In the dark days after the Nanjing Massacre, as the Second Sino-Japanese War is turning into World War II, an American pilot crashes into the Chinese countryside. Daisy, her cousin Jasmine and her older brother Birch, have to save the injured pilot, Danny, while trying to protect their homeland in Wings of a Flying Tiger.
The author is very blunt about the upsetting events of the war, especially the Rape of Nanking. Although it’s very well done, both moving and factually accurate, this is your content warning for violence, rape, and cruelty in general. Some of the more disturbing moments were when Jasmine, Father John and Professor Valentine realized they could use their influence to protect a few people from the invading Japanese army, but they couldn’t save the city, and they had to choose who could be saved.
I was familiar with the Rape of Nanking in 1937 before reading this novel, so I was ready for the scale of death and destruction. (I read about it when I was getting ready to go to Yangzhou, but my own experience with Nanjing was just a train station on my way to Shanghai.) This book, though, highlights the human cost of war, with elements of bravery and self-sacrifice often found in Chinese folk tales. It makes a moving story, especially because it’s so easy to care about the characters, even the minor ones.
I also really liked seeing Birch and Danny’s relationship unfold. We don’t often see male friendship in novels, so I enjoyed seeing their growing respect and eventually their sworn brotherhood. Birch, Danny, Jasmine, and Daisy are all forced to experience horrors of war, but after their trials, the surviving characters aren’t just stronger, they’ve chosen to still be kind, honorable people.
This is a moving historical novel about characters trying to do the right thing in impossible circumstances.