Book Review: Dragon Springs Road by Janie Chang

Title:  Dragon Springs Road
Authors: Janie Chang
Publisher: William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins
Release Date:  January 10, 2017 
Genre: Historical / Literary Fiction

From the author of Three Souls comes a vividly imagined and haunting new novel set in early 20th century Shanghai—a story of friendship, heartbreak, and history that follows a young Eurasian orphan’s search for her long-lost mother.

That night I dreamed that I had wandered out to Dragon Springs Road all on my own, when a dreadful knowledge seized me that my mother had gone away never to return . . .

In 1908, Jialing is only seven years old when she is abandoned in the courtyard of a once-lavish estate near Shanghai. Jialing is zazhong—Eurasian—and faces a lifetime of contempt from both Chinese and Europeans. Without her mother’s protection, she can survive only if the estate’s new owners, the Yang family, agree to take her in.

Jialing finds allies in Anjuin, the eldest Yang daughter, and Fox, an animal spirit who has lived in the haunted courtyard for centuries. But Jialing’s life as the Yangs’ bondservant changes unexpectedly when she befriends a young English girl who then mysteriously vanishes.

Always hopeful of finding her long-lost mother, Jialing grows into womanhood during the tumultuous early years of the Chinese republic, guided by Fox and by her own strength of spirit, away from the shadows of her past. But she finds herself drawn into a murder at the periphery of political intrigue, a relationship that jeopardizes her friendship with Anjuin and a forbidden affair that brings danger to the man she loves.

I'm always skeptical when it comes to reading fiction set in old-world China, published and written in the English versus in the Chinese language first. Why? That's because I can read and write Chinese, and that I am Chinese. I know that doesn't sound like enough of a reason, but it has something to do with past experiences with works of fiction that just didn't fit the stories, the folktales and the culture that I grew up hearing and reading about. However, with Janie Chang's Dragon Springs Road, the cover was just too gorgeous and enticing to let the opportunity pass.  And I was not disappointed at all. 

Dragon Springs Road alluded to a certain mystique. It combined the folklore of the Fox spirit with hierarchical social status in China, wrapped with the cultural authenticity of  a tumultuous time. From personal research and reading about China during the early 1900s, times were tough for many people. And for those like Jialing, our main protagonist, biracial and orphaned, there were so many obstacles to overcome. Yet, her journey is the very essence of this story. It latches onto you from the first page to the last. The author, Janie Chang is exquisite in her storytelling. I can't praise enough when an author not only gives me characters with depth but also a plot so seductive in its execution, mystery and suspense. Not to mention the authentic quality of its representation of the Chinese culture, without the many stereotypes and prejudices I've encountered in the past (of other works of fiction).

Dragon Springs Road is rich with history, beautifully written, dramatically compelling and visually stunning.

For my clean readers, please note there are some intimacy in this book. 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author/publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, and have not been compensated for this. This is my honest opinion.

For my review policy, please see my Disclosure page.



Born in Taiwan, Janie Chang spent part of her childhood in the Philippines, Iran, and Thailand. She has a degree in computer science and is a graduate of the Writer’s Studio Program at Simon Fraser University. She is the author of Three Souls.

TO CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:  Website | Facebook | Twitter

Check out the full tour schedule for more information! Click on the image below to take you there.




  1. Annie, thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  2. Awesome review Annie! Sounds like a very interesting book!

    1. O, it is. I love the reminders of simple cultural nuances or stories I've heard growing up. It's lovely to say the least.

  3. That IS a gorgeous cover - it makes me want to pick it up and dive in right away!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.


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