Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Graphic Novel Book Review: "Boxers" and "Saints" by Gene Luen Yang

I was going to originally review this GNs back to back months for my graphic novels pick,but they really are best understood together, I think. So here they are!

The books take one series of events and take two different view points on it. In 1898, in China the Boxer Rebellion started. Some of the Chinese were angry that there were foreigners and missionaries in their country, trying to win converts to Christianity and bringing change to the area (not in always a good way).

In "Boxers", Bao sees a foreign devil (a Catholic priest) smash one of his villages favorite gods. The village rumbles with talk about how this is happening all over the place and just who do these devils think they are?! A mysterious man comes to Bao's village and trains some of the men to fight to defend themselves. He teaches Bao in secret. Soon they become/join "The Brothers of the Harmonious Fist" to go through the Chinese countryside purging it of Christians and foreigners. There's even a "squadron" of all women who eventually start doing the same thing. Then there's a big face off in Peking...

In "Saints", our story centers around a girl named Four. She's the unwanted fourth daughter in a family so they don't bother to name her. One day when she is in the woods she sees this mysterious person who looks like they are made out of gold. She goes to the local Catholic priest to ask about it, and soon they kind of bond. As you might guess, she gets more harassment than love at home, so she starts spending some time with a man and woman who are Christians. At first she goes because they give her snacks, but eventually they become like a family to her. She eventually becomes a Christian and is baptized, taking the name Vibiana. The person who appears to her in the woods is Joan of Arc, and sometimes she talks to Vibiana. The two both had to face threats to their nation, but Vibiana is conflicted because, as a Christian, she is technically on the side of the invaders. Vibiana helps orphans and Christians flee to what they think will be the relative safety of Peking....

I'm not doing a great job of reviewing these. This is just the plot basically, but there are so many other things that go into both of these books. Chinese gods, talking kind of evil raccoon, interesting Chinese cultural points... I have to say that I enjoyed Saints the most, but Boxers is important because of the set up. I liked how Bao and Vibiana both got to tell their sides of the story before their stories intertwine almost alllll the way at the end. And the Boxer Rebellion was brutal and scary and incredibly violent, so my heart is with the Christian missionaries though I'm sure the Chinese had some valid complaints. I thought the story telling was amazing and I'd love to shove these books in everyone's hands. 4 out of 5 stars!


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