| Spoiler Alert!
Warning! This page contains spoilers for Dragon Pearl.
A standalone middle grade novel starring Min, a teenage fox spirit whose brother is missing and thought to have deserted the Thousand Worlds Space Forces in order to find the pearl of the title, an artifact that may have the power to save their struggling space colony.
When writing Dragon Pearl, Yoon Ha Lee reread Folk Tales from Korea by Zong In-Sob which he was entertained by as a child. It contains information on things that include gumiho (fox spirit) stories and the legend of Hong Gildong. Lee also read parts of Hong-Key Yoon’s The Culture of Fengshui in Korea as inspiration for the mystical star ships and Religions of Korea in Practice, a collection of essays edited by Robert E. Buswell Jr., for background on the smallpox spirits.
On October 28th, Rick Riordan said this book was unlike any of the other books in his imprint. He said the book is like Star Wars combined with Korean mythology, only better, and gave sneak peaks at the book every Sunday calling it #SciFiSunday.
An Investigator Shows Up
This story takes place on the backwater planet of Jinju. Kim Min is a teenaged fox spirit that can shapeshift into anything. She can also manipulate human emotions with an ability called "Charm" and make people see things that aren’t there. She wants to join the Space Forces like her older brother, Jun, however, she is not old enough. Min's mother, Seonmi, does not want any member of the family using fox magic in an attempt to keep a low profile.
Min lives with her mother and four aunties. She has two more years to live at home before she can take the Space Forces exam. Legend has it, a Shaman used the Dragon Pearl to create Jinju, though Min didn't think the pearl existed. At the start of the book, an investigator of the Thousand Worlds revealing Jun's disappearance and treachery. Min eavesdrops on the investigator's conversation with her mom. Through the sneezing sensation in her nose, she can tell her mom is using Charm on herself to look a bit more presentable. The investigator states that he has a message from him to Min. Min "arrives" to the meeting. In the message, Jun states that he made a lot of friends and is exploring new worlds like their dad, but still has lots of chores. Min wonders what Jun meant about his "friends" and their dad, as their dad died seven years before and was a skilled technician, not an explorer. Min denies knowing anything about the desertion. She refused to believe that Jun would desert from the Space Forces.
Her mother decides to invite the investigator for dinner out of courtesy. After being asked to get the table ready, Min transforms into a table for her mom to put the food on in order to listen in. She discovered that her mom was using Charm on the suspicious investigator, despite her own disapproval of it. The investigator suspects Min is hiding something and threatens to open a general investigation into their family. Angered by the threat, Min transformed back into a human and attacked the man despite her mother's protests. The man realizes that the family consists of foxes. He grabs Min by the throat in an attempt to get more information. Seeing the man reach for something in his coat, Min turns into a dense block of metal and crushes the man's foot. Upon returning to her human form again she knocks the man out with a saucepan. The noise attracts Min's aunties. Min's mother forces her to clean up the mess she created while her mom and the aunties take the investigator to the next room. While they discuss Min's potential fate following this, Bora and her brother Manshik come into the dining room. Min tries to overhear something her Auntie Areum is saying but Bora deliberately makes more of a mess. Min throws the cleaning rag at Bora and Min's mother, Seonmi, comes in saying she will have a long discussion with her later and sends Bora and Manshik to the hydroponics dome.
Min hears her mother and aunties talking about what to do with the investigator. Min slips away from her chore and takes a sonic shower before thinking things over. Bora comes in the bathroom and makes a bet with her cousin: if Jun comes back within a year, she'll do all of Min's chores for the next six months, if not Min will do Bora's chose for that time. Min decides to run away from home to find some answers. She packs faded clothes, her breathing masks, an outdated data-slate, takes some of the family's jades, (worth more than the currency on Jinju) and a picture of their family into a patched-up backpack. She told Manshik she was just taking clothes to the laundry room, but once she steps outside she doesn't look back.
Running Away to Hongok
Min changes into a slightly older version of herself and takes her family's hover-scooter. She also adds details to her clothes, face, and hair to blend in with a city dweller. The fake ID created with this transformation is under the alias of Bora, much to Min's dismay. She enters Hongok through the West Gate.
In the city, Min is flanked by a corrupt guard named Eunhee and is surrounded by her associates. They notice the emerald rings in Min's fake outfit. Just wanting to get to the spaceport, Min bribes the guard with the rings to escort her there. One of the guards who wants a drink convinces the rest to take Min to a restaurant first. Min tries to get information about the Space Forces and Jun's ship through gossiping. She learns that many Space Force ships are gathering in the Ghost Sector despite the fact that a planet within it called the Fourth Colony had its entire population perish due to angering disease spirits. A spiky-haired guard mentions rumors of a tiger captain named Hwan, and two other guards state their distaste of supernaturals. Min decides to try and leave upon hearing this. She excuses herself to the bathroom, but Eunhee is sent with her. Min trips her, enters the back room in the restaurant, briefly transforms into a chair to hide, and then disguises as a waiter to escape. Several blocks away, she realizes she left her backpack containing her jades and her family portrait behind.
Working for Nari
Min arrives at the spaceport. After Min manages to get past security with her fake ID, she learns that the closest ship heading for the Ghost Sector was a freighter called the Red Azalea. It said that the captain, Captain Hye, was willing to take on "working passengers", and she could be found at Nari's casino.
When Min arrives at the casino, she is greeted by the owner. Min immediately sneezes. Nari knows why immediately. Min tries but fails to convince Nari that she simply has business with one of the casino goers. Min is lead into the back room by Nari. Nari begins by stating that Min "has the look of Areum and her sisters." She also mentions Min's mother. Eventually, she introduces herself as the cousin that was disowned by the family. She reveals that she started the casino with Min's mother, and was given ownership after Min's mother quit. After doing some more explaining concerning Min's family history, Min states that she is looking for Captain Hye. Nari suggests that Min work for her instead of trying to flee the planet. Just to be able to contact Hye, Min agrees to try working for a day and seeing how it goes. Her job description is to wander around and serve wine. Min disguises herself in a fancier outfit and is introduced to a bouncer, Yong. She is given a tour of the casino, including the high-stakes tables, where at one of which Captain Hye was currently gambling at. She takes an order from another gambler and collects the order along with another unordered drink for Hye. She delivers her order and makes her way to the high-stakes room. She gives the unordered wine to Hye, using Charm to convince both Hye and the other gamblers that the captain had ordered the drink. She whispers to Hye that she wants to make a deal with her. She tries to arrange that a "colleague" of Nari's needs passage on Hye's ship and in exchange, Hye's debt to the casino would be forgiven. Hye agrees. However, upon returning to the bar, Min sees a drunk Hye being escorted to Nari's office and it is revealed that upon agreeing to the deal, Hye had bet everything she had. Min decides to leave and hope that the Red Azalea has other crew on board. She goes into the bathroom and drops her disguise. When she leaves the bathroom, she walks right into Yong. Yong recognizes her despite her previous disguise, and states, "Fox or no fox, you're too young for this life. I'll escort you out, while Nari is distracted." Yong pretends to make a show of throwing Min out of the casino, to whom Min flashes a grateful smile.
Aboard the Red AzaleaFollowing directions, Min arrives at the Red Azalea dock at the spaceport. She Charms the dock agent into letting her on the ship. She tells the crew that the ship will be possessed by Nari unless they leave Jinju immediately. After some convincing, the lead crew member agrees to take off early with her on board. The man introduces himself as Byung-Ho, pilots the ship, and has Min function as a copilot. The ship successfully takes off. Byung-Ho warms up the jump drive, which lets them get near the Ghost Sector in two jumps. Mid-jump, Min sees a haunting vision of her dad morphing into a tiger and lunging at her. After the jump, Min is quickly introduced to some chores. She finishes and comes back to a sleeping Byung-Ho. Min quickly falls asleep herself. She is awoken by Byung-Ho, who informs her that he had just completed the second hop and that there were four pirate ships confronting them.
Min is put in charge of repairing a few damaged systems mid-battle after they are hit. She does quite a good job, due to her practice fixing machines at home. However, they are quickly bested by the greater number. Byung-Ho hands Min a blaster and takes a bigger gun for himself in preparation of the mercenaries boarding the ship. They are both knocked out by a stun grenade thrown by one of the mercenaries.
Working on the Pale Lightning
Min wakes up in an infirmary next to a person in uniform whose tag reads "bae jang". She can tell that Jang is a ghost by his long strands of hair. From Jang, Min learns she is on The Pale Lightning, which was Jun's ship. Looking for an excuse to stay on the ship, she makes a deal with Jang--She would use her shape-shifting to pose as Jang and continue Jang's training cruise for him. In return, she would find out more information about the mercenaries who had killed him. Jang has Min take an oath to follow up on her end of the deal. Jang disappears after hearing the practitioner return to the medical bay, and Min quickly disguises herself as Jang in a cadet's uniform. Upon being asked, the arriving doctor reveals that Byung-Ho survived the blast. Min uses Charm on the doctor to convince her that "Jang" is in shape to work and that the girl from the ship had died.
After being released from the medical bay, Min (disguised as Jang) bumps into another cadet, who happens to be one of Jang's friends. The cadet is a Dokkaebi, or a goblin, and is gender-neutral. Their name tag reads "Sujin". Sujin is surprised to see Jang up from the medical bay this early. Another cadet follows, also a friend of Jang. This cadet is a female dragon named Haneul. After some brief conversation, Min is told that she should be checking in with Lieutenant Ju-Won.
Ju-Won is overlooking spacers pulling wires with patterns of meridians as "Jang" enters. Min is quickly reminded of her status on the ship and a need to respect authorities. After leaving the Lieutenant, Sujin conjures up some food for "Jang" as they had stated their own hunger.
As she is new to the ship, Min at first constantly goofs on the knowledge that "Jang" should have known. She racks up many punishments and chores, one specifically is cleaning the bathroom.
One morning after cleaning the unisex bathroom again, Min heads to the mess hall and met up with Haneul and Sujin. Two unnamed girl cadets find it weird that "Jang" is hanging out with supernaturals, making Min wonder how Jun was treated on the ship. After the meal, Min and Jang's friends arrive at a class taught by Lieutenant Hyosu about weapons systems. The Pale Lightning's armament included defense systems as well as missiles and laser cannons. Min goes into a simulator (separate from Sujin and Hanuel, who were together). Min gets paired up with one of the previous gossiping girls named Gyeong-Ja. She served as the pilot while "Jang" was the gunner. Hyosu and Gyeong-Ja were impressed with Min's performance, as Jang had never been as good at it.
While Min is scrubbing the bulkhead next to a maintenance shaft, Jang appears before Min again. Jang remarks how imitating a cadet was "harder than [Min] thought" and then says that she can read the cadet handbook to find out more. He also reminds her that she needs to find out more about his killers. He disappears just when an officer arrives. Later, while Min is reading the handbook, Hanuel and Sujin come to her saying that this was leisure time. The latter conjures up some food made of cinnamon, spinach, and eggs, and Min is forced into a game of baduk against Haneul. After dinner, Min finds a portrait of Jang's family. Jang appears next to her, and he says he knew he would be a ghost for long, but he doesn't want to be eternal. The next day, Sujin (who had also gotten a punishment) helps Min clean the toilets. They say this helps "build our character" which is why there are no cleaning robots. After saying that the experience on the Red Azalea was terrifying, "Jang" asks Sujin about Jun, but both were interrupted by the arrival of Captain Hwan. The tiger says that the Spaces Forces spend most of their time defending their territory against the Jeweled Worlds but also keep peace within their own. The members of the Dragon Council and Pearled Halls don't play games like those mercenaries. Jang whispered to Min that she should listen closely, Hwan wonders why the pirates attacked the Red Azalea instead of them, as none of them survived. They were looking for the Dragon Pearl which hasn't been found yet. When asked about Jun, Hwan curtly says they deserted and leaves.
Min and Sujin's next duty was in the robot maintenance room. After that, the two come late to Lieutenant Hyosu's class on the ship's internal security system. They learn about the meridians and how it can affect engineers, and how things get more dangerous in the Ghost Sector. Because planets can't declare war, they hire mercenaries to do their dirty work, and this sector is their base.
After the first week, Min is starting to enjoy her life as a cadet. But when she sneaks around at night trying to find out something about Jun, a sergeant catches her and she is punished with working in Hydroponics with Haneul and Sujin. She is to check for mold and rotted roots. She is helped by a human ensign from Bunk 2 named Woo-Jin. He doesn't know what happened to Jun but he suspects Captain Hwan might be involved. Haneul says that the energy flows have been shaky since the Red Azalea was rescued. Min was worried that this might be because of Jang's haunting.
After mess, Min wants to see the damaged meridian herself. After Charming her way past some guards, Min begins to experience some bad luck herself, possibly due to Jang. She overhears Hwan talking with Lieutenant Commander Ji-Eun saying that there is a ghost on the ship, but it could be the mercenaries' ghosts. After the latter left, Hwan tells "Jang" to come out now, revealing Hwan knew he was there. Min makes the excuse of almost dying on the ship and wanting to be alone. After checking "him" over he tells Min how he lost his partner when he was about sixteen. After he leaves, Jang appears and says he doesn't know of any other ghosts on the ship.
For the next several days, Min tries to get into the captain's office, thinking she can find more evidence about Jun's disappearance. Ten ships attack them after they un-gate from Sycamore Station. All of the cadets are called to battle stations. The engineer has Min redirect energy flows, but when Sujin gets burned by an attack Min has to take over their station. Soon she gets the hang of it. She overhears the chief engineer speaking with Captain Hwan, when she is done she learns that this was actually an attack getting through the shields. She is synchronizing her gi with the ship's as if it's part of her body, falling into "Engineer's Trance". Concentrating on the control panel, Min felt like she is flying through deep space but goes too deep into the trance. She wakes up the medical bay and decides that this would be the opportunity to investigate Hwan's office while thinking about Jinju. Using litmus film she had acquired earlier, she undid the lock with no alarm, then she used it to see which buttons the captain pushed to figure out the code: 1-4-8-3. Inside, she smells Jun's scent coming from a sword. Searching through the notebooks reveals that Hwan is against the scholars locking the Dragon Pearl away and the Dragon Society using it to make the world even more wealthy. He wants to use the Pearl as a weapon to win wars and that he actually sent Jun on a secret mission with the others. Min quickly went back to Medical. Byung-Ho is lying next to her. He is still concerned about his passenger, the girl. Min charms Byung-Ho into knowing that the medical record was mistaken and that "the girl" survived. She has Byung-Ho forget about her.
Escaping with Mercenaries
A couple hours after returning to her pallet, Min hears that the battle was over and some of the hostiles have been captured. After getting the codes to the brig for toilet-scrubbing from Jang, Min discovers that the Pale Lightning has been invaded by Pox spirits! They were coming from the observation chamber where someone was interrogating three mercenaries. One warns her not to go to the ghost-infested Fourth Colony, it used to be one of the flowers of the Thousand Worlds before they neglected those spirits. The interrogator reveals that their commander died but they aren't pirates, said commander was hired by Councilor Chae-Won of the Pearled Halls who wants the Dragon Pearl so she can reduce their alliance on the Dragon Society, so the mercenaries were sent to prevent Captain Hwan from getting it first. The interrogator decides to give them a break, Min leaves having heard that she'd have to get past those spirits in order to get the pearl and her brother.
Much later at mess, Hanuel was very impressed with "Jang" and Sujin's performances in Engineering. As a thank you for looking out for them, Sujin uses their spork to conjure up a box of chocolate which Min shared with the other two of them. At the barrack, Min knew that Hwan would be heading for the Fourth Colony as soon as the ship was repaired. She decided on tampering with the meridians to get more time once they dock on the Abalone Spire, Jang agreed on helping her.
They began two nights later at three a.m., Min headed to Deck 3 and Charmed a guard. But soon she began not feeling well, she disguised herself as Captain Hwan in order to talk to the captive mercenaries. Min reveals herself as a Gumiho, the scholar mercenary named Chul was surprised as he thought they were extinct, Min makes them a deal that she'll take them back to their captive she if they take her to the Fourth Colony. Unfortunately, the shaman that was with the mercenaries did not survive the fight, but Min assures them that fox magic can work on ghosts as they are still human. A woman was unsure of this but goes along anyway, once they get to the starship a pale man starts it up. But almost as soon as the left the Pale Lightning, the real Captain Hwan contacts them from the communications channel ordering them to power down. Min tries to disguise herself as Hwan saying the other is an imposter, but the battle cruiser fired at them. They pass through a gate and witness a star ringed by a massive planet with an orbiting station. The ship can manage two more jumps, they'll be used near the Fourth Colony in and out and then they'll recharge, but that's when they are open to attacks but they will get the pearl.
After another jump, they finally reached the Fourth Colony, but the ship begins to malfunction. Jang and Min blames themselves, the Pale Lightning beat them there, the engineer got some light sticks and they put on suits and helmets. But Chul was not offended, Min suggests they set some kind of trap and make them paranoid, Jang is willing to help her. Everyone constructed makeshift forts, the people from the Pale Lightning boarded the starship while they were hiding. When Hwan arrived, he sent Sujin and Hanuel unarmed as the captain threatens to have them court-martialed for treason if Min and everyone else do not surrender. They march onto the breach, Bae Jang's work with Min is finished as he disappears, he plans to haunt these mercenaries.
Kim Min introduced herself and Hwan knows that she is Jun's brother, she was taken to a solitary confinement cell where a force shield will knock her out. Hwan wakes her up after having nightmares, he has Min briefly transform into her true form of a red fox before they talk. Captain Hwan wants Min to use her Charm on the ghosts of the Fourth Colony so they can get the Dragon Pearl. Jun apparently proved to Hwan as less than cooperative, he stowed him away and won't release him unless Min finishes his task. Min got mad and her body got burned from the force shield after lunging failed, Hwan leaves her until she comes to her senses. Sujin appeared calling for Jang while they wore their invisibility cap, they tell Min to change into Lieutenant Hyosu. They typed the number pad to free her and has her follow them to an escape pod where Hanuel was waiting. They both disagree with what Hwan was doing, Sujin downloaded a map of the EMP mines.
The coordinates were set to the city of Jeonbok, but a few hours later the pod was in free fall and the scanner was blank. The ghosts must be influencing the systems already, Min began to make repairs, Hanuel sabotaged the Pale Lightning but this backfired because that include the escape pods. Min apologizes for pretending to be Jang, but Hanuel is worried about Jun and the others too.
On the Fourth Colony
The escape pod landed into the trees of the Fourth Colony, the trio needed to move quickly as Hwan has many ways of tracking them. They had to be careful getting out as there were thorns and ghosts lurking nearby. After an hour walking in a windy direction, night was soon to fall, Jinju had more life than Min thought. The trio decide to stop for a brief break to make a dirt map, but almost immediately after that started to rain. Suddenly, a male ghost appears to warn Min about the danger that awaits her, it's Jun! A very miserable Min blames herself for his death thinking she could've prevented it if she hadn't spent so much time on the Pale Lightning. Sujin and Hanuel knew that this wasn't a desertion, Jun takes them to the landing site of the ship that he and the others took. Hanuel recognizes one of the other ghosts as Lieutenant Seo-Hyeon, none of them survived. But right now, their main priority is finding the Dragon Pearl.
Sujin put on their invisibility cap and grabs a kit, Hanuel chanted to the spirits of wind and water. The two explain that they took a comm device with them because Hwan might be their only ticket out of there, Hyosu always told them to carry out a means of communication in case of emergencies. While Min was watching the two sleep, Jun appears again revealing that he convinced the crew to go after Hwan instead of her. He didn't want them to think he was abandoning them for real, this was to protect his sister and help her escape, before she tried herself. He appreciates that her sister came here, Jun can Charm the other ghosts and will go against Hwan for everything he's done, he also knows where the Pearl is!
Soon after continuing their journey, heatless white (the color of the dead) fire and over ten thousand ghosts appear. They all introduce themselves before the unexpected arrival of Captain Hwan in a shuttle. Remembering that the Dragon Pearl lay beyond a cliff, Min turns into a hawk has Jun show her where the Pearl is, the Fourth Coloney's lower gravity helped her fly. She spotted the colorful pearl in the middle of another ghost throng and quickly snatches it. Min went back and changed into human form just as Hwan was standing above her, Hanuel and Sujin are surrounded by his soldier. One of the ghosts introduces herself as Eui, she and the other ghosts reveal that Hae, the greatest shaman, came there with the pearl to sing them all into the underworld. She only wanted control of the Dragon Society, but the influence of the ghosts caused her to drop the Dragon Pearl before flinging herself off the cliff. Min wants to help them but Hwan calls the fox a liar, he doesn't think she can control the pearl and is just using Sujin and Hanuel to find it. Jang wasn't given a funeral, while Min explains what happened he suddenly appears and confirms what she is saying. Min was feeling the power of the pearl, Hwan hinted that she can use Hwan to get them out here but Min promises the ghosts a tomb. Jang demands the captain that he let Min go, Hanuel notes that they've already had enough bad luck, Jun says this would bring honor to the Space Forces or his lost comrade, Myung. They swear on the bones of Jun, Myung and Jang causing the Pearl to glow making the weather clear and the land furnished. The Fourth Coloney's entire landscape was changing, Jang has to leave but wants a proper military funeral. Once the Dragon Pearl was finished, Seo-Hyeon and the other ghosts, sans Jun, surround Hwan for leaving them. Hwan tried to fight back, including going into his true tiger form, but they herded him towards the woods. Jun still wants to visit all of the Thousand Worlds, he decided to haunt Min to make that possible. A lieutenant says that Min's fate will be decided on the Pale Lightning.
In her quarters, Ji-Eun will be in charge until a new captain is assigned. The Dragon Pearl has declared Min as its guardian, Ji-Eun doesn't see her as any trouble despite all that she's done. Min will wait in a guest cabin until they arrive at the Black Locust Station so she can go back home. There, she and Jun discuss how things will turn out as well as the chores that were and will be done. Hanuel and Sujin brought them dinner, with some extra food from Sujin, then played baduk in the closet where Hanuel crushed Min.
At the Black Locust Station, a shaman was called who just said that ghosts can't be trusted. Kim Min arrived at a luxury hotel suite where she was visited by Security Officer Seok on the third morning, Seok was the same investigator that visited Min's house before she ran away. Min wanted the Dragon Society to offer terraforming services for Jinju, but Seok said that's unlikely to be agreeable. He suddenly grabbed the Dragon Pearl causing it to singe his head. Seok then mentioned her crime of impersonating Bae Jang among others, but was also remarkable in abilities and resourcefulness. So if Min has self-control, the Domestic Security Ministry could use her talents. With Jun as part of her good team, the ministry can protect her from the Dragon Society and the Space Forces.
Upon reaching Jinju by civilian transport, Seok rented a hover-car. Kim Seonmi was waiting in front of the dome, she embraced her daughter and learned of both the Dragon Pearl and Jun. They went inside to tell the rest of the family the long story, once they were done Jun and Min could begin their personal visit to visit all the Thousand Worlds together.
The book consists of thirty-eight unnamed chapters. Each chapter has a picture above the name of the number that alternates between a fox, dragon, tiger, and dokkaebi.
- Bae Jang
- Captain Hwan
- Lieutenant Ju-Won
- Lieutenant Hyosu
- Kim Seonmi
- Security Officer Seok
- This is the first book covered under the Rick Riordan/Rick Riordan Presents banner to not be Urban Fantasy, but Science Fantasy (specifically Space Opera).
- Similarly it is the first book under the Rick Riordan/Rick Riordan Presents banner to not star a human or a human hybrid protagonist, as Min is identified as a Fox Spirit.
- Following the announcement of a sequel to The Storm Runner, Dragon Pearl became the first stand alone Rick Riordan Presents title.
- This is the first book in the Rick Riordan/Rick Riordan Presents series to not feature a being identified as a God.
- The book is dedicated to Arabelle Sophie Betzwieser, Lee's favorite "Dragon".
- The planet Maesil is named after the Korean name for Prunus mume.
- ↑ https://books.disney.com/book/dragon-pearl/
- ↑ https://theroarbots.com/2018/yoon-ha-lee-dragon-pearl/
- ↑ rickriordan.com/2018/10/get-ready-for-dragon-pearl/
- ↑ https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-368-01335-2
- ↑ https://twitter.com/camphalfblood/status/1061614998760361984
- ↑ https://twitter.com/camphalfblood/status/1064221809606828038
- ↑ https://twitter.com/camphalfblood/status/1071765149797765120
- ↑ https://twitter.com/camphalfblood/status/1081903868026515457
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