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Tiger Honor, by Yoon Ha Lee

Review copy provided by the publisher. Also I have known the author since the beginning of forever.

One of the problems with writing a lot is that it’s hard enough to have people compare your work to other people’s work–you can quite justly object that you are not someone else and cannot be expected to write their stories–but an entirely different kind of frustrating to have it compared to your own previous work. And I…loved Phoenix Extravagant more than anything else Yoon has written. And Tiger Honor is not Phoenix Extravagant.

But it’s not trying to be. It’s a different category–middle grade–a completely different genre and tone and characterization. Sebin is a young would-be spacefarer–spacefaring officer–in a long tradition of proud tiger spirits in their family serving in the Space Forces. They are just preparing to start their cadet term when disaster strikes: their admired Uncle Hwan, a respected officer in the Space Forces, is disgraced, stripped of his rank. Instead of using their time as a cadet only for the usual purposes of learning the ways of Space Forces and gaining a toehold on the ladder to fame and glory, Sebin now has to do those things and attempt to figure out what went so badly wrong with the relative they so admired. Surely he can’t be guilty of the things he’s accused of–so what happened? And who among the other cadets and officers can Sebin trust?

Sebin is believably guarded and focused, given their upbringing in the ruthless Juhwang Clan. The other cadets’ characters are mostly hinted at in outline, but that’s totally appropriate for the shape and length of the story. This is related to Lee’s previous MG book, Dragon Pearl, which I haven’t read yet, but now I want to–it worked perfectly well in this order, leaving me wanting more, but it seems like knowing more about the titular object would also have made this an interesting story. Not everything can be Phoenix Extravagant, and not everything should. Tiger Honor, like its protagonist, comes into its own as it progresses and is very much what it needs to be in itself.

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