pursuit of a treasure. A tale of adventure and love, A Clash of Steel is a 4 STARS Sapphic pirates? Um, yes please. How could I not read a historical fantasy book featuring Asian sapphic pirate MC's? I know I say this a lot but I feel like this book was made for me. A Clash of Steel is a young adult historical fantasy novel. It is a retelling of Treasure Island, but with queer Asian girls. When Xiang's pendant is stolen by a girl named Anh, they strike a bargain that leads to them setting sail in pursuit of a treasure. A tale of adventure and love, A Clash of Steel is a release that you do not want to miss. This book was magical. The premise was enticing right off the bat. The characters were loveable and pretty well developed. Anh and Xiang were definitely the most compelling characters, but the side characters were also fun to read about. The writing was excellent at capturing the world through vivid desciptions. I felt like I was in the world with the main characters. I do feel like the first part of the book was a little slow, but once the inciting incident occured, I was hooked. A Clash of Steel has such great found family and there were so many cute moments. The love story was beautiful and made me wish I was there with them. This is my first book by C.B. Lee, but now I'm excited to read more! Thank you to C.B. Lee and BookTalk for sending me this digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Bethany

    Actual Rating: 4.5 stars rounded up If you're looking for a fun adventure story with lady pirates and a sapphic romance you should definitely try A Clash of Steel! This book reimagines Treasure Island, but set in 1800's China where there really was a powerful woman pirate I had heard very little about before. Her story is woven into the narrative here which is cool. Much like the original, this is a coming of age story surrounding the search for a legendary stash of treasure, except we follow a yo Actual Rating: 4.5 stars rounded up If you're looking for a fun adventure story with lady pirates and a sapphic romance you should definitely try A Clash of Steel! This book reimagines Treasure Island, but set in 1800's China where there really was a powerful woman pirate I had heard very little about before. Her story is woven into the narrative here which is cool. Much like the original, this is a coming of age story surrounding the search for a legendary stash of treasure, except we follow a young woman experiencing the world for the first time, determined to prove herself capable while falling for a girl she meets along the way. This does deal with some difficult subject matter like parental neglect and emotional abuse, but overall the tone is fun and adventurous. I have been loving this series of remixed classics and you don't want to miss this one! I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway (I know! I'm shocked people actually win these too! First time for me) so thank you to Fierce Reads for the copy!

  8. 4 out of 5

    rose ✨

    “i have no answers, only questions about why in every story i’ve heard, the pirates were always the ones portrayed as monsters.” a clash of steel is part treasure island, part historical fiction, and part reimagining of the historical figure zheng yi sao, who was perhaps the most successful pirate in history—and a woman. i loved the concept of this book, but the story itself was so predictable and lacked a lot of the nail-biting adventure i expected from a pirate story. xiang grows up in a rem “i have no answers, only questions about why in every story i’ve heard, the pirates were always the ones portrayed as monsters.” a clash of steel is part treasure island, part historical fiction, and part reimagining of the historical figure zheng yi sao, who was perhaps the most successful pirate in history—and a woman. i loved the concept of this book, but the story itself was so predictable and lacked a lot of the nail-biting adventure i expected from a pirate story. xiang grows up in a remote village, raised on stories of faraway places and desperate to prove herself to her often-absent mother. when a chance to leave her village and show herself capable of taking over her mother’s business goes awry, she goes on the run in pursuit of the long-lost treasure of zheng yi sao and soon finds herself questioning everything she believed she wanted out of life. the writing is lush and descriptive, with vivid settings (i especially loved canton), but the pacing dragged until around the 75% mark. there are also a few very anachronistic conversations that pulled me out of the story—i think it’s so interesting to explore gender nonconformity, lgbtq+ identities, etc., in historical fiction, but it frustrates me when it’s done through overly modern language and ideas. if you’re going to include those themes in your historical fiction, you should be able to write them through the lens of the time period your characters live in. the romance between xiang and ahn was sweet but underdeveloped. xiang was smitten early on, but i thought their overall relationship was rushed and ahn’s entire personality seemed to change once she acknowledged her feelings for xiang. the other characters were frustratingly one-dimensional, and i was particularly irritated with the portrayal of zheng yi sao. based on what i’ve read, she was a fascinating, impressive woman; here she’s reduced to a caricature. i think the biggest issue with a clash of steel is its length. this did not need to be a 400+ page book, and if it was trimmed down to 300–350 pages i think it would be closer to a three-star read for me. i received an arc from netgalley in exchange for an honest review. rating: 2/5 stars

  9. 4 out of 5

    Julia Ember

    I’m gobsmacked in the best possible way. This book was so vivid and beautiful, and made such clever use of poetry. It was also dark and compelling with a twist that SHOCKED me (and I’m not easily surprised at all). I loved Xiang and Anh, and their playful, can’t quite bring themselves to be enemies romance, and the wonderful execution of the queer found family trope. What an imaginative pairing of history and a classic story.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sherwood Smith

    I hadn't heard of this series, pairing authors with classics for a "remix" but if the rest are like this one, sign me up. My heart sank when I saw that it was written in present tense, but that seems to be the fashion in YA these days. It was far less awkward here than in many books I've read of late; after the initial jolt it became invisible, I was so immersed in the vivid depiction of southeast Asia in the early decades of the 1800s, the era of Zhen Yi Sao, the most successful pirates who ever I hadn't heard of this series, pairing authors with classics for a "remix" but if the rest are like this one, sign me up. My heart sank when I saw that it was written in present tense, but that seems to be the fashion in YA these days. It was far less awkward here than in many books I've read of late; after the initial jolt it became invisible, I was so immersed in the vivid depiction of southeast Asia in the early decades of the 1800s, the era of Zhen Yi Sao, the most successful pirates who ever lived--who happened to be a woman. This is supposed to be a retelling of Treasure Island; Lee's take was so fresh that I forgot completely about the origin story as we get to know Xiang, who is eager to break away from the stifling village where she was sequestered, and test her abilities by running the tea house her mother owns. Xiang misses the obvious clues that her mother is far more than she seems, she is so determined to prove herself--in spite of her mother's insistence she stay at home with her books and studies. One day she takes off to wander Canton, and meets a girl her own age, who turns out to be a thief. Xiang is hurt doubly, not just to find her father's precious pendant gone from around her neck, but that the first friend she had ever made turned out not to be one. However, she meets Ahn again, and discovers that Ahn's mother runs a small fishing boat, but she is after a famous (infamous) treasure. Xiang runs away with them, and so the adventure begins Lee has a sure hand with the details of the time. I was totally immersed in the wild life of the southeast sea coast at a volatile period of history. The characters were vivid, the pacing swift, and I loved the tentative, sometimes spiky friendship between Xiang and Ahn that gradually developed into something closer. The climax is a real roller coaster of action and emotional highs and lows. I loved Xiang's arc--and Ahn's. I think Lee did a terrific job making these queer Asian heroines girls very much of their time, but accessible to the modern teen reader. Copy provided by NetGalley

  11. 5 out of 5

    ellie ☽

    3.5 stars. This is, at its heart, a story about sapphic love, what defines familial bonds, and finding your way in the world. The romance and characterization was definitely my favorite part of the novel. Our two main characters were so well developed and their relationship was absolutely stunning. The protagonist, Xiang, lives a sheltered life and over the course of the novel we see her learn how to define herself and break free from the expectations of other. She is a very raw and vulnerable c 3.5 stars. This is, at its heart, a story about sapphic love, what defines familial bonds, and finding your way in the world. The romance and characterization was definitely my favorite part of the novel. Our two main characters were so well developed and their relationship was absolutely stunning. The protagonist, Xiang, lives a sheltered life and over the course of the novel we see her learn how to define herself and break free from the expectations of other. She is a very raw and vulnerable character and her growth is so rewarding. She also adores poetry, and her love of poetry ends up being an important part of the story (a fact that my poetry-loving self greatly appreciated). Anh is a very different sort of character. All hard-edges and practically, the contrast between her and Xiang is interesting to see. Anh and Xiang's relationship is a slow-ish burn, but the tension is their from the beginning. I practically screamed with joy when they finally kissed. I've read a few queer books recently that felt like queer books written by and for straight people (*cough* Tryst Six Venom *cough*) and this was such a welcome change from that. This is a beautiful queer book, very obviously written by a queer person for queer people. Xiang's longing for Anh and her slow acceptance of her identity as a queer woman was so well written and felt so familiar to me. I can't get over how gorgeously, emphatically queer this story is. This book did feel initially slow, and took me a while to get into, but once Anh shows up things do start to speed up. There were some more slow parts in the middle but that ending made it mostly worth it. Not to mention the plot twist... The last 50 or so pages were such a roller-coaster. Unfortunately I didn't care hugely about the plot until the very end, but Xiang and Anh and their relationship were enthralling enough to keep me reading The pirate found-family dynamic was very fun, though I do wish we could've gotten to know everyone aboard the crew a little better. I think the novel does a very good job exploring the difference between blood family and chosen family, and what it means to choose your family for yourself. After reading this I definitely wanna hop aboard Captain Hoa's ship and join Xiang, Anh, and the rest of the crew. This book has fueled my new-found obsession with sapphic pirates and I might have to go rewatch Pirates of the Carribean just for Keira Knightley and pretend Elizabeth Swann is a lesbian.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mallory

    I really enjoyed this remix of Treasure Island so much more than I was expecting! I loved the Asian/female/queer twists so much and wish hat these characters could have a series of their own. I felt like the pacing of the book was a little off, the first big chunk was really slow background that could have been shortened a lot. Xiang is an interesting character who doesn’t really begin to bloom until she goes off on her own. While a lot, including her mother’s identity, was pretty obvious I felt I really enjoyed this remix of Treasure Island so much more than I was expecting! I loved the Asian/female/queer twists so much and wish hat these characters could have a series of their own. I felt like the pacing of the book was a little off, the first big chunk was really slow background that could have been shortened a lot. Xiang is an interesting character who doesn’t really begin to bloom until she goes off on her own. While a lot, including her mother’s identity, was pretty obvious I felt like the story was more than what twists would come. The relationships between he characters were beautiful and the slow burn romance was just about perfect for this story. Xiang is desperate to prove herself to her mother, so when she learns she’s been carrying around a secret that could lead to the biggest pirate treasure of all time she joins Ahn and her family’s ship.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sana

    'From the novel, you can expect lots of gay disaster moments, and flirting disguised as swordfighting lessons, and lots of adventure.' YES, THANK YOU. THIS IS ALL I NEEDED TO KNOWWWW Plus, the cover is pretty af! Feifei Ruan out here winning covers (also designed the ones for Descendant of the Crane, Last Night at the Telegraph Club and A Psalm for the Wild-Built) Source 'From the novel, you can expect lots of gay disaster moments, and flirting disguised as swordfighting lessons, and lots of adventure.' YES, THANK YOU. THIS IS ALL I NEEDED TO KNOWWWW Plus, the cover is pretty af! Feifei Ruan out here winning covers (also designed the ones for Descendant of the Crane, Last Night at the Telegraph Club and A Psalm for the Wild-Built) Source

  14. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    This was a swashbuckling delight of a story! It felt like reading a new classic (which is the idea of this whole series!).

  15. 5 out of 5

    Rachel & Lindsey

    (thank you to Bookish First and Macmillan Children's Publishing for a finished copy in exchange for a review!) I really enjoyed this book! I had a few issues with it, so that's why it got 4 stars, but I really did like the end. My main issue was the pace of the book. Overall, it was a little off for me. We didn't get to the sailing/pirate part of the adventure until almost 200 pages, or halfway through the book. Some of the details of Xiang's time in Canton, at least in my opinion, could've been o (thank you to Bookish First and Macmillan Children's Publishing for a finished copy in exchange for a review!) I really enjoyed this book! I had a few issues with it, so that's why it got 4 stars, but I really did like the end. My main issue was the pace of the book. Overall, it was a little off for me. We didn't get to the sailing/pirate part of the adventure until almost 200 pages, or halfway through the book. Some of the details of Xiang's time in Canton, at least in my opinion, could've been omitted and these issues would've been resolved. It was around this point where I found myself struggling to motivate myself to read a bit. On the other end, the pacing of the last 70 or 80 pages was quick, and I loved it! I read it all in one night. My favorite part of the books were the characters, because they were all so complex. Xiang was an enjoyable narrator. She became less sheltered and learned to stand up for herself. I loved the complexity of the relationships between her, her mom, and Master Feng (and there were plot twists intermingled in the story that were completely unexpected!). The romance in the book was interesting as well. It was a bit of a slow burn, especially on one end, but the end was really satisfying! I also didn't mind the ambiguity of the end. I think that it leaves room for a sequel, even though this series is all standalones.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mari

    Treasure hunting, pirates and gays, what a time to be alive.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Taylor

    A very fun, tender, action-packed sapphic retelling of Treasure Island set in South China. What a ride this was! RTC.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lia (An Ode to Fiction)

    Update 31/08/2021 Find my reviews on : An Ode to Fiction Official Release Date : 7th September 2021 Buy the book : Amazon | Book Depository ARC provided by the publisher Feiwel & Friends / Macmillan Publishers through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review as part of the #AClashofSteelTour organized by Colored Pages Bookish Tours 3.5 rounded up to 4/5 ⭐️ “I want the world.” ARC provided by the publisher Feiwel & Friends / Macmillan Publishers through NetGalley in exchange for an hones Update 31/08/2021 Find my reviews on : An Ode to Fiction Official Release Date : 7th September 2021 Buy the book : Amazon | Book Depository ARC provided by the publisher Feiwel & Friends / Macmillan Publishers through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review as part of the #AClashofSteelTour organized by Colored Pages Bookish Tours 3.5 rounded up to 4/5 ⭐️ “I want the world.” ARC provided by the publisher Feiwel & Friends / Macmillan Publishers through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review as part of the #AClashofSteelTour organized by Colored Pages Book Tours An outstanding sapphic Asian inspired remix of a classic pirate adventure story following Xiang and Anh as they embark to find the legendary treasure trove of the famed pirate queen Zheng Yi Sao. A queer pirate adventure that surely will make a splash in the ocean of young adult books. First and foremost I would like to thank Colored Pages Book Tours for choosing me as one of the many amazing book bloggers for A Clash of Steel tour from September 7th to September 14th 2021. Thank you as well to the author and publisher Feiwel & Friends for providing an ARC (Advance Readers Copy) as part of this blog tour. All my life I’ve been waiting, and now I’m doing. During my time in lock down back in July I was scrolling through Twitter and the cover for A Clash of Steel passed by my timeline. When I read the blurb for A Clash of Steel it really appealed to me, “Two intrepid girls hunt for a legendary treasure on the deadly high seas in this YA remix of the classic adventure novel Treasure Island”. I’ve never read the book Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson before but I’ve seen the Disney Sci-Fi animated adaptation of the book titled Treasure Planet (2002) when I was a child. The movie itself is impressive that I’ve rewatched it plenty of times. For A Clash of Steel I didn’t have any expectations as I don’t remember much from Treasure Planet and never read any of C. B. Lee’s previous works so I went in completely blind. The only thing I know is that A Clash of Steel is an Asian queer retelling of Treasure Island with two protagonists, one Chinese and one Vietnamese. Let me repeat that! An Asian queer retelling! This is what we need! A remixed rendition of a classic that is written by a white author turn it up side down and write it for people of color. That alone is enough to convince me to pick it up. Before we jump into the review, let’s talk about the beautiful cover for A Clash of Steel! The cover is illustrated by Feifei Ruan, the same artist that did the cover for Joan He’s Descendant of the Crane and Malinda Lo’s Last Night at the Telegraph Club to name a few. And designed by the talented Rich Deas. It is gorgeous! I love the colors and seeing Anh with Xiang looking back holding swords on the helm of the ship is just *chef’s kiss*. The cover further convince me that it’s gonna be an awesome story and judging by my rating above I can verify I had a good time. I find new strength in the sea, in the wind in my hair, in the way sunlight glints off the ocean waves, in the dazzling sunsets over the water. In A Clash of Steel the story follows Xiang, a girl who lives in a quiet village in the mountains dreaming of seeing the world. Xiang loves spending her time watching the ships from up the hill yearning for the sea and foreign lands. Growing up in a secluded village Xiang is limited to her day to day task of studying, reading, and helping whenever she can at the tea house that is owned by her mother. Xiang rarely meets her mother that is often travelling the world as a salt trader. Xiang’s mother’s visits are rare and brief resulting in Xiang being raise by her tutors and her mother’s tea house employees. The absence of Xiang’s mother has led her to be desperate in earning her approval and affection whenever she visits. The only parental figure Xiang ever known aside from her mother is her tutor, Master Feng. He had taught Xiang everything from philosophy, history, poetry, literature, and sums. But that isn’t enough for a curious child like Xiang, she wants to experience and see everything first hand. Xiang doesn’t want to live a boring life of raising a family and she wants to be like her mother. One day during her mother’s rare visits, Xiang finds courage in herself to prove to her mother that she is capable of continuing her legacy as a trader. But her mother has other plans for Xiang as she is set to marry a man. Determined to prove her mother wrong Xiang convinces her to give Xiang a chance to go to Canton, one of the major port cities in China that is the hub for trade from all over the world. However going to Canton did not satisfy Xiang’s thirst for adventure it only intensifies it. During her outing in town Xiang meets Anh in which she quickly forms a friendship with. Losing hope in her future Xiang convinces herself that she needs to take the matter into her own hands. Accompanied by Anh and her crew she sets of to sea armed with the map to find the legendary treasure of the Dragon Fleet. Perhaps my soul has lived in the wrong place this whole time, and I’ve always been meant to be at sea. The world in which the story takes place is centered mostly in China and somewhere in Vietnam, specifically the sea near those two countries for the most part of the story. Lee expertly weaves history into her story drawing inspiration from one of China’s most infamous and prominent figures Zheng Yi Shao. The legendary pirate Zheng Yi Sao that lead the Pirate Confederation and ruled the South China Sea back in the 1800s serves as an inspiration for the plot that drives our two protagonist. The only time I’ve seen a depiction of Zheng Yi Sao in western media is probably in the movie sequel for Pirates of the Caribbean. Seeing a different version of Zheng Yi Sao that is every bit of gas light, gate keep, and girl boss is refreshing to see. Lee did an amazing job at remixing a classic into a more modern and inclusive story that I’m sure a lot of the younger generation will grow up to appreciate. A Clash of Steel is a well written story from start to end. Lee’s writing is accessible and detailed that I could easily immerse myself into the story. The descriptions of places and the scenery is meticulously done which only made me want to travel more than ever. Besides the historical inspiration I want to gush about the food that are mentioned throughout the story. What I love more besides characters in books is descriptions of food. Lee wrote about the food with the same amount of importance as any other part of the story. In my opinion food is a window to the culture and the people of the world as it is a universal language that anyone can relate to. In A Clash of Steel it achieved that by showing how big and diverse Canton is through the food which is such a delight to read. Though I have to admit personally I had trouble with the pacing. During the first few chapters the pacing is on the slower side for me that it made crave for something interesting to happen. This is something subjective and relatively a small speed bump in my reading experience. Because the plot did pick up when Anh is introduced into the story and the pacing did get better in the later chapters. I have felt untethered all my life, drifting endlessly, and here, finally is a safe place to land, a quite harbor to protect me from the turbulence of the sea. The back bone of A Clash of Steel is it’s cast of strong and lovable characters. Xiang the main driving force of the story is determined, compassionate, and all around a joy to read. Her development throughout the story is believable and realistic. The need to prove to herself and everyone else fuels her drive to break barrier after barrier that stood in her way. Xiang stood up for herself and took it upon herself to show how determined she is to find who she is and where she fits in the story. Lee’s characterization of Xiang exceeded my expectations tremendously. The obedient and sheltered Xiang grew to be a strong woman by the end of the book carrying herself with much more confidence. Anh, the main love interest, is also well fleshed out and is so fun to see interact with our main character. I wish we get to see more from her perspective because Anh’s characterization is interesting and has a lot of potential. The relationship that developed between the two characters is a slow build that creeps on with the small acts. The lingering stares and breathless brief brushes of fingers against hands between the two left me yearning to see them together. Xiang and Anh is the ship I wish to never sink because of their chemistry and vibe when they are near is crackling with tension. I’m tired of others deciding my story for me. I’m done. A few other characters that caught my attention in the story is Xiang’s mother and Captain Hoa, Anh’s mother. Two very different mother figures which parallel each other throughout the book. Xiang’s mother is mostly absent from her life and shows that she has very high standards towards the people she associates with including Xiang. The affection she shows are limited, cold, and detached like she’s putting on an act instead of genuinely expressing it. Captain Hoa on the other hand is a present mother that loves and cares for her family deeply extending to the crew of Huyền Vũ. Even to Xiang, a total stranger, she shows kindness and warmth towards her. Captain Hoa shows her appreciation and gives constant assurances to her crew with no discrimination or lack of empathy. Seeing the parallels between the two women made me think a lot about Xiang and Anh’s upbringing. If Xiang didn’t board the Huyền Vũ she wouldn’t have developed to become a much stronger character that finally realizes who she is and the real people that care about her. “I suppose I wouldn’t rather be stuck on this island with anyone but you.” Final thoughts, A Clash of Steel is the Sapphic nautical adventure that I didn’t know I needed until I read this book. It is a story filled with self discovery and development both on ground and sea that any reader can easily get lost into during these rough times. C. B. Lee’s ability to weave Asian history into a well loved classic, all the while making it educational, inclusive, fun, and queer is truly astounding. The masterful story telling and amazing characters made the whole experience of reading A Clash of Steel all the more enjoyable. Even though it is a story about treasure hunting the message it carries strives beyond material things. The themes about family, friendship, and love that became the core of the story were conveyed beautifully through the experiences of our main protagonist Xiang and other characters. Everything from the plot, premise, and overall structure is executed beautifully by C. B. Lee that by the end of the story I felt satisfied with how things turned out. The ending is wrapped up nicely and carries a hopeful tone of endless possibilities for adventure. Reading Lee’s author’s note I understood that A Clash of Steel is also inspired by Lee’s family history. Specifically Lee’s mother’s and father’s experience escaping a war torn Vietnam on boats. Lee’s mother actually met pirates in real life and had first hand encounters with them. The story hits differently for me after knowing this piece of personal account. I hope by writing this review that I can convince people to read A Clash of Steel not only for the Sapphic yearning between Xiang and Anh but also to shed a light on the stories that is never given a chance to be told. Stories by people from all different backgrounds and ethnicities. Please do pick up A Clash of Steel I highly recommend this book for all readers who are looking to escape to the sea for an action packed sapphic treasure hunting adventure. By the time this review is up the book is already released so I strongly urge you to pick up a copy. The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Enne

    thank u c.b. lee

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ren Christina

    MY NEWLY OBSESSED BLACK SAILS/TREASURE ISLAND ASS IS SO READY

  21. 5 out of 5

    Shenwei

    Originally posted on my blog Because my attention span is almost nonexistent a lot of the time these days, getting into a book can take a while. With A Clash of Steel, I didn’t struggle nearly as much as usual, however. Even without a deadline setting a fire under me, I was still sucked into the story from early on. At the core, A Clash of Steel is a story about yearning, in various senses of the word. Xiang yearns for many things: her mother’s approval, a more exciting life and future outside of Originally posted on my blog Because my attention span is almost nonexistent a lot of the time these days, getting into a book can take a while. With A Clash of Steel, I didn’t struggle nearly as much as usual, however. Even without a deadline setting a fire under me, I was still sucked into the story from early on. At the core, A Clash of Steel is a story about yearning, in various senses of the word. Xiang yearns for many things: her mother’s approval, a more exciting life and future outside of the bounds her mother has set for, and control over her own destiny. When she meets Anh, the yearning for a special someone to be by her side forever blooms as well. A Clash of Steel is very much a classic quest narrative, with a treasure trove waiting at the end and many obstacles, including a cryptic poem, standing in the way. Thematically, the story’s external conflicts reflect Xiang’s internal conflicts as she is forced to make decisions about what she values most. Moving from a sheltered life inland to braving the boundless ocean, worlds of possibility open up before her. Watching Xiang take her first steps into becoming herself free of her mother was satisfying, and thanks to the gorgeous and detailed prose, I found myself also immersed in the rhythms of life in a busy port city and on a ship weathering wind and rain. Central to Xiang’s growth is Anh, who takes a chance on her, teaches her new things, and provides a different perspective as someone who has lived the unstable life of a seafaring laborer. The sapphic romance between Xiang and Anh made my heart ache. For a while, Xiang tries her best to suppress her feelings for Anh, believing that there is no place in the world for two women to love and find happiness together. There’s so much tension built up over the book that when Xiang finally acts on her feelings, it feels like a deluge. One of the refreshing aspects of A Clash of Steel is the unapologetic diversity. The South China Sea was historically (and still is) a host to people from all different places. When Xiang joins the crew of the boat captained by Anh’s mother, Huyền Vũ, she becomes a part of a found family from various backgrounds—Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Korean, and Nepali. Furthermore, since the seafaring folk don’t adhere strictly to the laws of the landbound political institutions, there is greater freedom for queer people to be themselves. Two of the men on board the boat, Châu and Arthrit, are married and everyone is fine with it. It shouldn’t be a surprise, given that same-gender relationships are a part the real history of maritime life, but unfortunately this history is often erased in fiction, along with the racial and ethnic diversity of pirates and sailors. A Clash of Steel was a very special read to me because it has shown me I can write a historical fiction story with Asian pirates and there will be an audience for it. My family is from Taiwan, which has been a critical player in maritime trade for centuries, and I have plans to write a story connected to that history. Anyway, if you’re looking for a high-stakes adventure, aching romance, and heartfelt coming-of-age story, read A Clash of Steel!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    This is Young Adult/Historical Fiction. I enjoyed the first part of this one. The stage was set nicely for a great adventure with plenty of intrigue. And the setting was really the best part for me. It was so creatively though out. But what I didn't enjoy was the dialogue. I struggled with that the most. The fact that it was too modern for the time frame didn't bother me. What did bother me was that it came across as completely unrealistic....and I'll even add overly sweet & predictable. Every re This is Young Adult/Historical Fiction. I enjoyed the first part of this one. The stage was set nicely for a great adventure with plenty of intrigue. And the setting was really the best part for me. It was so creatively though out. But what I didn't enjoy was the dialogue. I struggled with that the most. The fact that it was too modern for the time frame didn't bother me. What did bother me was that it came across as completely unrealistic....and I'll even add overly sweet & predictable. Every relationship was afflicted with this aberration especially the obligatory teen romance. I'm not a fan of insta-love angles and this one happened so fast. The romance ran roughshod over everything else that was going on. This was between 2 and 3 stars for me. I rounded up because the setting and the whole pirate part of the story was well done. And I'd read more by this author just because of that. So all in all, 3 stars.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Brinley

    I really liked this one! It wasn't exactly what I was expecting, but I still really liked it. I think the main thing I wanted from this was more pirates. The cover, the blurb, the first chapter, all of it promised pirates. I was so disappointed by how small of a part they played, they barely appeared at all. I did love the high-seas setting for this, it helped make up for the lack of pirates. I really liked our main character, Xiang. Her transformation over the course of this was immaculate, and I really liked this one! It wasn't exactly what I was expecting, but I still really liked it. I think the main thing I wanted from this was more pirates. The cover, the blurb, the first chapter, all of it promised pirates. I was so disappointed by how small of a part they played, they barely appeared at all. I did love the high-seas setting for this, it helped make up for the lack of pirates. I really liked our main character, Xiang. Her transformation over the course of this was immaculate, and I loved watching her find her independence. I wasn't a huge fan of her relationship with Anh, it felt a bit rushed, but I really liked her as a character. Although I did think this one was missing the emotional components I wanted (and pirates), I'll definitely be rereading it. The setting and culture was so rich, so I can't wait to dive in deeper on my reread! Thanks to BookishFirst for providing a free copy!

  24. 4 out of 5

    ⛅ Saniya (sunnysidereviews) ⛅

    -- Treasure Island Remix -- Own Voices story -- A Chinese historical fiction -- AND Young Adult *adds to tbr*

  25. 5 out of 5

    Adri

    CWs: some underage drinking and intoxication; brief references to past sexual harassment; descriptions of death, blood, injury, and violence I don't have any kind of personal connection to the original Treasure Island, but this remix is sensational! Not only is A Clash of Steel a fun reclamation of a classic adventure story, but it also does such a great job of showing that pirates have existed across cultures and across the world for as long as there have been pirates. This story also defini CWs: some underage drinking and intoxication; brief references to past sexual harassment; descriptions of death, blood, injury, and violence I don't have any kind of personal connection to the original Treasure Island, but this remix is sensational! Not only is A Clash of Steel a fun reclamation of a classic adventure story, but it also does such a great job of showing that pirates have existed across cultures and across the world for as long as there have been pirates. This story also definitely stands on its own, so it's broadly accessible whether the reader is familiar with the original text or not. This story has such an infectious sense of discovery, joy, and adventure, and it’s really satisfying to see how Xiang grows from being such an uncertain person into a swash-buckling adventurer who unwaveringly knows her worth and value. There's also a constant hunger that underscores her as a character. She's hungry to prove herself to her mother and earn her independence. But when she realizes that she'll never be able to do that within the confines of "proper society," especially as someone who's queer, she knows that she has to break away and dare to write her own script. Historically, pirates have been understood as those who are "other"—those who dare to rail against the rules, laws, and social norms—and I love the way the story embraces that "otherness" as essential to Xiang's freedom. I also have to say that C.B. Lee excels in creating dynamic relationships between characters. There is depth and complexity to every relationship in this story—whether it’s familial, romantic, found family, platonic, or between friends. The slow-burn romance between Xiang and Anh is one of my favorite parts of the story, and it's also satisfying to see how closely the dynamic between them is paralleled by this epic treasure hunt. To that end, I also love how the story doesn't waste a single moment and uses every inch of narrative space. There is something exciting or enticing constantly happening with every page you turn, and the adventure aspect is fast-paced and gripping. I think it's also important to acknowledge how the story beautifully addresses cultural overlap, especially in 1826 China. The story does such a great job of balancing and addressing both Chinese culture and Vietnamese culture, and understanding how and why the two would overlap during this specific time period—whether it's in terms of adapting language or exchanging foods and customs. I can't speak to the representation present, but I can say that I appreciate how the story portrays historical China with such depth and shows the complex interplay of multiple Asian cultures in one place. The one thing I will say is that I wish there was even more mystery and more obstacles when it came to deciphering the treasure map and then actually navigating the island itself. In some respects, the story is supposed to revolve around this legendary plunder that’s extremely well hidden, and it just felt like even more could’ve been done in that respect to amp up the adventure even further. But I still loved this so much! Drama, loss, tension, romance, and adventure all come together in this epic story, and I think it's well worth the read!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sahitya

    It’s more of a 3.5 but I’m rounding up. I have never been much of a classics reader and I probably don’t even remember all of them which I did manage to read, and Treasure Island seems to be one of those which I can’t recollect at all. So I couldn’t approach this as a retelling and more like any new YA fantasy. And it was definitely quite fun. The first thing that makes an impression in this book is the prose. It’s beautiful and lush and there were so many moments where I wanted to linger and sa It’s more of a 3.5 but I’m rounding up. I have never been much of a classics reader and I probably don’t even remember all of them which I did manage to read, and Treasure Island seems to be one of those which I can’t recollect at all. So I couldn’t approach this as a retelling and more like any new YA fantasy. And it was definitely quite fun. The first thing that makes an impression in this book is the prose. It’s beautiful and lush and there were so many moments where I wanted to linger and savor the descriptions, as well as the atmosphere the author managed to create. The other highlight of the book was the setting, and it’s inspiration from the story of the Chinese pirate queen Ching Shih. I loved how the author incorporated her legend into this tale while also giving a commentary on the corrupt empires of both China and Vietnam. The story itself on the other hand is a fairly standard YA adventure fantasy with the usual tropes, a cute f/f romance subplot and a twist that was quite predictable. But nonetheless, it was quite entertaining and I managed to finish it in a single sitting. Xiang is also a typical YA protagonist - ignored by her successful independent but absent mother whose love and attention she craves; and is obsessed with reading adventure stories and dreams that one day she could have her own. But she is ultimately an innocent village girl who sees the vibrant city life of Canton with stars in her eyes and just wants the option to experience it all. There is an innocence to her privileged bookish existence, but it doesn’t make her arrogant in anyway and she is very capable of compassion, humility and hard work. Anh on the other hand knows the reality of poverty and the struggles of living on the sea, which has made her cynical as well as practical, giving more importance only to things which can provide meals and shelter and not frivolous experiences like poetry and books. But she can’t escape the sweet charm of Xiang, in the same way Xiang can’t help but fall for Anh’s mischievous nature. It may not be insta love but there’s definitely a bond that’s formed in their first meeting, which slowly develops into love. It’s sweet and endearing and a nice addition to the story. There were quite a few side characters but the ones who made the most impression were Xiang’s formidable mother who is a force to reckon with and not easy to understand at all; Master Feng who was more of a caring parent to Xiang than anyone else in the world; and Captain Hoa, Anh’s mother who is good natured and caring while also being a brave leader of her crew. In the end, this one was basically fun. It has a cool on the sea setting, a fascinating backdrop of pirate legends, two young women who may have different motives but ultimately want to have an adventure together and prove themselves, and an ever elusive long lost treasure that forms the fulcrum of the story but ultimately it isn’t what this book is about. This is a tale of love and family and I think it will delight any lover of YA adventure novels, and I also feel that it will be perfect for younger readers as well.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Shilo Quetchenbach

    I loved this book SO much. It's so much more than a retelling of Treasure Island -- it's the pirate adventure I've been craving, with a delicious side of f/f romance, found family, and a thorough grounding in Vietnamese and Chinese history and culture. I had planned to pass my copy along after reading it, but nope; keeping this one for sure. I was annoyed with Xiang for the first quarter of the novel because she was SO naive. And she missed some really, really obvious clues about who her mother a I loved this book SO much. It's so much more than a retelling of Treasure Island -- it's the pirate adventure I've been craving, with a delicious side of f/f romance, found family, and a thorough grounding in Vietnamese and Chinese history and culture. I had planned to pass my copy along after reading it, but nope; keeping this one for sure. I was annoyed with Xiang for the first quarter of the novel because she was SO naive. And she missed some really, really obvious clues about who her mother actually was. It was almost like she didn't want to see, and so she didn't. But she grows SO much once she's left to sail with Anh. That was the best part of the novel for me - the slow passage of time as Xiang grows more confident, more capable, and freer with every task she sets her willing mind and hands to. She comes into herself aboard that ship, and it gives her the confidence and courage she needs to face the events of the latter half of the book. The romance was slow and subtle and hinted in the corners, and I loved it. It's my favorite kind of romance in fantasy novels. The closeness that comes with familiarity and time spent together. I would desperately love a series of Xiang and Anh's adventures. The ending was excellent, but it definitely left me wanting more. And really, that's the best kind. *Thanks to Bookishfirst and MacMillan Children's Publishing Group for providing an advanced copy for review.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kelly Lyn

    I love the descriptions at the beginning but then it became too much and the story started to drag. I did research some of the events to get a timeline on the story. The authors note also gives way more detail about her past and also the historical facts and that Zheng Yi Sao was a real pirate. While reading this, I was getting major Pirates of the Caribbean vibes and my feeling was validated in the author's note. I feel that this story was more of a romance than a adventure for treasure. I love the descriptions at the beginning but then it became too much and the story started to drag. I did research some of the events to get a timeline on the story. The authors note also gives way more detail about her past and also the historical facts and that Zheng Yi Sao was a real pirate. While reading this, I was getting major Pirates of the Caribbean vibes and my feeling was validated in the author's note. I feel that this story was more of a romance than a adventure for treasure.

  29. 4 out of 5

    prutha

    A Clash of Steel is brilliant book with pirate sapphics (👀) which is a reimagining of Treasure Island and is inspired by the Chinese pirate queen Cheng Shih. It follows Xiang who finds that her dead father's only memory, a pendant, might contain clues to a treasure only when it gets stolen by Ahn, who returns it to Xiang soon after in exchange for help decoding a tiny map hidden inside. Both of them go on an adventure to find the treasure and maybe, just maybe fall in love. -As I fore mentioned, A A Clash of Steel is brilliant book with pirate sapphics (👀) which is a reimagining of Treasure Island and is inspired by the Chinese pirate queen Cheng Shih. It follows Xiang who finds that her dead father's only memory, a pendant, might contain clues to a treasure only when it gets stolen by Ahn, who returns it to Xiang soon after in exchange for help decoding a tiny map hidden inside. Both of them go on an adventure to find the treasure and maybe, just maybe fall in love. -As I fore mentioned, A Clash of Steel was heavily inspired by the legend of the Chinese pirate queen Cheng Shih. It is set during the Qing Dynasty and challenges our imperialist views of the time period whilst also shinning a light on China’s rich maritime history. -Though the pacing was a bit slow for my liking, this book was seriously a page-turner because I just couldn't wait to find out what happens next. -The romance!! It was a perfect slow burn romance with just the right amount of tension between Xiang and Ahn to make you yearn. -Overall, this was one of the best retellings I've ever read and I cannot wait to read more of C.B Lee's books! Content Warnings: Death of loved one, physical violence (sword and fist fight scenes), alcohol consumption. I received an arc from Macmillan via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This did not impact my review or thoughts in any way.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Inês Gonçalves

    4-4.5 My expectations weren’t high before starting A Clash of Steel by C.B Lee because I thought I'd struggle with reading fantasy, since I haven't read this genre in a long time. But I'm glad to say not only I loved this book but also it reminded me of how much fun fantasy can be. The writing is descriptive and immersive, making me see the beautiful landscapes and busy markets and streets and wish I was able to travel there to experience everything. I also loved Xiang and Anh characters, watchin 4-4.5 My expectations weren’t high before starting A Clash of Steel by C.B Lee because I thought I'd struggle with reading fantasy, since I haven't read this genre in a long time. But I'm glad to say not only I loved this book but also it reminded me of how much fun fantasy can be. The writing is descriptive and immersive, making me see the beautiful landscapes and busy markets and streets and wish I was able to travel there to experience everything. I also loved Xiang and Anh characters, watching them grow, and their slow burn romance with lots of tension and questioning. I liked the side characters and their funny moments, but I wish there was more development to their stories. I want to know who they are, why they became pirates and what are their ambitions. I also enjoyed learning more about Cheng Shih and reading the meaning behind writing this book through the author notes. Read this book if you like: - pirates - adventures - found family - sapphics slow burn romance. You don't need to be familiar with Treasure Island to enjoy this book. I received an eARC of the book in exchange for an honest review

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