The Flower Boat Girl

Written by Larry Feign
Review by Cindy Vallar

Sold into slavery as a child, Yang becomes a flower boat girl (a prostitute). She eventually earns her freedom, but prostitution keeps her alive as an adult. The villagers refuse her sanctuary in the temple when pirates attack. Taken captive, she has no one to pay her ransom. Rather than be sold back into bondage, she would rather die. Fate has other plans.

Her defiance causes Cheng Yat, the pirate captain, to claim her as his “wife,” a beautiful possession to do with what he will. To survive, she must become more than a vessel for his children. Clever and observant, she chooses to master the cannons, powerful weapons that are not the domain of women. Killing an enemy to save her mentor’s life makes her a pirate, but at what price to her soul? She also learns that money brings respect and power. She becomes determined to guide Cheng to make necessary changes without losing face, but her interference arouses mistrust and jealousy among the crew and in him.

History has forgotten her name, remembering this fascinating woman only as “wife of Cheng.” Together, they organized the pirate clans of China into a formidable force that threatened the existence of the imperial navy in the early 1800s. Feign’s visual imagery and melodic prose vividly recreate the world in which Yang lives. Readers may not always like her, but they will admire and respect her for all that she achieves in spite of her past and being a woman. Feign is as adept at creating distinct characters as he is at showing a different pirate world from the one most readers know. He supplies satisfying answers to the mysteries that surround this remarkable woman and her husband while staying true to their known history.