Reviewed by Ellie Labbett
Bandit’s Daughter is a vivid adventure that follows the legendary warrior, Mu Guiying, on a dramatic journey defending her country. In Ancient China there is trouble afoot. General Yang fights the constant threat of invasion, all the while civil unrest is stirred by a disloyal bandit. But when the General’s son sets out to search for the traitor, he is halted by the unlikeliest of sources. The Bandit’s daughter, Mu Guiying, challenges him to a duel, and the events that take place leave the two families inextricably linked. With their fathers once sworn as enemies, the younger generation unite in a bid to defend their country. Could Mu Guiying’s cunning, steel and ability to imagine beyond common battle tactics make her the person to bring peace to China?
In Bandit’s Daughter, Mason grapples with the complexities of loyalty and betrayal through his protagonist’s decisions regarding her family, country and herself. As a determined warrior and fierce leader, she defies many conventions expected of a woman at this point in history, and yet it is precisely in ignoring these conventions that she is able to defend her country. It is interesting to see how the protagonist balances loyalty to her family roots and love for her father, with the decision to see beyond his beliefs about the Yang dynasty. Mu Guiying’s story could be one to springboard independent investigations into extraordinary women throughout history, and would partnership perfectly with the Fantastically Great Women series by Kate Pankhurst.
Based on a Chinese legend and a part of the True Adventures series, Bandit’s Daughter would be an excellent bridge for Year Six pupils that ordinarily read nonfiction books to venture into fiction. Mason includes a detailed timeline of Ancient China, the time period that this story is set, which offers a fascinating insight into Mu Guiying’s historical roots. A guide to the correct pronunciation of many of the names and places featured in the story is also a welcome addition to the text and will be helpful for authentically reading aloud in the classroom. This story is short in length, taking place across just under 150 pages. With the addition of Pinelli’s illustrations, which bring many of the epic fight scenes to life, Bandit’s Daughter would be a great choice for pupils that are building their reading stamina and confidence. Other titles in this series include Catherine Johnson’s Queen of Freedom: Defending Jamaica, which was shortlisted for for the Jhalak Prize 2021.