Beautiful Warrior

Beautiful Warrior

The Legend of the Nun's Kung Fu

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May 20, 2016

Young Mingyi is being pressured into marriage by the bandit Soong Ling. He's a real jerk, but the fate of Mingyi's family's business is at stake. She wants a way out, so she turns to Wu Mei, a local nun who's known as the "beautiful warrior" for her martial arts skills. Postpone the marriage a year, says Wu Mei, and tell the bandit you'll marry him then if he can beat you in kung fu. Mingyi does, and thus begins a year of her life that will change her destiny.

McCully did a lot of research for this book, which is only right given she was working outside her culture and the book takes place in the 17th century. She thanks several experts in her Acknowledgements section, and includes an author's note at the end giving the story historical context. Martial arts buffs will know Wing Chun; that's the name Mingyi would eventually take. (If she was real rather than just a figure of legend, which she may have been.)

I've enjoyed McCully's artwork since I read Mirette on the High Wire. In this book, her paintings have so much movement, and her landscapes in particular are gorgeous. Mingyi's initial impetuousness and Wu Mei's serenity as a nun both clearly show in their expressions and body language. I was so glad to find a historical, female-centric martial arts book to complement some of the more modern, funny martial arts books we've also enjoyed.


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