• Karis Rogerson

Book Talk: "A Clash of Steel" by C.B. Lee | October 2021

Have you ever had the experience of reading a book and even long after you finish it, the story lives RENT-FREE in your head? Just...you think about the plot as you're falling asleep; you visualize the setting while you're doing the dishes; you miss the characters as you're walking through the park...

That's been me with A Clash of Steel: A Treasure Island Remix by C.B. Lee.


I finished the book nearly a whole month ago and gave it 4.5/5 stars and last night as I was falling asleep I closed my eyes and started picturing myself back on the islands and the ships and the cities of A Clash of Steel. I was once more traversing the open seas with Xiang and Anh, learning how to clean the deck of the ship and hoist the sails, or maybe I was paddling down a tranquil river with the girls, or maybe I was...well, I can't say what else I was doing because that'd be a spoiler.


I knew I loved A Clash of Steel while I was reading it, but obviously I didn't realize until recently just how much the book had burrowed into my mind.


Part of the Remixed Classics series published by MacMillan, which also includes diverse YA remixes of such tales as Little Women, The Great Gatsby, and more, C.B. Lee's take on A Treasure Island was adventurous, romantic, and super fun.


Part of my Goodreads review reads:

C.B. Lee is an incredible descriptive writer — the passages set in the cities the crew explores jumped to life off the pages and I could hear the chatter, smell the food, taste its vibrancy bursting on my tongue.

Which I guess explains why I'm still half-living in Canton and on the open seas even though my body hasn't left my house in five days (whoops).


Having never read the original tale, I can't really speak to which parts of it Lee kept, but I can say that this reimagining, set in Asia in the first half of the 1800s, is brilliant. The main characters are Chinese and Vietnamese and together with their crew, hailing from all parts of the continent, they travel a great deal throughout Asia, especially China. The book smoothly pulled a double duty, entertaining and educating on Chinese history, especially that of pirates, which...I guess I'm obsessed with pirate tales now? Thanks C.B. Lee!


The book is also a queer love story, which I adored, and there are multiple characters of varied sexualities who showcase that queer love has been around, all over the world, for centuries.


And the twist toward the end! The reveal of who Xiang's father way, how she got the pendant which set off the whole adventure (it contained part of a map to the treasure rumored to have been buried by the Dragon Fleet, a legendary pirate empire), and what happens to the treasure kept me on the edge of my seat. I had hoped one specific twist would happen. I won't say whether it did or not, though — you'll just have to read the book for yourselves and see.


All in all, I was such a fan of this book. It captivated me, took me on a great adventure, taught me a history I wasn't familiar with while fictionalizing it, and introduced me to incredible characters penned by a new-to-me author I'm now a little bit obsessed with. I can't wait to read the rest of the series, including Aminah Mae Safi's Robin Hood remix Travelers Along the Way which comes out next March.


What's the best book you've read recently? Share in the comments!

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