I love Mulan. She is at the very top of my list of favorite Disney characters and the film is probably in the top five as well. I have a soft spot for her and her story and I was thrilled to see that she was the next character to receive the historical reimagining treatment in Disney’s Queen’s Council collection. Livia Blackburne beautifully infuses key aspects of the original Disney film with historical inspiration, while providing us with a happily ever after.
Blackburne swiftly captures the interests of readers by opening the novel a short time after Mulan’s victory in rescuing China from the Huns, allowing us to see her settling into civilian life once more. Of course, the novel would not be nearly as exciting if Mulan remained in her quiet village, flirting with the idea of marrying Li Shang. In fact, she hasn’t even been living a sedate life following the events of Mulan—she’s been training an all-female militia in her village. Once we get a feel for Mulan’s current situation, she is very quickly thrust into the political struggles of China, and that is where the story picks up its pace.
I adored what Blackburne did with Mulan and Li Shang, further deepening their emotional connection with one another, providing us with a few stolen kisses, and giving them their own journey to embark on. There is nothing I love more than forbidden love and love that has to overcome obstacles to find their happily ever after. This whole subplot kept me sitting on the edge of my seat, wondering how it would conclude.
There were a few elements that I didn’t like for historical accuracy’s sake, but I was willing to look beyond them for the benefit of the plot. As much as I enjoyed the idea of Mulan being pressured into becoming the Empress of China, which is essentially forced upon her due to the Emperor's sudden death, this seemed historically implausible—not only because he would have ensured he had an heir, but because Mulan was entirely unqualified to lead, beyond being a truly remarkable and heroic soldier. It’s a very contrived plot, but the story and pay-off made it easy enough to look past. However, I will say, I did love the drama that this plot point introduced.
Over the course of the novel, Mulan is faced with assassination attempts, political intrigue, rumors of a coup among her supporters, kidnapping, a looming invasion, marriage arrangements with the Huns, and so much more. Honestly, I wished this novel was longer because there was the potential for so much more storytelling with this plot. Mulan manages to rise above all of this, finding new confidence and courage along the way. It is essentially a coming of age story, in a lot of ways, even though Mulan has already come of age in what preceded this.
Blackburne ends Feather and Flame somewhat abruptly. There are a handful of loose strings left untied not only for Mulan but also for Li Shang and the characters introduced in the novel. It left me hoping that The Queen’s Council series will allow each of our favorite heroines to be revisited in the future.
If you ever dreamed of a story about Mulan that was the perfect mixture of political intrigue and action and adventure, then look no further than Feather and Flame. Blackburne has created a truly magnificent retelling of Mulan’s story that stays true to the character we all know and love while sending her off on a new journey.
Feather and Flame is on sale now.
Maggie Lovitt is a writer at Wealth of Geeks where she covers her favorite topics: Star Wars and pop culture nerdery.
In her free time, she is also a novelist, screenwriter, actor, and member of the Screen Actors Guild.