Reviewed by Jasmine Sov, age 16

A Clash of Steel: A Treasure Island Remix by C. B Lee

The tale of Zheng Yi Sao is renowned all across the South China Sea—a tale of a woman pirate, her legendary Dragon Fleet, and a famous lost treasure. It’s just one of the many tales that 16-year-old Xiang has read between the returning visits from her salt merchant mother, who is often absent, doing business in the vibrant trade city of Canton. Her father, who died at sea before she was born, only left one thing to remember him by—a small gold pendant. When a strange girl named Anh steals the pendant, Xiang is devastated. However, Anh returns it, and it turns out that the pendant is much more than just a simple memento. Inside is a tiny map that leads to none other than Zheng Yi Sao’s lost treasure. Determined to gain her mother’s approval, Xiang embarks on an adventure with Anh and her crew to find the treasure. But, of course, finding a long-lost, highly coveted cache of riches is never as easy as “X marks the spot” makes it seem…

“A Clash of Steel: A Treasure Island Remix” bears a fair amount of similarity to the original novel—it’s a coming-of-age story centered around searching for a fabled treasure marked with an X on the map. That being said, the story is still clearly remixed. C.B. Lee tells the story from the perspective of a sheltered, poetry-loving, Cantonese girl while weaving a real historical figure, Zheng Yi Sao, and a sapphic romance into the fray. Refreshingly, Xiang’s queerness is quite apparent in her internal thoughts, from staring at pretty court ladies to recalling her own feelings for a childhood friend. I loved Xiang and Anh’s dynamic, especially because of how they think so differently from one another at the beginning but gradually start to understand one another as the book goes on. Xiang gives readers beautiful, lush descriptions of the settings, which suit her romantic and bookish character. Xiang’s character arc is clear from start to finish, and it was interesting to follow her decisions in relation to her situation and the actions of other characters. Anh’s crew was also a fun addition to the story, though I wish their characters could have been explored a little bit more. This unique, creative retelling of “Treasure Island” is equal parts immersive, swashbuckling, and lovely.


4 stars.

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Catalog Number: N/A

425 pages