Mulan is the epitome of a strong, independent woman; not a model Chinese bride. After her ageing father is called to war, she takes it upon herself to serve in his place as male alter ego, Ping.
Ping, of course, is not a natural born soldier and has half the strength those around him do. At first, he finds it hard to serve under Captain Li Shang but soon finds that brain often trumps brawn in battle.
This story also explores what would happen if Mulan travelled to the Underworld to save Captain Li Shang’s life.
“My son,” the general said, “can you hear me?”
Mulan held her breath. My son? If the man was Shang’s father then he was… General Li.
No, that’s impossible. General Li is dead. I must be dreaming. I must be so tired I even know I’m dreaming.
She shrunk back in her corner. General Li’s body shimmered with watery blue light – and his boots, Mulan saw, barely touched the ground.
“Sir,” Mulan croaked, her voice crawling out of her lips. “What are you saying? You can’t mean that Captain Li is going to d-”
“Yes,” General Li cut her off. “I thank you for all you have done. But there is nothing that could have saved my son. Shang’s spirit is already on its way to Diyu. In the morning, he will pass on.”
General Li sends his guardian, ShiShi, an enormous lion, to help her make her way through the underworld to save his son so he can continue to fight and save China again.
The underworld, in Chinese culture, is quite similar, but also a lot different to the underworld we imagine. It is called Diyu. They believe that every person, good or bad, descends into Diyu upon death for judgement. There, King Yama, ruler of Diyu, judges ones time on Earth and determines how long one must stay in the underworld as a ghost. Depending on their life, some would wait in Diyu until they ascend to Heaven or are reincarnated; others would stay forever as demons.
In Reflection, Mulan has to cross the borders between Earth and Diyu in order to save her captain from death. The normally fierce King Yama is strangely kind to Mulan and allows her a bet: if she can save Captain Li by the morning, they are free to leave; if not, she has to stay forever, and he passes on to be reincarnated after his death.
Diyu is like a maze with 100 levels. Mulan has to find Shang at the Tower of the Last Glance of Home, where Shang’s spirit is being held for his final hours, and return to level 100 in order to leave.
As in every adventure story, it is not an easy task as there are many dangers and bumps in their paths. Of course, King Yama isn’t going to make it easy for them to leave Diyu, or everyone would.
Just the sight of the Mountain of Knives sent a wave of terror through her.
It was magnificent, in a shocking, terrible sort of way. Thousands of knives and daggers covered the surface, packed so close they looked like silver stalks of grass. Mulan couldn’t see their hilts, but the blades were all shiny and clean. Not a smear or speck of blood.
That was somewhat reassuring, she supposed.
Except there was no possible way for her to climb the mountain. Shang could, as nothing in Diyu would harm him. But the knives were staked ao close together she couldn’t possibly take a step between them, nor coukd she step on them… Not without impaling herself.
“According to legend, each dagger belongs to a bandit or murderer who’s now in Diyu.”
Mulan also has her own inner battle to face: should she tell Shang that Ping is, in fact, Mulan? Maybe she should say something when her ancestors question the fact that her father only had a daughter? Or hope he forgets any of this ever happened? What will he think when she finds out his best soldier was a woman?
I couldn’t put this book down and read it all in one day. I bought it in a 2 for £7 deal at Tesco (in which I also bought ‘As Old As Time‘, a twisted tale of Beauty and the Beast) but you can find it, and many other Disney Twisted Tales at igloobooks.com