The Fire Horse Girl by Kay Honeyman

The Fire Horse Girl by Kay Honeyman

Release Date: January 1, 2013
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Rated: YA 14+
Format: Hardcover
Source: Author
Buy: AmazonThe Book Depository

Jade Moon is a Fire Horse – the worst sign in the Chinese zodiac for girls, said to make them stubborn, reckless, and far too headstrong. While her family despairs of marrying her off, she dreams of traveling far beyond her tiny village, living out a story as big as her imagination.

Then a young man named Sterling Promise offers Jade Moon and her father an incredible opportunity: the chance to go to America. As they travel, Sterling Promise's smooth manners and Jade Moon's impulsive nature strike sparks again and again. But America in 1923 doesn't welcome Chinese immigrants, and when they are detained at Angel Island – the so-called "Ellis Island of the West," – Jade Moon uncovers a betrayal that destroys all her dreams. To get into America, much less survive there, she will have to use all her stubbornness and strength to break a new path... one so brave and dangerous that only a Fire Horse girl can imagine it.

I'm so glad to say that The Fire Horse Girl lived up to my expectations, and even surpassed them! Once I started it, I was immediately captured by the gorgeous writing and the Asian culture in this novel. While I have read some historical-fiction novels before, I've never really delved into one surrounding Asian culture and tradition. It was really interesting to see how this was so different to, for example, something based in Europe. This novel had it's own elements and style that made it so distinct from any other young adult historical novel that I'd ever read.
Living in Singapore, it's easy to understand and grasp the different concepts of Chinese culture, but there were several aspects which I didn't know about, and didn't even think about until I'd read this book. I didn't know that Chinese immigrants going to America had to go through Angel Island. I knew about Ellis Island, but this one was new to me. While I did expect the bad treatment of Asian immigrants, I was so taken aback with the profound detail in which they were treated. Jade Moon's emotions came through very clearly with the author's descriptions, and as a reader, I felt very empathic towards her as she enters this new, strange land.

At first, I didn't really take to Jade Moon. I found her a little brash and a little too interested in everybody's business. However, I found myself liking her more when she struggles to fend for herself when she arrives at Angel Island and among the tong. She reminds me of Mulan because several bits of this novel's plot matched the story, as well as our heroine's headstrong determination and stubbornness– which she needs to use to bring honor to her family, which she has "cursed" with her birth.
Sterling Promise and Harry are also both great characters. Both had their ups and downs, and I was a little surprised with the way things turned out, but in the end it was truly for the best. Neil was also a great character, as it showed the breakdown of immigrants coming into America from all over the world, as he is from Ireland. It didn't hurt that he was funny as well!

Storytelling is also a major factor in this story. Time and time again I've heard of some Asian myths, but the one which is most prominent in this story– the story of the Cowherd and Weaver Girl– was one which I'd never come across. I loved the story– it's absolutely gorgeous! I also liked the fact that Honeyman produces two different endings with this tale, as it does go with the tradition of storytelling, in which that multiple results and variations occur from one story.
The zodiac is also something that added an interesting element to the story. The concept of the Fire Horse, a zodiac which is pretty rare and only occurs every sixty years, and our main character having been built up around of what she's expected to be, and actually taking on some of the qualities which the Fire Horse is said to have, is really interesting. It also shows how much myth and legend play into their lives, and how much they have belief in them.

The Fire Horse Girl is an amazing adventure, one which had me hooked from the start to the end. Kay Honeyman is amazingly talented, and has written a fabulous debut. She has shown the hardships which Chinese have had to go through in the past, and has brought that with the multiple settings, stories and great characters, which brings this novel to life. I'm definitely looking forward to what she has in store next!

▪ ▪ ▪ Thank you so much to Kay Honeyman for providing a copy of The Fire Horse Girl for review and BTG2013! ▪ ▪ ▪

If you like this, try...

  • Ties That Bind, Ties That Break by Lensey Namioka ● Goodreads
  • Habibi by Naomi Shihab Nye ● Goodreads


  1. Yaaaay! We've only JUST heard about this one, but it seems pretty intriguing, and stands out from the rest of the YA bunch in many ways (historical, Asian influence, etc.). Glad to hear it's a great read!

  2. I can't wait to read this :) This sounds like nothing else out there right now, love all the Asian elements!

  3. This book seems unique. It combines historical fiction with Asian culture... not something you see everyday. I am so glad you liked this book! You have definitely convinced me to read it!
    I love your blog and I'm a new follower.

    Sapir @ Diary of a Wimpy Teen Girl


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