September 7, 2021

ARC REVIEW: Pahua and the Soul Stealer by Lori M. Lee

Pahua and the Soul Stealer by Lori M. Lee
Rating: 5 Stars
Release Date: September 7, 2021
Format: eARC
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion (Rick Riordan Presents)

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First of all, I think the release of the book is very timely because it comes out after the win of gymnast Sunisa Lee (a member of the Hmong community) at the Tokyo Olympics. More people are curious about the culture than ever. I admittedly knew very little about the Hmong culture prior to reading this book, but after finishing I’m eager to learn more.  

Pahua, the titular character of the story, lives in a small town away from the majority of the Hmong community with her mother and little brother (definitely an awesome sibling relationship there). Her life is fairly normal, except she can see spirits (her best friend is a talking cat spirit named “Miv” - aptly named “Cat” in the Hmong language). After Pahua makes a mistake and releases an angry bridge spirit, she must journey into the spirit realm and retrieve her brother’s soul before it is too late. The story includes all types of crazy shenanigans, from spirit horse rental agencies to dragons (which always make a story better) and the all-important prophecies.  

One thing that would be awesome to see in future Rick Riordan Presents books is the inclusion of a resource list from the author, places, and books that they suggest (and endorse) if a reader would want to learn more about their specific culture. For example, what resources would Lori recommend if a reader would want to learn more about the Hmong culture and mythology? Specific websites? Books? Epic poems like the Mahabharata or the Odyssey? Inquiring minds want to know. 

If you love Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians books, then you should really give Pahua and the Soul Stealer a chance. I would very easily recommend it to readers of all ages who have an interest in learning more about different cultures and mythologies. Thank you to NetGalley, Disney-Hyperion Publishing, and the author Lori M. Lee for allowing me to read an early copy of this book at no cost to myself. I voluntarily read and reviewed Pahua and the Soul Stealer; all opinions in the review are my own and not influenced in any way. 

About the Book
Pahua Moua has a bit of a reputation for being a weirdo. A lonely eleven-year-old Hmong girl with the unique ability to see spirits, she spends her summer days babysitting her little brother and playing with her best friend, a cat spirit no one else can see.

One day Pahua accidentally untethers an angry spirit from the haunted bridge in her neighborhood--whoops. When her brother suddenly falls sick and can't be awoken, Pahua fears that the bridge spirit has stolen his soul. She returns to the scene of the crime with her aunt's old shaman tools, hoping to confront the spirit and demand her brother's return. Instead, she summons a demon.

Thankfully, a warrior shaman with a bit of an attitude problem shows up at the last minute and saves her butt. With the help of this guide, Pahua will have to find her way through the spirit worlds and rescue her brother's soul before it's too late. Little does she know she'll have her own discoveries to make along the way. . . .

With its unforgettable characters, unique nature-based magic system, breathtaking twists and reveals, and climactic boss battle, this story based on Hmong oral tradition offers everything a fantasy lover could want.

About the Author

Lori is an avid writer, reader, artist, and lover of unicorns. She should probably spend less time on the internet (but she won't). She considers herself a unicorn aficianado, is fond of talking in capslock, and loves to write about magic, manipulation, and family.

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