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Warning! This page contains spoilers for Dragon Pearl.

Dragon Pearl is a standalone novel written by Yoon Ha Lee and published by Rick Riordan Presents. It was released on January 15, 2019.

Synopsis

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.

Development

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.[2]

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.[3]

Plot

An Investigator Shows Up

Min RR

Min

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 and make people see things that aren’t there. But she wants to join the Space Forces like her older brother, Jun, but fox spirits hide their true nature due to lasting prejudice. One day, Jun disappears and apparently abandoned his post to guard a relic that can transform worlds: the Dragon Pearl. Min decides to runaway from home before she can be shifted to the boondocks.

Min lives with her mother and four aunties, it will be two more years before she can take the Space Forces exam. She really wanted to sleep on the ancient quilt with everybody else, her oldest cousin Bora was snoring too loud. Legend has it, a Shaman used the Dragon Pearl to make Jinju, though Min didn't think the pearl existed. But then an investigator of the Thousand Worlds revealing Jun's disappearance and treachery. He has a message from him to Min, he says he made a lot of friends, exploring new worlds like dad, but has lots of chores. Min wonders what he said about "friends" and their dad, he died seven years ago and was a skilled technician, not an explorer. Min denies knowing anything about this, she refused to believe that Jun would steal the Pearl to help Jinju.

Fox Spirit

A fox spirit

Her mother decides to invite the investigator for dinner. After being ask to get the table ready, Min transforms into a table for mom to put the food on. She discovered that Kim was using Charm on the suspicious investigator, who threatened to open a general investigation into their family. Min got mad and suddenly transformed back into a human and attacked the man despite her mother's protests. He realizes that they were foxes and attack Min because if they'd go rogue in the Space Forces it would be really bad and the population would become paranoid about others being foxes. Min turned into a block of metal and crushed his foot, after returning to her human form again she knocked the man out with a saucepan.[4] The noise attracts the aunties, Min's mother makes her clean up the mess while she and the aunties take the investigator to their rug. While they discuss Min's potential fate about this, Bora and her brother Manshik come in. Min tries to overhear something her Auntie Areum is saying but Bora makes more of a mess, 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. The other cousins Bora and Manshik, so Min 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 it will be vice versa. Min decides to runaway from home to find some answers. She packs faded clothes, her breathing masks, an outdated data-slate, 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 stepped outside she didn't look back.

Running Away to Hongok

Min headed for the city of Hongok on a hover-scooter and shifted into a slightly older version of herself, she was under the alias of Kim Bora. She was hoping to get to the spaceport to get on a ship to someone from the Space Forces so she can Charm them to get information about Jun. She enters through the West Gate which was flanked two statues of Haetae, but not before a guard's cohort told the officer to leave her alone.

PearlDragon

A dragon, they control the weather

Min finds a directory where two children were playing with the holograms, she headed for the Market District only to run into a guard named Eunhee attracting some more who surrounded her. They notice emerald rings Min wore, she decides to have them take her to the spaceport. But first, they take her to a restaurant for some tea. Min learns that the investigator at her house came from a special courier vessel with a classified port of origin. Min brings up a planet named Maesil but Eunhee says that's old news, many 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, now the planet is said to bring bad luck to anyone who lands on it. A spiky haired guard mentions rumors of a tiger captain named Hwan, Min decides to make a run for it upon hearing that the guards don't trust supernaturals. Eunhee takes her to the bathroom to wash her hands, Min trips her, enters the private room, changes into a chair, and then a waiter to escape. But several blocks away, she realized she left her backpack containing her jades behind.

Working for Nari

Soon Min arrived at the spaceport, the person in line in front of her has pins that tell which worlds they've been to. Among the Thousands Worlds are Madang, fabled for it gardens, Cheongok, a ocean planet with archipelagos where the dragons sends their descendants to learn the art of weather-craft, and Jaebo, known for its staggering wealth where the rulers of the Thousands Worlds governed from the Pearled Halls. After Min managed to get past security, she found a message scratched on a digital information kiosk that said DON'T PLAY DICE AT NARI'S. The closest ship heading for the Ghost Sector was a freighter called the Red Azalea. It said that a captain named Captain Hye was willing to take on "working passengers", but she could be found at Nari's.

When she arrived, she sneezed at the approach of the female owner. Nari recognized Min despite her trying to say that she was Kim Bora. Nari smelled like a fox, she was actually Seonmi's cousin who grew up with her and Min's aunties. She reveals that she and Seonmi started this gambling business together, but Seonmi left it to start a family. The family cut tie to her for this "tainted" business, she wants Min to work for her instead looking for Hye, all she has to do is make sure people are having a good time using Charm. After putting on a fancier outfit, Min is introduced to a bouncer named Yong who informs her that Hye is at the high stakes table. A gambler wanted some more cheongju (rice wine), Min decides to get Hye some gukhwaju (chrysanthemum wine) as well. The bartender reveals that the refreshments cause the customers to lose the lots of money they won, that way no one ever suspects that the games are rigged. Upon finding Hye, Min tells her that Nari will cancel her debt if she takes her colleague off-planet. But the captain was escorted to Nari's office, Yong allowed Min to leave.

Aboard the Red Azalea

Following directions, Min arrived at the Red Azalea dock at the spaceport. She yelled that Captain Hye was in trouble, a man named Byung-Ho believes this and has her work as copilot. All she has to do is keep the indicators in the blue zone instead of the red, blue is for heaven, a voice tells them not to take off but Byung-Ho ignores it and goes anyway. Byung-Ho tells "Bora" that she must be tough/desperate for heading to the Ghost Sector, they'll be heading towards a Gate that will take them to Gingko Station. When going through, Min sees a vision of her dad turning into a tiger. No one can leave the ship while in Gate space, but now the Red Azalea has to recharge. Unfortunately, four mercenary ships arrive soon after while they're stuck in-system, and the unlucky number four signified death. Min takes control of the ship, Byung-Ho has already sent for a battle cruiser. They get hit by a disabling shot,
Lightning Bolt RR

Lightning Bolt

Min quickly heads to the engine room and makes repairs. But soon the Red Azalea has been infiltrated, Min and Byung-Ho grab some weapons and investigate, the last thing Min remembers before losing consciousness was witnessing a stun grenade go off after dodging two bolts of lightning.

Working on the Pale Lightning

Min woke up on in an infirmary, but she was not on the Red Azalea anymore. A Ghost named Bae Jang is next to her, he reveals that they were save Min and Byung-Ho when he got killed, his training cruise was the Pale Lightning! Min gets an idea: as a fox she can disguise herself as Jang so she can find out more about her brother and he can complete his training. Jang says there are other supernaturals like Min on the ship but most of the crew is human, he accepts this proposal if Min finds out what exactly killed him so he can move on. After he disappears, the ship's physician arrives and reveals that Byung-Ho is still in one of the healing pods but he'll make it, Min Charms her into editing that "Kim Bora" did not survive.

Haneul

Haneul, a female dragon

After being released from the medical bay, Min (disguised as Jang) literally bumped into Jang's friend's. One of them was a Dokkaebi named Sujin, who was gender-neutral. The other was Haneul, a female dragon, both were surprised that "Jang" was up. Min only used a little Charm on them, she never tried it on a goblin or dragon before. Hanuel says that "Jang" should report to Lieutenant Ju-Won so they take Min her.

Ju-Won was overlooking spacers pulling wires with patterns of meridians, its own energy flow or gi. Sujin tells "Jang" that they should always refer to her as ma'am and Min reports to reports to level two to help with the inventory. Before they report to their own station, Sujin uses their magic spork to make a box of chocolate-dipped cookies magically appear. Hanuel was annoyed that Sujin is messing with the rationing system, Min knew that she had to find many clues to discover what really happened to Jun, but she was assigned toilet-scrubbing on her first day in the Space Forces. After that, she headed to Bunk 12 in Barracks 5 to go to sleep, being disguised as Jang, Min had to learn stuff and pretend she already knew it.

The next morning after cleaning the unisex bathroom again, Min headed to the mess hall and met up with Hanuel and Sujin again. Some girl cadet find it weird that "Jang" is hanging out with supernaturals making Min wonder how Jun was treated. After the meal, Min heads Sujin with to a class by Lieutenant Hyosu about weapons systems. The Pale Lightning's armament included defense systems as well as missiles and laser cannons, Min goes to a simulator separate from Sujin and Hanuel who were together, Min gets paired up with a girl named Gyeong-Ja who was the pilot while "Jang" was the gunner. Hyosu and Gyeong-Ja were impressed with Min's performance, but when asked about her brother the latter there were others with him.

Sujin RR

Sujin, a non-binary dokkaebi

While she was scrubbing the bulkhead next to a maintenance shaft, Jang appears before Min again. He says she can read the cadet handbook but reminds her that she needs to find out how he died, he disappeared just when an officer arrived. When Min was reading, Hanuel and Sujin came to her saying that this was leisure time, the latter conjurs up some food made of cinnamon, spinach and eggs. After dinner, Min finds a portrait of Jang's family, he doesn't want to be eternal. The next day, Sujin 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, none of them survived. They were looking for the Dragon which hasn't been found yet, only Byung-Ho might know something, when asked about Jun Hwan curtly said they went AWOL and leaves.

Min and Sujin's next duty was in the robot maintenance room, it wasn't much fun repairing robots. After that, the two came late to Lieutenant Hyosu's class on the ship's internal security system. They learn about the meridians and it can affect engineers, and things get more dangerous in the Ghost Sector. Planets can't declare war so they mercenaries do their dirty work and this sector is their base, the Space Forces is determined not to let the Dragon Pearl fall into the wrong hands.

That night, Sujin and Hanuel wake up "Jang" for their annual game of baduk in the lower recreation room. Min does better than Jang, Hanuel mentions that Jun was a good soldier but left on his own! But one of the "others" was a lieutenant, could they be really eager to get the Dragon Pearl? The Dragon Society wouldn't go this far, the deserters will face the captain's justice. When the other two supernaturals leave, Jang appears to Min angry that she's not keeping her promise. The next morning, Min learns that pirates don't work together, they'd be a serious threat, she wonders if Byung-Ho was one. Min did better at engineering than Jang, he overheard the conversation as he can easily hide around Hanuel, he admits that he was a bit of a slacker.

After the first week, Min was starting to enjoy her life as a cadet. But when she snuck around at night trying to find out something about Jun, a sergeant caught her and she was punished working in Hydroponics with Hanuel and Sujin, she was to check for mold and rotted roots. She was 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. Hanuel says that the energy flows have been shaky since the Red Azalea was rescued, Min was worried that this might be because of Jang but gets the idea of using sabotage when she escapes.

After mess, Min wanted to see damaged meridian herself, energy flows could bring civilizations ruin or fortune like how furniture and ornaments can bring either good or bad luck, the Thousand Worlds haven't found a way to rearrange the stars like that yet though. After Charming her way past some guards, Min began to experience some bad luck herself, probably due to Jang. She overheard Hwan talking with Lieutenant Commander Ji-Eun saying that there is a ghost on the ship, but it could be the mercenaries. After the latter left, Hwan tells "Jang" to come out now, after checking "him" over he tells of how he lost his comrade when he was about sixteen. After he leaves, Jang was impressed by Min but he doesn't know of any other ghosts on the ship. Later on the bridge, Min and Sujin shadow Navigation while the ships gated.

Sujin

A Dokkaebi, a Korean goblin

For the next several days, Min tried to get into the captain's office. She got some litmus film from Hanuel but Sujin brings her to their station as ten ships have approach the Pale Lightning after they un-Gated at Sycamore Station. The engineer had Min redirect energy flows, but when Sujin gets burned by an attack Min has to take over their station. Soon she got the hang of it, she overheard the chief engineer speaking with Captain Kwan, when she was done she learns that this was actually an attack getting through the shields. She was synchronizing her gi with the ship's as if it's part of her body, that's called Engineer's Trance. Concentrating on the control panel, Min felt like she was flying through deep space but went too deep. She wakes up the Medical bay and decides that this would be the opportunity to investigate Hwan's office while thinking about Jinju. Using the litmus film, 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 seemed to smell Jun 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 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, he could Charm the dead. Min quickly went back to Medical, Sujin is healing nicely, Byung-Ho comes in wondering about "Kim Bora" so "Jang" Charms him that she is fine.

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.

Magic Spork RR

Sujin's magic spork

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.

Tiger Kwan

Captain Hwan, a tiger

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!

Dragon Pearl RR

The Dragon Pearl

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.

Returning Home

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Chapters

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.

Characters

Trivia

  • 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.

References

Dragon Pearl
Books: Dragon Pearl
Main Characters: Min
Minor Characters:
Related Content: Yoon Ha Lee | Rick Riordan Presents