Dragon Pearl: 02/16/19
Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee is a middle grade science fiction fantasy space opera romp that is infused with Korean lore. Min lives with her mother and her aunties on a frontier planet, Jinju. They are all fox spirits but per her mother's wishes, she doesn't use her shapeshifting abilities or her ability to Charm except when absolutely necessary. Now the family has gotten word that eldest son Jun has deserted his post a space cruiser.
A letter from Jun to Min gives her the clues she needs to know he wasn't a deserter. He was on a mission to find the Dragon Pearl. She decides to go after it herself to clear her brother's name (and hopefully find him). Of course doing this means using all of her fox spirit magic and Charm to the fullest of her abilities.
Yoon Ha Lee is a Korean-American born in Houston and now living in Baton Rouge. It shows in his writing as this novel fits perfectly into the road narrative spectrum. It has traveler, Min, a destination, the Ghost Planet, and a labyrinthine route.
Min, of course has her family back home on Jinju, so she's not a literal orphan (FF). Her status as an orphan traveler is one of choice, one of going solo. She does this because she doesn't have her family's support and as a young teen, she doesn't have the agency. But she does have Charm, which in the parlance of the road narrative spectrum, would be a literal representation of orphan magic.
While Min's main goal is to either reunite with her brother or to find the Dragon Pearl, the physical goal is the Ghost Planet — a planet inhabited, if you will, entirely by ghosts. Ghosts as I've written about before often are a sign of a uhoric (out of time) destination. (CC)
Finally there is the path. I could argue that since the travel is through outer space, the route is "offroad." I would except for many different ways that Min uses Charm to work her way from point to point to her final destination. With her befriending of a ghost early on and her reliance on his guidance through the potentially dangerous situations, thus making the route confusing but relatively safe, I'm placing the route at labyrinth rather than either maze or offroad (99)
Put all together, Min's journey to find out the fate of her brother and to locate the Dragon Pearl is an orphan traveling through a labyrinth to uhoria.
At the moment, this book is a standalone. Should there be further adventures for Min, I will eagerly read them.