Review: A Clash of Steel by C.B. Lee

Posted June 28, 2022 by Angie in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Review: A Clash of Steel by C.B. LeeA Clash of Steel by C.B. Lee
Published by Feiwel & Friends on September 7, 2021
Genres: Historical, Young Adult Fiction
Format: eBook (425 pages)
Source: Library
Purchase: AmazonIndieBound
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Two intrepid girls hunt for a legendary treasure on the deadly high seas in this YA remix of the classic adventure novel Treasure Island.

1826. The sun is setting on the golden age of piracy, and the legendary Dragon Fleet, the scourge of the South China Sea, is no more. Its ruthless leader, a woman known only as the Head of the Dragon, is now only a story, like the ones Xiang has grown up with all her life. She desperately wants to prove her worth, especially to her mother, a shrewd businesswoman who never seems to have enough time for Xiang. Her father is also only a story, dead at sea before Xiang was born. Her single memento of him is a pendant she always wears, a simple but plain piece of gold jewelry.

But the pendant's true nature is revealed when a mysterious girl named Anh steals it, only to return it to Xiang in exchange for her help in decoding the tiny map scroll hidden inside. The revelation that Xiang's father sailed with the Dragon Fleet and tucked away this secret changes everything. Rumor has it that the legendary Head of the Dragon had one last treasure—the plunder of a thousand ports—that for decades has only been a myth, a fool's journey.

Xiang is convinced this map could lead to the fabled treasure. Captivated with the thrill of adventure, she joins Anh and her motley crew off in pursuit of the island. But the girls soon find that the sea—and especially those who sail it—are far more dangerous than the legends led them to believe.


I don’t know what it is about Treasure Island, but I can’t help but be drawn to it. It’s one of very few classics that I enjoyed. Of course, I absolutely love Muppet Treasure Island, and I was completely obsessed with Black Sails. Now, A Clash of Steel can be added to my list of adored Treasure Island retellings. I was very excited for it, but also extremely nervous going into it. But that was unfounded because I was quickly hooked!

A Clash of Steel starts of a bit slow, but I liked Xiang right away. She’s living in a small fishing village while her mother is off running her teahouses and selling salt. All Xiang wants is to see the city, learn the family business, and make her mother proud. She finally gets her chance when her mother agrees to take her to Canton to learn about running the teahouse there. This is when the story really picks up, and I didn’t want to put it down.

If you’re familiar with Treasure Island, I’m sure you can guess how the story unfolds. That doesn’t mean A Clash of Steel is predictable. Not at all! This is its own complete story with interesting characters, adventure, and twists and turns. Aside from being set in China, there’s also a sapphic romance between Xiang and the daughter of the captain she winds up sailing with to find a long lost treasure. It’s super sweet to see Xiang come to terms with where her affections lie, since she’s never realized that she could love another girl. It’s just not something she was exposed to in her village. They’re not the only queer couple either.

I just really enjoyed A Clash of Steel. I’m a huge fan of pirates, which is probably what drew me to Treasure Island in the first place. But there’s something about this mysterious treasure that calls to me, as it did to Xiang. It’s a fun adventure, and I was never sure how exactly it would end. It could have gone in any number of ways, but where it winds up was satisfying. I did wish for a bit more though, maybe an epilogue of where Xiang wound up. But as it stands, I fully recommend A Clash of Steel if you’re looking for a feminist adventure.

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