From the author of Three Souls and Dragon Springs Road comes a captivating historical novel in which a convoy of student refugees travel across China, fleeing the hostilities of a brutal war with Japan
“Myths are the darkest and brightest incarnations of who we are . . .”
China, 1937. When Japanese bombs begin falling on the city of Nanking, nineteen-year-old Hu Lian and her classmates at Minghua University are ordered to flee. Lian and a convoy of students, faculty and staff must walk 1,000 miles to the safety of China’s western provinces, a journey marred by the constant threat of aerial attack. And it is not just the refugees who are at risk; Lian and her classmates have been entrusted with a priceless treasure: a 500-year-old collection of myths and folklore known as the Library of Legends.
The students’ common duty to safeguard the Library of Legends creates unexpected bonds. Lian becomes friends and forms a cautious romance with the handsome and wealthy Liu Shaoming. But after one classmate is arrested and another one is murdered, Lian realizes she must escape before a family secret puts her in danger too. Accompanied by Shao and his enigmatic maidservant, Sparrow, Lian makes her way to Shanghai in the hopes of reuniting with her mother.
During the journey, Lian learns of the connection between her two companions and a tale from the Library of Legends, The Willow Star and the Prince. This revelation comes with profound consequences, for as the ancient books travel across China, they awaken immortals and guardian spirits who embark on an exodus of their own, one that will change the country’s fate forever.
“The Library of Legends is a luminous and enthralling story set during a pivotal period in the making of modern China and highlights the Chinese determination to preserve their culture by saving precious historical treasures at great sacrifice. The exploits of historical characters and ancient mythological beings are interwoven in a blend of wonder, courage, and suspense.”
“A remarkable read, brimming with magic and the grit of realism. . . . Chang asserts herself as an exciting, relatable voice in Canadian fiction, a voice that requires us to re-examine our relationships to place, identity, and ancestry. . . . A story for our times.”
"Vibrant, rich, and moving, The Library of Legends brings an unusual true episode in Chinese history to shimmering, heartfelt life.”
"Atmospheric and beautifully told, Janie Chang has woven a tale that tugs on the threads of China's history and legend alike. Readers will find themselves immersed in this story of love amidst war, hope amidst sacrifice."
“Compelling and utterly original. Janie Chang’s riveting debut gives us so much: a complex heroine, a window into the vanished world of pre-Communist China, a fascinating plot and language that sings. An intoxicating story of family, ambition and the risks we take for love.”
“Chang unfurls this intriguing story—set against the chaotic backdrop of China in the early twentieth century-with precision. Rich with detail and a fascinating interplay between the spiritual and earthly realms, Chang’s second novel explores whether it is possible to overcome your past.”
“A tour de force. Evocative of Lisa See at her best, Three Souls vividly conjures life in pre-Mao China, and runs the emotional gamut from playful to haunting. This original story and its sympathetic heroine will stay with you long after the final pages.”
Praise for Three Souls:
“Captivating, tinged with magic realism, and rich with Chinese history, folklore (and cuisine!), this is a delight from start to finish.”
“Lyrical and magical . . . Chang’s lovingly crafted novel will resonate with readers long after the story is done.”
“Chang (Dragon Springs Road) has created a lovely novel that is both joyful and lighthearted and deeply tragic as she explores a culture and people who are forced to accept that their country will never be the same following the war and the departure of the spirits that protected their land for centuries.”
“Enthralling. . . . It’s both a pleasure and an education to read this sensitive, intelligent novel.”
Praise for Dragon Springs Road
“Dragon Springs Road is simply one of the best novels I have read in a long time. With her lyrical, heartfelt portrait of a vanished world, and her creation of a heroine whose struggles and victories tore at my heart, Janie Chang has created an enchanting and unforgettable book. I recommend it unreservedly.”
“Chang expertly weaves mysticism and historical details, and sets up a cast of memorable characters. This will charm readers from the very first page.”
“Filled with enchantment and intrigue, this novel shines brightly with lyrical prose.”
“Beautifully told . . . fascinating . . . a great choice for a book club.”
“Janie Chang's The Library of Legends is a delicious mix of history, myth and romance. Chang deftly intertwines Chinese folklore and historical detail to create a magical, heartfelt read.”
“Janie Chang has beautifully melded history and the spirit world to create an adventurous love story for all of us readers who love books and who, in a perfect world, would do anything to save them.”
"Janie Chang's The Library of Legends delivers stark historical truths on the tail of a shooting star. Absolutely enchanting."
“Janie Chang brings wartime China to life in The Library of Legends, imbuing her characters with the same epic qualities they find in the mythic figures that follow them on their journey to safety. Moving smoothly between historical fiction and magic realism, this is a beautifully written story of love, hope, and courage.”
“A triumph. There is so much magic here, such generous imagining. The prose sings while the story is told in surging crescendo that makes us race to know what happens.”
“Janie Chang has done it again with this story of an exodus of young students treasured as China’s future intermingled with an imaginary, unconventional departure of mystical beasts and legendary deities during a war that changes China forever. Evocative, unforgettable, The Library of Legends is truly out of this world!” ——
"Janie Chang’s The Library of Legends tells an unforgettable story of love, grief, longing, and duty amid the dangers of war. Lyrical and moving, the novel weaves Chinese history and legend into a seamless, captivating tale. I couldn't put this book down!"
“The Library of Legends is a gorgeous, poetic journey threaded with mist and magic about a group from a Chinese university who take to the road to escape the Japanese invasion of 1937 – only to discover that danger stalks them from within. Janie Chang pens pure enchantment!”
“Janie Chang has a keen eye for detail and infuses them throughout this magical story, with its masterfully rendered setting of the early Chinese republic, characters who bring to life the constrictions of those girls, and a mystical benevolent spirit. The result is enchanting.”