What if Mulan had to travel to the Underworld?When Captain Shang is mortally wounded by Shan Yu in battle, Mulan must travel to the Underworld, Diyu, in order to save him from certain death. But King Yama, the ruler of Diyu, is not willing to give Shang up easily. With the help of Shang's great lion guardian ShiShi, Mulan must traverse Diyu to find Shang's spirit, face harrowing obstacles, and leave by sunrise--or become King Yama's prisoner forever. Moreover, Mulan is still disguised as the soldier called Ping, wrestling with the decision to reveal her true identity to her closest friend. Will Mulan be able to save Shang before it's too late? Will he ever be able to trust her again? Or will she lose him--and be lost in the Underworld--forever?
“If we’re going to save Li Shang, we aren’t going to do it by listening to a grove of demonic bamboo.” – Shishi
If you follow me on Twitter (shameless self plug lmao) you already know what’s up!!!
So it’s summer, right, and I’m gonna start college in the fall, right, and I thought, this is a good summer to read more. So I went to the library and one of the first books I found was Reflection by Elizabeth Lim.
Of course I gotta support my Asians, Fa Mulan and Elizabeth Lim. As for the actual book? Incredible.
You can probably tell by the summary but this book is a retelling (a more accurate fandom slang would be “canon-divergence”) of Disney’s Mulan. Except when Mulan defeats the Huns, it’s Shang that gets hurt. Mulan travels to Diyu to save him a la Orpheus in Greek mythology. There’s action, adventure, the beginnings of love, all that good stuff.
No spoilers, but one of the first notes I made about the book was how fascinating Lim’s portrayal of Chinese mythology is re: Diyu and the spiritual guardians (Mushu, Shishi) from Mulan. Can I also say how much I love Shishi if only because of that one Chinese poem/tongue-twister about the lion-eating poet.
One of my favorite things about this novel is the way Elizabeth Lim portrays Diyu, with how it plays into the story and Mulan’s quest but also develops this whole system for the underworld separate from Mulan’s story. My favorite character (besides Mulan, obviously) is actually from Diyu, Meng Po. She’s a real part of Chinese mythology! Though I wouldn’t Google her until you’ve read it because spoilers.
Another thing I really like is how Lim incorporated the movie, but also elaborated on Mulan’s backstory, her character, and some background scenes. Similarly, Shang gets a little more background and also a spirit guardian. Shishi is my second favorite non-og character.
My absolute favorite thing, though, is how this isn’t just a story about Mulan saving Shang – it’s as much about Mulan becoming proud/happy/comfortable with herself and that’s really important!! Mulan was pretty much the only rep I had as a Chinese-American kid who despised gender roles and even though it isn’t perfect I loved the movie. Reflection was pretty much a continuation of this journey and I love that.