I loved Wild Orchid, yet was a bit disappointed. Having read all of the other books in the “Once upon a Time” series, I was glad that Dokey chose to write an adaptation of a non-European tale, thus broadening our horizons a bit. Still, the novel itself disappointed. The first half presented Mulan before she joined the army, developing her background in terms of interest, education, friends (well, really friend), and family history. I really appreciated this depth, but it was lost in the second half. Based on the summary and my prior familiarity with Mulan’s story (I promise it’s not just from the Disney movie!), I would have expected her time training and fighting the Huns would have been more significant to the tale. Instead, this portion of Mulan’s story was rushed.
Furthermore, the romance between Mulan and Prince Jian was not developed enough and thus not particularly satisfying to the reader. They have few interactions, let alone meaningful ones. As compared to other books in the “Once upon a Time” series, the romance in Wild Orchid just was not fleshed out enough (though if you’re not reading the book for the romance plot, you won’t feel like you’re missing out on anything). Nevertheless, Wild Orchid is a nice addition to the “Once upon a Time” collection and a great read for the beach or bedtime. I really enjoyed what was there; I only wish Dokey had expanded the second half of the story, particularly Mulan and Prince Jian’s relationship. 7 out of 10.P.S. For a bit of background on Hua Mulan, check out this Wikipedia article.
P.P.S. Which cover do you like better? The first (the illustrated one) is the original, the second the reprint. I have to go with the first.