From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-Acclaimed graphic novelist Yang brings his talents to historical fiction in these paired novels set during China's Boxer Rebellion (1899-1900). In Boxers, life in Little Bao's peaceful rural village is disrupted when "foreign devils"-a priest and his phalanx of soldiers-arrive. The foreigners behave with astonishing arrogance, smashing the village god, appropriating property, and administering vicious beatings for no reason. Little Bao and his older brothers train in kung fu and swordplay in order to defend against them, and when Little Bao learns how to tap into the power of the Chinese gods, he becomes the leader of a peasant army, eventually marching to Beijing. Saints follows a lonely girl from a neighboring village. Unwanted by her family, Four-Girl isn't even given a proper name until she converts to Catholicism and is baptized-by the very same priest who bullies Little Bao's village. Four-Girl, now known as Vibiana, leaves home and finds fulfillment in service to the Church, while Little Bao roams the countryside committing acts of increasing violence as his army grows. Mysticism plays a part in both stories, and Yang's spare, clean drawing style makes it clear that Vibiana's visits from Joan of Arc and Bao's invocation of the powerful Chinese gods are very real to these characters. The juxtaposition of these opposing points of view, both of them sympathetic, makes for powerful, thought-provoking storytelling about a historical period that is not well known in the West.-Paula Willey, Baltimore County Public Library, Towson, MDα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
*Starred Review* In American Born Chinese (2006), Yang spoke to the culture clash of Chinese American teen life. In Boxers—the first volume in a two-book set, concluding with Saints (2013)—about the Boxer Rebellion at the end of the nineteenth century in China, he looses twin voices in harmony and dissonance from opposite sides of the bloody conflict. Boxers follows a young man nicknamed Little Bao, who reacts to religious and cultural oppression by leading the uprising from the provinces to Peking, slaughtering “foreign devils” and soldiers along the way. Between the two books, Yang ties tangled knots of empathy where the heroes of one become the monsters of the other. Little Bao and his foil from Saints, Four-Girl, are drawn by the same fundamental impulses—for community, family, faith, tradition, purpose—and their stories reflect the inner torture that comes when those things are threatened. Yang is in superb form here, arranging numerous touch points of ideological complexity and deeply plumbing his characters’ points of view. And in an homage to the driving power of stories themselves, Bao is captivated by visions sprung from lore: the spirits he believes possess him and his fighters. Much blood is spilled as Little Bao marches toward his grim fate, which is even more unsettling given that Yang hasn’t fundamentally altered his squeaky clean, cartoonishly approachable visual style. A poignant, powerhouse work of historical fiction from one of our finest graphic storytellers. Grades 7-11. --Ian Chipman