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Boxers & Saints Boxed Set Paperback – September 10, 2013

4.7 out of 5 stars 68 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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“A masterful work of historical fiction that happens to be in the form of a graphic novel, and a very accessible view into a complicated moment in Chinese history.” ―Dave Eggers

“In Boxers and Saints, Gene Luen Yang once again masterfully draws us into the most difficult issues of self-identity and communal understanding, with characters who struggle to act out of their deepest cultural and spiritual selves. But when they find that their commitments lead them in terrible, frightening directions--one toward massacres, another toward martyrdom--they must ask questions for which there are no easy answers. The brilliance of this novel--and I mean, aside from the brilliance in the telling of a major historical episode about which most North Americans know very little and which provides some critical lessons in political relationships--the brilliance lies in the merger of fast action and humor and very real characters and startling graphics with a shattering sense of the brokenness of the world and our terrible need for compassion. Read this, and come away shaking.” ―National Book Award Finalist and Newbery Honor winner Gary Schmidt, author of Okay for Now and The Wednesday Wars

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 - 18 years
  • Series: Boxers & Saints (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: First Second; Box edition (September 10, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596439246
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596439245
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.9 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #58,071 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Even though Boxers & Saints has been published as two separate books, they really do need to be read together to get the complete story. Which is why I'm reviewing both books together.

The year is 1898. The place is China. Once closed off to the rest of the world, foreign missionaries and soldiers have taken to roaming the countryside to bully, rob, and convert the Chinese people. There are those that wish to stand up to them, but how? The foreigners have guns and power on their side. And then...Little Bao stands up. He has learned to harness the power of the ancient Chinese gods, and he recruits an army of Boxers - common people trained in Kung Fu, who use the power of the ancient gods to free China from those "foreign devils." And lo and behold it works! They begin winning violent battles against the foreign soldiers. But there is a cost to their victory. Death. Death of those "foreign devils" and death of Chinese citizens who have converted to Christianity.
On the other side of the coin of the Boxers...are the Saints. Chinese Christians who want to make a better life for themselves, but are torn between their nation and their faith. One such Saint is an unwanted fourth daughter, Four-Girl, who is never even given a real name by her family. Instead she finds both a name, Vibiana, and a family with a local Christian missionary. She begins having visions of Joan of Arc, who attempts to guide her down the path of righteousness. But the Boxer Rebellion is coming...and Vibiana will soon have to decide whether she will be Chinese or Christian.

Much like in American Born Chinese, Gene Yang weaves two different powerful stories together to create one amazing story. In this collection, each story represents a different side of the coin.
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I finished the second book this morning and I am still an emotional wreck. Yang has officially passed into another plane of storytelling. Those who know his work well are used to Yang's subtle approach to difficult topics like radical forgiveness, cultural identity and cultural shame, and even social Darwinism, eugenics, and child abuse, all with a wry sense of humor and empathy. His work also often reflects the ways in which ordinary people grapple with and through faith in the midst of personal crisis. "Boxers" and "Saints" are no different in one sense, but this story has a fundamental difference: the stakes are so much higher, and the outcome, potentially so much more disastrous. The characters seem trapped by decisions and consequences which, once they start rolling, spin entirely out of their control.

What Yang gives us in each book is a separate portrait of two young people from similar circumstances who take dramatically different paths to finding a coherent identity and a sense of justice. Through their interwoven stories, Yang takes each one through a series of extremely difficult questions about the origins of religious and political extremism, how even good people with noble ideas can cause unspeakable damage, the horrors of imperialism, and the ways in which the various Christian mission movements were problematically tied to the imperialists. Yang takes no sides and does not moralize about the events of the Boxer rebellion, just a profound sadness for their plight and his ever-present deep, deep empathy. And that is precisely what makes these novels so devastating.

Yang explores in gut-wrenching detail the ways in which each person's unique experiences shape the ways in which they react to political and cultural upheaval.
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Boxers is really quite insidious. It essentially makes you think you're following a traditional protagonist, but things get more and more morally complex over time. It really illustrates the dangers of ideologies, and while it's about events that happened over 100 years ago, it feels incredibly relevant given the issues with terrorism and revolutionary movements in the world today.

Sadly, the story in Saints is not as well fleshed out, partly I guess because it follows a character who is far less complex. I feel like Yang picked the wrong dichotomy. It would've been much more interesting to follow one of the Europeans. (As it was, the one European priest side character's story was simplistic and not nearly up to the standards of _Boxer_.)

I have to admit, too, that while Boxers felt like it was exploring all sides, with Saints I felt a distinctly pro-Christianity bent, so much so that afterward, I looked into the author's background and was not surprised to find that he's Catholic (or at least grew up so). So I can see why he chose that perspective, but it was just less interesting to me.

But again, note that, despite these issues, Boxers is an absolute must-read, thus the 4 stars. :)
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Format: Kindle Edition
Boxers & Saints is an incredibly powerful piece of historical fiction told in the format of a graphic novel. The illustrations are potent and the story is heartbreaking. There are no winners; only losers. It is a story of revenge and intolerance. Gene Luen Yang has written an amazing novel that you will not forget.

The images in both books tell a very strong story. At times, it is very graphic where I suck in my breath as I see the next image. Yang depicted all the intolerance of the Boxer Rebellion from the Chinese and Christians alike. I found myself getting angry at both sides. I found no heroes; only villains and victims. War is horrific and Mr. Yang captured it with his words and illustrations. Just so very powerful!

As I read more graphic novels, I'm finding that they tell amazing stories and are a great medium for historical fiction. The use of vivid colors and graphic illustrations really bring a story to life. I enjoy looking at an author's vision of a certain piece in history; in this case, The Boxer Rebellion. I knew very little about it. From this book, I really didn't names, dates or place; instead I learned about love, hate, faith and loyalty. Those are true emotions of war and were depicted in a way that penetrates your mind and definitely leaves a permanent mark.

Boxers & Saints is a wonderful graphic novel that needs to be read and appreciated for a great work of historical fiction.
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