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Bronze Drum: A Novel of Sisters and War

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A stunning novel of ancient Vietnam based on the true story of two warrior sisters who raised an army of women to overthrow the Han Chinese and rule as kings over a united people, for readers of Circe and The Night Tiger. Gather around, children of Chu Dien, and be brave. For even to listen to the story of the Trung Sisters is, in these troubled times, a dangerous act. In 40 C A stunning novel of ancient Vietnam based on the true story of two warrior sisters who raised an army of women to overthrow the Han Chinese and rule as kings over a united people, for readers of Circe and The Night Tiger. Gather around, children of Chu Dien, and be brave. For even to listen to the story of the Trung Sisters is, in these troubled times, a dangerous act. In 40 CE, in the Au Lac region of ancient Vietnam, two daughters of a Vietnamese Lord fill their days training, studying, and trying to stay true to Vietnamese traditions. While Trung Trac is disciplined and wise, always excelling in her duty, Trung Nhi is fierce and free spirited, more concerned with spending time in the gardens and with lovers. But these sister's lives—and the lives of their people—are shadowed by the oppressive rule of the Han Chinese. They are forced to adopt Confucian teachings, secure marriages, and pay ever‑increasing taxes. As the peoples' frustration boils over, the country comes ever closer to the edge of war.


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A stunning novel of ancient Vietnam based on the true story of two warrior sisters who raised an army of women to overthrow the Han Chinese and rule as kings over a united people, for readers of Circe and The Night Tiger. Gather around, children of Chu Dien, and be brave. For even to listen to the story of the Trung Sisters is, in these troubled times, a dangerous act. In 40 C A stunning novel of ancient Vietnam based on the true story of two warrior sisters who raised an army of women to overthrow the Han Chinese and rule as kings over a united people, for readers of Circe and The Night Tiger. Gather around, children of Chu Dien, and be brave. For even to listen to the story of the Trung Sisters is, in these troubled times, a dangerous act. In 40 CE, in the Au Lac region of ancient Vietnam, two daughters of a Vietnamese Lord fill their days training, studying, and trying to stay true to Vietnamese traditions. While Trung Trac is disciplined and wise, always excelling in her duty, Trung Nhi is fierce and free spirited, more concerned with spending time in the gardens and with lovers. But these sister's lives—and the lives of their people—are shadowed by the oppressive rule of the Han Chinese. They are forced to adopt Confucian teachings, secure marriages, and pay ever‑increasing taxes. As the peoples' frustration boils over, the country comes ever closer to the edge of war.

30 review for Bronze Drum: A Novel of Sisters and War

  1. 4 out of 5

    Mai

    Ebook giveaway from NetGalley I requested this book because the author has a Vietnamese background. I'm trying to learn more about Vietnamese history, but it's hard when history is written by the victors. As a Vietnamese-American, I know embarrassingly little about Vietnam. To make things even more difficult for myself, my grandparents are from North Vietnam. During the partition, they moved to the South. I think more than 90% of Vietnamese-Americans are from the South. Accents differ between Nort Ebook giveaway from NetGalley I requested this book because the author has a Vietnamese background. I'm trying to learn more about Vietnamese history, but it's hard when history is written by the victors. As a Vietnamese-American, I know embarrassingly little about Vietnam. To make things even more difficult for myself, my grandparents are from North Vietnam. During the partition, they moved to the South. I think more than 90% of Vietnamese-Americans are from the South. Accents differ between Northern, Central and Southern Vietnamese, and then again once you delve into each region. So does vocabulary. I'm trying to read more books about Vietnam. No war memoirs from people with non Vietnamese backgrounds. Things like The Refugees and The Mountains Sing. Part 1 We are introduced to Trung Trac and Trung Nhi, two sisters living in relative splendor in a Vietnam controlled by the Han. (Long before France, and Japan, China ruled Vietnam for a thousand years. The French introduced food and a Latin alphabet, but the Chinese introduced a structured way of life.) This book introduces Vietnam as a highly matriarchal society, where marriage and monogamy are viewed as an entirely Confucian construct. Before the Hans introduce Confucianism, there appears to be an entire Vietnamese mythology/religion I know absolutely nothing about. Trung Nhi is the younger daughter, wild and flighty. She falls in love with the gardener's son. While sleeping with him wouldn't be wrong in this Vietnamese society of old, it's the fact that she wants to spend her life with him that bothers her mother. When that avenue is closed to her, she begins to spend more time with gamblers and other lowlifes. A tutor is introduced to soften her edges. Trung Trac is the elder daughter, filial and obedient. She is her father's heiress, and expects to inherit his lordship after he passes. The Han do not will this to be, and impress the need for her to get married. Her husband can rule after her father, but she will not be allowed to. We end this part of the book with her admitting her love for the tutor. Part 2 The Han do not wish to allow Trung Trac to marry her tutor. They try to betroth her to Commander Ho. In a confusing turn of events, she ends up married to the tutor. Upset with the dragon lord’s behavior, they murder him, the tutor and other men that support him. In a move that shocks everyone, Trung Trac takes a more vocal route than Trung Nhi, beginning an insurrection. She kills Rang the Tiger, and begins wearing his skin. A revolution commences. Part 3 Trung Trac is now known as Trung Vuong, she-king of the Viets. In a confusing turn of events, her sister Trung Nhi is also considered a king. Somehow, Trung Vuong convinces a wily group of master archers to follow her into war. As the Viet men have been conscripted by the Han, this army remains largely female. While I enjoy a feminist patriotic story, I find it very hard to follow this one. Finally allowed to grieve, Trung Vuong returns to her dead husband’s parents’ home to perform filial rites. While the tutor’s father doesn’t blame her for his death, he says his grief is too new and the scene ends abruptly. War turns Trung Vuong cold of heart like a Confucian, and Trung Nhi points this out. Part 4 Things go downhill quickly from here. One of the elephants dies. The Viet men are offended they weren’t asked to fight in this war. Obviously, the Han don’t take this lying down. Perhaps this is a common motif, but I thought the sisters jumping off a cliff was very reminiscent of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the first Chinese language film I ever watched. I wanted more from this. This was very disappointing. -- Are there any decent Vietnamese restaurants in LA besides Ktown Pho and Be U? I don’t mean Orange County. I know that. I’m trying to avoid driving that often. And don't suggest a mediocre pho place. ✌🏽

  2. 5 out of 5

    A Mac

    Trung Trac and Trung Nhi are the daughters of a Vietnamese lord who must pay homage to the oppressive Han Chinese rulers. Though very different, the sisters both find themselves being punished for maintaining traditional beliefs and standing up for what they believe is right. Rather than bowing to their oppressors, they decide that the only way to survive is to fight back and protect their country and their people. I really wanted to love this work. Historical fiction, especially ancient history, Trung Trac and Trung Nhi are the daughters of a Vietnamese lord who must pay homage to the oppressive Han Chinese rulers. Though very different, the sisters both find themselves being punished for maintaining traditional beliefs and standing up for what they believe is right. Rather than bowing to their oppressors, they decide that the only way to survive is to fight back and protect their country and their people. I really wanted to love this work. Historical fiction, especially ancient history, is one of my favorite genres. However, this work did not live up to my expectations. The writing style left much to be desired. It was simple and stilted, which became increasingly frustrating to read. This work should have been an epic work but due to its writing style it felt more like reading a poorly written essay. The author also heavily relied on telling rather than showing, which only added to the lack of interest this book generated. Descriptions of the setting and the world were lacking and made the work lack the depth and immersion I expect in well written books. Unfortunately, the characters were extremely flat. The two sisters felt like caricatures/stereotypes rather than real people – “one is disciplined and wise…one is fierce and free spirited.” But that’s the extent of the character development. The secondary characters were like cardboard cutouts, with no real depth, development, or growth. With no relatable characters, this work became a chore to finish. There was no way to connect emotionally to any of the characters. I did enjoy the premise of this story and that the author chose to tell the story of these two sisters. There were also some interesting incorporations of folklore, history, and culture that were well incorporated throughout the plot. Overall, I did not enjoy this work. I think it needs to be reworked to add characters that were easier to connect to emotionally, more meaningful descriptions, and the writing style was updated. As it lacks in all of these areas, I can’t recommend this book. My thanks to NetGalley and Grand Central Publishing for providing me a review copy of this work, which will be published on August 9th, 2022. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are my own.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Richard Derus

    I RECEIVED A DRC FROM THE PUBLISHER VIA NETGALLEY. THANK YOU. My Review: The Trung sisters are actual historical people who lived in 1st-century CE Vietnam. The country we know as Vietnam is, in fact, largely their legacy...these two women were the tutelary spirits of the local ethnic group's desire to be out from under the extremely heavy burden of the Han Empire, ruled by the Han Chinese people. ("Han" in Chinese just means "people" so you certainly know you're not ethnically labeling them when I RECEIVED A DRC FROM THE PUBLISHER VIA NETGALLEY. THANK YOU. My Review: The Trung sisters are actual historical people who lived in 1st-century CE Vietnam. The country we know as Vietnam is, in fact, largely their legacy...these two women were the tutelary spirits of the local ethnic group's desire to be out from under the extremely heavy burden of the Han Empire, ruled by the Han Chinese people. ("Han" in Chinese just means "people" so you certainly know you're not ethnically labeling them when using the term.) What Author Nguyen has done with this retelling of the Trung Sisters' legend is, given where and with whom he's published his novel, to offer the wider American public something that has been lacking all my life: A sense of Vietnam as an actual country, not simply a state created by then screwed over by, colonial masters. The Viet people are distinct from their neighbors in many ways, not least of them their foundational myth retold here. The sisters were daughters of a local aristocrat whose claim to fame was instilling in them a sense of themselves as different from the Han people oppressing them with taxes and slave-labor demands. This led to the sisters, when their father was murdered by the colonial masters, being made an example of. (A thing thoroughly unpleasant, I needn't remind you...the powerful don't and have never stinted in their cruelty towards those they wish to make examples of.) What makes the Trungs different, in the sweep of two thousand years of History, is that they didn't command men. Other women have done that. The Trungs had no truck with pusillanimous men, knuckling under to the Han overlords to stay alive. They raised an army of liberation. Made up of women. As traditional Viet women, that is to say the rulers of their world, they were simply doing what came naturally. Protecting your homeland on the fierceness of those who stand to lose the most by its subsumation into a foreign empire makes a lot of sense. Not, as you'll imagine, to the Han. The rebellion wasn't successful in all its aims, freedom and matriarchy lost to the simply overwhelming military might of the Han, but the sense of the VIET as a PEOPLE was deeply ingrained. There is a much-needed glossary in the book; I've seen some criticism of the author's use of formal, seemingly stilted language. Honestly, it seems that way to me too. Then I consider an important fact: This is a legend. It's the distilled essence of the legendary founders of the Viet people's sense of themselves as a unique, valid, culturally rich polity. Rules of twenty-first century grammar and usage, even in Viet which most decidedly this book isn't written in, would be inappropriate. And, let's face it, if you are the kind of reader who blenches at a modicum of work being asked of you to experience this, or any other, story, there's a sea of bland, blah word-blobs out there. Go fish. Me? I'll be here with the Trungs, a little in awe and a lot in love.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Annette

    Bronze Drum story is set in ancient Vietnam, with two warrior sisters. Trung Trac is the older sister and is disciplined and wise. Trung Nhi is younger and free spirited. Their father, the Lord of Nhat Nam, maintains peace with the Han Chinese rulers, their enemy. But the tensions are getting greater. The sisters believe in maintaining their traditions, which includes women having freedom of partnership, and them ruling the family, not men. They don’t want to bow to their oppressor, who enforces Bronze Drum story is set in ancient Vietnam, with two warrior sisters. Trung Trac is the older sister and is disciplined and wise. Trung Nhi is younger and free spirited. Their father, the Lord of Nhat Nam, maintains peace with the Han Chinese rulers, their enemy. But the tensions are getting greater. The sisters believe in maintaining their traditions, which includes women having freedom of partnership, and them ruling the family, not men. They don’t want to bow to their oppressor, who enforces marriage and a patriarchal system. Thus, they pick fight over subordination. This fascinating story of two ancient warrior sisters with two clashing cultures is something I appreciate for its uniqueness. Something that hasn’t been told before, at least in English language. It’s captivating to learn about those two legendary sisters and that’s what interested me into this story. I liked their strong characters, but I wished for more emotions from them in order to connect with them better. I didn’t feel that I was fully connected with them. Source: ARC was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tara

    "This was precisely what love was to Thi Sach, a craft that could only be perfected over the span of a lifetime." It may seem odd to preface the review of a war book with a love quote, but this seems to be the underlying theme of this historical epic masterfully re-imagined through the artful pen (or computer keys) of Phong Nguyen. Nguyen had a difficult task, to bring to life, possibly for the first time in American fiction, the real-life warriors and legendary Trung sisters of what is now Vietn "This was precisely what love was to Thi Sach, a craft that could only be perfected over the span of a lifetime." It may seem odd to preface the review of a war book with a love quote, but this seems to be the underlying theme of this historical epic masterfully re-imagined through the artful pen (or computer keys) of Phong Nguyen. Nguyen had a difficult task, to bring to life, possibly for the first time in American fiction, the real-life warriors and legendary Trung sisters of what is now Vietnam. This is an important piece of history I never learned, and is an inspiring message to young women. (This is not a YA book but can be read by middle school and up. The last part of the book does detail war scenes, so preview first if your child is sensitive.) Not only do we learn of these brave sisters who fought off the invading culture of the Han, but of the woman-centric culture of the Viets. Women did not marry, they chose their lovers, who sometimes came and went. They ruled the family. When the Hans took over, they enforced marriage and a patriarchal system. For a brief period, the Trung sisters defended their land and customs to become legendary heroes. Nguyen's talent is to easily slip into the voice and tone of the times he writes about. (I loved and admired the vernacular in The Adventures of Joe Harper and I fell happily under the spell of the more subtle, quiet language that befits this ancient story.) The Trung sisters are not cardboard characters but real, multifaceted, and never act falsely. The locale is lush and beautifully brought to life, as are all the Viet characters. A glossary helps with the authentic language. Back to the highlighted quote: what for me stands out is the complex theme of love and friendship and familial bonds, all of which help to transcend any tragedy. The sister bond is particularly strong, crafted over a turbulent lifetime. For people wanting more history after they have read the book (if you read before, it will give away the ending): https://www.history.com/news/trung-si... Highly recommend. This book can be enjoyed for its historical significance (though the author almost jokingly adds that his father wants us all to keep in mind his son has written a fictional take) and also for the gripping and masterful novel that it is. Maybe there will be a movie spin-off. In any case, it should have a wide readership.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Rachel (TheShadesofOrange)

    4.0 stars I don't read a lot of historical fiction, but I was drawn to this one through my love of Asian inspired ownvoices fiction. While this particular novel is grounded in history, the sweeping story was incredible and appealed to my love of epic fantasy. The two characters at the heart of this story were incredibly, powerful women. This is the kind of true story that makes me want to look up the real events. While I am always fascinated by Eastern cultures, I will acknowledge that I know ver 4.0 stars I don't read a lot of historical fiction, but I was drawn to this one through my love of Asian inspired ownvoices fiction. While this particular novel is grounded in history, the sweeping story was incredible and appealed to my love of epic fantasy. The two characters at the heart of this story were incredibly, powerful women. This is the kind of true story that makes me want to look up the real events. While I am always fascinated by Eastern cultures, I will acknowledge that I know very little about Vietnamese culture and so I appreciated those elements. I would recommend this to any reader looking for an incredible story that pulls a strong feminist tale out of history. Disclaimer I received a copy of this book from the publisher.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    Bronze Drum is an interesting novel of a very different time, Lac Viet or Vietnam of 40 CE. In a fictional work that combines elements of history and myth, the author has created a picture of a time when the Viet people were straining under the unwanted control of the Han (modern Chinese). Trung Trac and Trung Nhi are daughters of a Vietnamese lord, trained to be leaders in the future. They are historical figures, but of course, much of the story here has been built around the bones of legend. T Bronze Drum is an interesting novel of a very different time, Lac Viet or Vietnam of 40 CE. In a fictional work that combines elements of history and myth, the author has created a picture of a time when the Viet people were straining under the unwanted control of the Han (modern Chinese). Trung Trac and Trung Nhi are daughters of a Vietnamese lord, trained to be leaders in the future. They are historical figures, but of course, much of the story here has been built around the bones of legend. There are tales of loves and loss, jealousy and purpose but the major focus is loyalty to family and culture. There will come a time when they will raise an army for their country. The titular bronze drum has an important role throughout the novel. While the pace of the novel slows at times, I found that seemed to correlate with the domestic aspects of the novel vs those devoted to organizing or planning for war. Recommended for those who enjoy historical fiction, especially of Southeast Asia. A copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.

  8. 5 out of 5

    mel

    Format: audiobook Author: Phong Nguyen ~ Title: Bronze Drum ~ Narrator: Quyen Ngo Content: 4 stars ~ Narration: 5 stars Complete audiobook review Based on true events, Bronze Drum is an inspiring story of two sisters (Trung Trac and Trung Nhi) that gathered an army of 80,000 Vietnam women to overthrow the Han Chinese and liberate their people. We follow the two sisters from their youth. Trung Trac and Trung Nhi were pretty different. One was a perfect daughter, obedient, and the other was rebellious Format: audiobook Author: Phong Nguyen ~ Title: Bronze Drum ~ Narrator: Quyen Ngo Content: 4 stars ~ Narration: 5 stars Complete audiobook review Based on true events, Bronze Drum is an inspiring story of two sisters (Trung Trac and Trung Nhi) that gathered an army of 80,000 Vietnam women to overthrow the Han Chinese and liberate their people. We follow the two sisters from their youth. Trung Trac and Trung Nhi were pretty different. One was a perfect daughter, obedient, and the other was rebellious. Throughout this story, we also take a peek into Vietnam culture. Interestingly, that women could choose and stay unmarried. I recommend this novel to readers of historical tales of brave women and warriors. The audiobook was a good choice, and the narration was perfect. This way, I could hear the pronunciation of all those names. I loved all the different sounds of drums that the narrator imitated. I was a bit lost a few times, and I think it was because of time lapses and partially because the names confused me. A combination of book and audiobook would be even better. Thanks to Hachette Audio for the ALC and this opportunity! This is a voluntary review and all opinions are my own.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sasa

    i don't often read historical fiction, but i would love to see my viet sisters kicking some imperialist, colonizer ass. i don't often read historical fiction, but i would love to see my viet sisters kicking some imperialist, colonizer ass.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Quân Khuê

    DNF You don't need to read the whole book to know it is bad. Save the suffering for others. DNF You don't need to read the whole book to know it is bad. Save the suffering for others.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    Pre-read/review thoughts (7/23/22): I'm Vietnamese. This book is about an ancient Vietnamese story I've heard bits and pieces of from my parents growing up. I now have an obligation to read this when it gets published and I'm super excited lol. Pre-read/review thoughts (7/23/22): I'm Vietnamese. This book is about an ancient Vietnamese story I've heard bits and pieces of from my parents growing up. I now have an obligation to read this when it gets published and I'm super excited lol.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Cindy ✩☽♔

    While I did appreciate this book, I must say it did not quite live up to my expectations. But I do suppose it is possible that my expectations were too high. I was already invested in this story because I know the legend. And thus, I had many great imaginings in my mind. I think where this story failed to truly capture me lies in the fact that the way in which the characters were presented/written did not draw me in emotionally. This tale should invoke a sense of sisterhood and kinship, but I di While I did appreciate this book, I must say it did not quite live up to my expectations. But I do suppose it is possible that my expectations were too high. I was already invested in this story because I know the legend. And thus, I had many great imaginings in my mind. I think where this story failed to truly capture me lies in the fact that the way in which the characters were presented/written did not draw me in emotionally. This tale should invoke a sense of sisterhood and kinship, but I did not quite get that feeling, and some of the decisions that the characters made also had me giving major side-eye. Still, I acknowledge the effort and overall liked it for what insight it did offer about this revolutionary time. Thank you to Grand Central Publishing and Netgalley for providing me with an ARC of this book, to read and review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ming

    Thanks to Grand Central Publishing for an advance reader's copy in exchange for an honest review.   I cringed at the stilted, clunky writing style.  It's simplistic and awkward.  The book maintains a pedantic tone or approach. And the characters are caricatures, eg one daughter is achingly filial, the other rash and bold. I cannot recommend this title. Here are some examples of the writing: The idleness of the sun-warmed day and Phan Minh's banter, alternately earnest and playful, blended into an oi Thanks to Grand Central Publishing for an advance reader's copy in exchange for an honest review.   I cringed at the stilted, clunky writing style.  It's simplistic and awkward.  The book maintains a pedantic tone or approach. And the characters are caricatures, eg one daughter is achingly filial, the other rash and bold. I cannot recommend this title. Here are some examples of the writing: The idleness of the sun-warmed day and Phan Minh's banter, alternately earnest and playful, blended into an ointment that spread along the surface of her skin. Trung Trac, buoyed by love's levitation, could not fathom at that moment any impediment to her joy. She tried to channel her sister's revolutionary spirit, to reject the Han, through violence if necessary, but the filial pattern was too intricately woven into the cloth of her being.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Bon

    Okay, yeah. I'm not familiar with the history here so I was interested....But while I can really appreciate the anti- Han supremacy here, the book is written quite dully. You're not gonna get any messaging across like that. DNF at 10%. Okay, yeah. I'm not familiar with the history here so I was interested....But while I can really appreciate the anti- Han supremacy here, the book is written quite dully. You're not gonna get any messaging across like that. DNF at 10%.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Cassandra

    Incredible! Intricate, poetic, bold, and intoxicating. Culturally rich and full of familiar struggles. The incompatible philosophies of the two cultures was a major draw in the story and history. A remarkable story rich in Vietnamese history and tradition. I was completely swept up in the journey of the two sisters and the fate of the Vietnamese people. Being unfamiliar with Vietnamese names I had a slight struggle at the beginning of this story. The names and implied roles behind titles were sli Incredible! Intricate, poetic, bold, and intoxicating. Culturally rich and full of familiar struggles. The incompatible philosophies of the two cultures was a major draw in the story and history. A remarkable story rich in Vietnamese history and tradition. I was completely swept up in the journey of the two sisters and the fate of the Vietnamese people. Being unfamiliar with Vietnamese names I had a slight struggle at the beginning of this story. The names and implied roles behind titles were slightly difficult to follow without prior understanding. The book itself was perfect right up until the first war with the Han. At that point the story began to drag and the characters started to lack depth. The women who were made General were primarily people I wasn’t given time to know. As a result I wasn’t as invested in their fates. I also just felt like the last half of the book lacked heart. Whatever soul was pulsed through the first half seemed gone and I struggled to stay invested. I finished the book mainly to see which version of the sister’s deaths the story would portray. Since history is noticeably contradictory about that depending on the account. I happily recommend the first half of the story but, in my opinion, it should finish before the rebellion starts or right after it ends.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Cookie

    Set in ancient Vietnam, Bronze Drum tells the legend of two sisters who led a rebellion against the Han Chinese rulers in their land. Trưng Trắc and Trưng Nhị are daughters of a lord and raised as ladies. But Lord Trưng knows that they may one day have to protect themselves from the Han and so he does everything he can to have them trained in the art of fighting and in leadership. As tragedies grip their family, Trắc and Nhị are driven to revenge, raising an army of eighty thousand women to defe Set in ancient Vietnam, Bronze Drum tells the legend of two sisters who led a rebellion against the Han Chinese rulers in their land. Trưng Trắc and Trưng Nhị are daughters of a lord and raised as ladies. But Lord Trưng knows that they may one day have to protect themselves from the Han and so he does everything he can to have them trained in the art of fighting and in leadership. As tragedies grip their family, Trắc and Nhị are driven to revenge, raising an army of eighty thousand women to defeat the Han. I was very excited to read this story. As a child of Vietnamese immigrants, I am always thirsting for stories that involve Vietnamese history and culture. I had never heard of the legend of the Trưng warrior sisters before but I was immediately intrigued by the synopsis. The first third of the book was a bit of a slow start for me. I struggled a bit to get into the story because I wasn't used to the writing style that was so different from what I usually read (which is mostly contemporary romance). After I got used to the prose of this book, I was able to fly through it. Phong Nguyen spent that first third of the book depicting the cushy lifestyle that the sisters lived. Once that peace was smashed and Nhị decided to do something about it, I couldn't stop turning the pages. There was a lot going on in the story and I was engrossed in every bit of the drama. Trắc and Nhị's relationship was as complicated as any sister relationship. They had very different personalities - Trắc was more reserved and calculating whereas Nhị was more impulsive and wild. They resented each other for their differences yet they had a fierce love for one another at the same time. When it came time for them to lead the others, they were able to work well together (mostly) in their common cause. Trắc and Nhị were fierce warriors who did the impossible of raising and leading an army of women to victory over the Han. They were driven not only by revenge for their loved ones, but also for love of their country, people, and ancestors. When Trắc declared herself as the "She-King", I pumped my fist in the air to celebrate her badassery. Pick up this historical fiction novel for an engrossing and inspiring story about two sisters leading the charge in a revolution. Mini guest review from my mom: In the history class of our early school years, we learned about stories as myths. This story makes us Vietnamese women proud. To this day, later generations still remember and adore these heroines. Men think this story is just a myth to flatter women. Not everything in this book was what we learned in school, but the rest is just adding to the excitement of the reader. It’s nice to read stories of Vietnamese heroines that can be seen on American bookcases! ⚠️: death of a loved one, cruel punishment, murder, war, suicide I received a complimentary ARC from the publisher.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Cherlynn (cherreading)

    'The problems of the Lạc Việt and the world are too large. What can one woman do?' 'Two women,' Thi Sách said, as a reminder that she would never be alone as long as she had a sister. 4.5⭐ Wow! I loved this book so much. Such an incredible and empowering read about women displaying resilience, courage and strength in spite of loss and tragedy, of them turning their grief into rage and their pain into action. The story of the Trưng sisters is new to me and I really enjoyed learning about Vietnamese h 'The problems of the Lạc Việt and the world are too large. What can one woman do?' 'Two women,' Thi Sách said, as a reminder that she would never be alone as long as she had a sister. 4.5⭐ Wow! I loved this book so much. Such an incredible and empowering read about women displaying resilience, courage and strength in spite of loss and tragedy, of them turning their grief into rage and their pain into action. The story of the Trưng sisters is new to me and I really enjoyed learning about Vietnamese history and culture in this illuminating novel. The two sisters might feel stereotypical at first but were ultimately well-developed. I loved their character arcs and how they were not without flaws. Bronze Drum is surprisingly fast-paced for a historical epic. While I wouldn't have minded more details and the book spilling into more than 400 pages, the upside is it was a quick read that I devoured. The prose is unique and grew on me. I feel like this book has been overlooked for more hyped August releases, but don't sleep on it! It's a freaking dark horse and I'm so glad I read it! Thank you to Grand Central Publishing and Netgalley for an ARC of this book. Favourite quotes: ✨ "That those who love... would rather suffer from love than to be numb to feeling." ✨ "Did the Hán officers realize that by throwing these women into the fire, they were forging the very iron that would become their undoing?" ✨ "Trưng Nhị had begun to think of tragedy upon tragedy as the sinking of a body into water of unknown depths. Surely the body could sink no deeper than this, she thought. Then it dropped further, and the lake of her sorrow was revealed to be an ocean."

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lindsey

    ✨ Review ✨ Bronze Drum by Phong Nguyen; Narrated by Quyen Ngo I had been putting off this book for a bit because I'd read a couple of other long books that had similar sorts of vibes and I needed a bit of space, but I can't believe I put this one off for so long. This book traces the story of two warrior sisters, Trung Trac and Trung Nhi, who lived in 40CE Vietnam. While much of the book details their training, studying, and youth, eventually the women go on to lead an army of women to "overthrow ✨ Review ✨ Bronze Drum by Phong Nguyen; Narrated by Quyen Ngo I had been putting off this book for a bit because I'd read a couple of other long books that had similar sorts of vibes and I needed a bit of space, but I can't believe I put this one off for so long. This book traces the story of two warrior sisters, Trung Trac and Trung Nhi, who lived in 40CE Vietnam. While much of the book details their training, studying, and youth, eventually the women go on to lead an army of women to "overthrow the Han Chinese and rule as kings over a united people." In a time and place I don't really know much about, I learned a lot about the ways that the Han Chinese Confucian principles conflicted with traditional Vietnamese ways of life. I was really fascinated with the matriarchal structures present in Vietnam, and this made for a really beautiful book for badass girl power 2 centuries ago. The writing style seems to be one of the biggest negative comments this book receives, but it's following a mythic style, similar to books like Circe, and for me it seemed to fit what the author was going for. The audio narrator also made this writing style feel natural and fitting with the book. The book was perhaps a bit long, but maybe that was my fault for trying to binge it in a day (super bingeable). I really enjoyed this and the book made me want to learn more about ancient Vietnam! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Genre: historical fiction Location: 40CE Vietnam Pub Date: out now! Read this if you like: ⭕️ strong female warriors ⭕️ historical fiction set in Asia ⭕️ mythic writing style Thanks to Grand Central Publishing, Hachette Audio, and #netgalley for advanced listening and e- copies of this book!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Trisha

    "My suffering will never be as great as some, she told herself, and I have no business suffering when justice is yet to be done." 3.5 rounded up. I was surprised I liked this one so much. It started out tough, a little fable-ish and slow as you are introduced to the village, the people and the family. And the Han. But soon the story sped up and I was completely pulled in. I loved learning about the sisters and just how different their personalities were. I liked how they each chose their life and "My suffering will never be as great as some, she told herself, and I have no business suffering when justice is yet to be done." 3.5 rounded up. I was surprised I liked this one so much. It started out tough, a little fable-ish and slow as you are introduced to the village, the people and the family. And the Han. But soon the story sped up and I was completely pulled in. I loved learning about the sisters and just how different their personalities were. I liked how they each chose their life and their story. I loved how strong they showed themselves to be and how they raised up others, especially women, to show what they were capable of. The ending broke my heart. SO good.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Becky F.

    A few pages in I found some malapropisms (eg. 'populous' when they meant 'populace'), and that set me up to be thoroughly unimpressed with this book. It was not written well enough to be exciting, and I rushed through the last 50 pages simply to finish faster. About halfway through I decided I just didn't care at all, but for some reason I read the whole book. Since the story is legendary anyway, it could probably have been told better in about half the amount of pages. Boring! A few pages in I found some malapropisms (eg. 'populous' when they meant 'populace'), and that set me up to be thoroughly unimpressed with this book. It was not written well enough to be exciting, and I rushed through the last 50 pages simply to finish faster. About halfway through I decided I just didn't care at all, but for some reason I read the whole book. Since the story is legendary anyway, it could probably have been told better in about half the amount of pages. Boring!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Maria

    “They will say, not that we set the Lạc Việts free, but that we realized their freedom, and showed them how.” (An excerpt from BRONZE DRUM by Phong Nguyen) BRONZE DRUM by Phong Nguyen is a story set in ancient Vietnam (the Bronze Age, 36-43 CE) based on the true story of two warrior sisters, Trưng Trắc and Trưng Nhị, who raised an army of 80,000 women to overthrow the Han Chinese. This book was one of my five star predictions, and it really was a five-star read for me. The whole story of the Trưng “They will say, not that we set the Lạc Việts free, but that we realized their freedom, and showed them how.” (An excerpt from BRONZE DRUM by Phong Nguyen) BRONZE DRUM by Phong Nguyen is a story set in ancient Vietnam (the Bronze Age, 36-43 CE) based on the true story of two warrior sisters, Trưng Trắc and Trưng Nhị, who raised an army of 80,000 women to overthrow the Han Chinese. This book was one of my five star predictions, and it really was a five-star read for me. The whole story of the Trưng sisters can technically be read online, but the way Phong Nguyen reimagines this moment in history makes the experience feel so palpable, as if we’re really a part of the Trưng sisters’ lives. After the first 100 pages, I couldn’t put this book down. Each scene was so vivid for me, and I often thought about each character in the moments I took a break from reading. Though BRONZE DRUM is a riveting account of what was happening during this time, I highly recommend mentally preparing for a war story, since there are graphic depictions of violence. Thank you Grand Central Pub for the gifted ARC. BRONZE DRUM is available in stores on August 9th, 2022.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Bradshaw

    This book is so unique. It’s Vietnamese folklore with these stories and characters intricately weaves together to tell a beautiful story and I like it a lot!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Emily Ann

    I'll be the first to admit that I'm a sucker for feminist retellings of myths and legends, especially when I get to experience a culture that doesn't often make it into mainstream literature. Where these retellings really shine is when they introduce extra layers of conflict that the characters chafe against and which force them to make difficult decisions. This adds something new to the conversation and makes these stories more than simple retellings. I don't think Bronze Drum accomplishes th I'll be the first to admit that I'm a sucker for feminist retellings of myths and legends, especially when I get to experience a culture that doesn't often make it into mainstream literature. Where these retellings really shine is when they introduce extra layers of conflict that the characters chafe against and which force them to make difficult decisions. This adds something new to the conversation and makes these stories more than simple retellings. I don't think Bronze Drum accomplishes this. In this novel we begin with a society that is already lauded as progressive for not forcing women to marry and letting them move between lovers. Patriotism to Lac Viet is, for the characters, an unchallenged virtue as their society is threatened by colonization and assimilation with the Han Chinese. The story would have been richer if there was room for criticism of this ancient Vietnamese culture; I want to see characters who recognize their home is imperfect but have to make a hard choice to fight on its behalf. Instead, we get a story with black and white heroes and villains. I understand the desire to challenge the narrative that society has linearly improved over time by bringing attention to the perhaps unexpectedly progressive marriage customs of ancient Vietnam. However, the feminist sentiments in the novel lacked intersectionality. The world of the novel remains heavily gendered (with an intensity that veers on essentialism), aggressively heterosexual, and divided by class hierarchy. The characters occasionally wonder if they ought not to be aristocrats, but quickly dismiss it. Take this moment for example, when the sisters are attempting to recruit their army of women: "'How is the King of the Viets sending our men to fight in their war any different from the emperor of the Han sending your men to fight in their wars?' ... 'It is different, first,' she began, 'because I am not asking you to send your men.'" The chapter simply ends there. So what are the other reasons? We know that any army of women is unexpected and interesting, but what essentially makes women so different? Why is it more acceptable to sacrifice women for rightful aristocrats than to sacrifice men for different aristocrats? I don't ask that the author introduce a democratic movement where none existed, but I do want to see the characters wrestle with these questions more, even if they ultimately make the same choices. Their feminism only exists at face value when they do not grapple with any other issues. This novel contained adult content, but the writing style felt geared toward a much younger audience by consistently breaking the rule of showing rather than telling. The introduction and prologue (which introduces a framing device that is never revisited) spell out the symbolism of the novel before the story even begins. The characters often discuss events and meanings and feelings without demonstrating them. Here's an example: "The burnt remnants of her husband's book had been swept away by the wind and the only marking it left was a hint of char a few feet into the recess. It stood as a reminder of what little was left of us when we are gone and this drove Trung Vuong deeper into her conviction to fight for what was enduring - the honor of the Viets." My intelligence as a reader felt insulted here - why not describe the burnt remains and let me infer the connection to the character's loss? Why not let this character continue to demonstrate her conviction rather than telling me so often that she has it? I wanted so much to think more for myself about the meanings of the story but had little opportunity to do so. The reader is beaten over the head with some story threads while others are introduced and never followed up on. I was tempted to skim through the last third of the novel as it seemed to have passed its natural conclusion - there was a point at which no further character development occurred and the story became much more of a recital of events than a novel. I thought this could be a feature of the framing device from the prologue, but since this was never touched on again, I couldn't be sure. In general, there were places where I couldn't tell if the author was in earnest or introducing an element of myth into the story. For example, it's not true that women's menstrual cycles sync up, and especially not after spending a day or two together. Was that meant to be symbolic somehow, or did the author not check how women's bodies work? Either way, it was a jarring detail that felt like it didn't need to be included. I feel an element of guilt at giving this book a negative review because I want stories like this to reach the mainstream, but this retelling was so poorly executed both in style and theme that I can't recommend it. However, here are some recommendations for other works that do accomplish what I wanted to get from this book: - Nghi Vo's Singing Hills Cycle draws from historical myths but are rich with queer romance and indictment of monarchy -Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel deliberately alters aspects of its source material to create a compelling narrative -Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See is one of my favorites - its main character reinforces the status quo, but you see enough of her internal conflicts that you understand why

  24. 4 out of 5

    Marisol M.

    Bronze Drum is a Historical Fiction book based on the legendary Tru’ng Sisters. This book follows Tru’ng Trac and Tru’ng Nhi throughout different time periods of their lives. Tru’ng Trac is the obedient, serious, parent pleasing older sister. Tru’ng Nhi is carefree and more interested in living without constraints. Their differences set them apart but also bring them closely together. They complement one another. This story is tragic and heartbreaking but also incredibly powerful. Under the oppr Bronze Drum is a Historical Fiction book based on the legendary Tru’ng Sisters. This book follows Tru’ng Trac and Tru’ng Nhi throughout different time periods of their lives. Tru’ng Trac is the obedient, serious, parent pleasing older sister. Tru’ng Nhi is carefree and more interested in living without constraints. Their differences set them apart but also bring them closely together. They complement one another. This story is tragic and heartbreaking but also incredibly powerful. Under the oppressive rule of the Han Chinese these two sisters demonstrate how powerful women are. Although, they suffer a lot of heartache their military prowess allows them to fight for freedom and independence. This book was beautifully written and you can see the amount of care and love the author had while writing it. It was infused with beautiful prose and culture/traditions. I was completely mesmerized and intrigued to learn more about Vietnamese history and customs. I also loved the narrator Quyen Ngo she made me feel like I was there right in the midst of everything. I definitely recommend reading this book! Thank you to Hachette Audio, Grand Central Publishing, and NetGalley for this ALC in exchange for my honest review.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Emily Waller

    Thank you to Grand Central Publishing for the copy of this book. "Ours is not a war for bloodthirsty men to tear each other apart. Ours is a war to restore justice. No woman would fight for the sake of the fight, and every one of us is in it for the cause." Bronze Drum is a re-telling of the Trung sisters, Vietnamese warriors who led a rebellion against the Chinese Han dynasty around 40 AD. It's not only a battle story - it's the story of their life and history under Han rule, with family and love Thank you to Grand Central Publishing for the copy of this book. "Ours is not a war for bloodthirsty men to tear each other apart. Ours is a war to restore justice. No woman would fight for the sake of the fight, and every one of us is in it for the cause." Bronze Drum is a re-telling of the Trung sisters, Vietnamese warriors who led a rebellion against the Chinese Han dynasty around 40 AD. It's not only a battle story - it's the story of their life and history under Han rule, with family and lovers and friendship and challenges that built their character. While this story is rooted in history, Phong Nguyen did an excellent job of building up the supporting fictional elements to really highlight the impact of the Chinese colonialism and patriarchy on the Vietnamese culture. He even distinguishes exactly who is historical and fictional at the end of the book. Bronze Drum is inspirational as well as informative, and an absolutely excellent read for lovers of strong women.

  26. 5 out of 5

    TheArtemisDuology

    Nguyen creates a historical epic about resilience, courage, and the power of women and sisterhood. It’s a well balanced story re-telling the story of the Trung sisters and Vietnamese history and legend. Bronze Drum provides insight on the impacts of colonialism and the patriarchy. It really intrigued me to see how the Han dynasty’s colonialism really changed not only the rights of Vietnamese people but also gender roles— beforehand the women had more choice it felt so the author really doesn’t u Nguyen creates a historical epic about resilience, courage, and the power of women and sisterhood. It’s a well balanced story re-telling the story of the Trung sisters and Vietnamese history and legend. Bronze Drum provides insight on the impacts of colonialism and the patriarchy. It really intrigued me to see how the Han dynasty’s colonialism really changed not only the rights of Vietnamese people but also gender roles— beforehand the women had more choice it felt so the author really doesn’t undercut how places perhaps today wouldn’t have certain views on gender or expectations without the forceful hand of colonialists. Sometimes the sentences were awkward or did more telling than showing, but I think reading this like a historical epic made me just want to learn this history, though with the fictional adaptations to it. Probably around a 3.5* An informative and powerful historical fiction all around!

  27. 5 out of 5

    2TReads

    #bronzedrum chronicles the lives, loves, and revolutionary presence of the Trung sisters in their home of Lac Viet. Any story that centres sisters and historical significance will always catch my interest. Nguyen has brought to the page these two women who fought against the Han occupation to maintain the way of life of their ancestors, to assert their autonomy, and secure freedom for all their people. I love that in developing them, they were given distinct personalities and bahaviours that spoke #bronzedrum chronicles the lives, loves, and revolutionary presence of the Trung sisters in their home of Lac Viet. Any story that centres sisters and historical significance will always catch my interest. Nguyen has brought to the page these two women who fought against the Han occupation to maintain the way of life of their ancestors, to assert their autonomy, and secure freedom for all their people. I love that in developing them, they were given distinct personalities and bahaviours that spoke to the roles that they were meant to fulfill as they matured. That he was able to depict with such richness how these women would take on the roles of King and Generals, shows the respect he holds for this part of his history that may not be as well known as it should be. It also speaks to his awareness of the strength and military prowess of women. What makes this story stand out is the manner in which Nguyen centres the bronze drum and its meaning to the Lac Viet people: to their festivals, traditions and even how they utilized it in their revolution.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly

    I enjoyed this novel of warrior woman, especially the latter half of the book. I did have some difficulty keeping the names straight though; many were very similar and, because I haven’t much experience with Vietnamese names, it was sometimes hard for me to remember who was who. There is a large cast of characters. Overall however, this was a great choice from Book of the Month.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jordan Tiblier

    Parts two and three were so good and blew my mind. The Trung sisters were inspiring and so well written. Loved this book!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Van Hoang

    I've long been fascinated by the true story of the Trưng sisters who rode on elephants and led an army of women in battle to defeat oppressors of the Vietnamese ppl in the land before time, and this novel was so delightful to me in every way from the bumbling guard to the pregnant woman warrior(view spoiler)[ who literally gives birth during battle and continues fighting wtf (hide spoiler)] . An utter joy. I've long been fascinated by the true story of the Trưng sisters who rode on elephants and led an army of women in battle to defeat oppressors of the Vietnamese ppl in the land before time, and this novel was so delightful to me in every way from the bumbling guard to the pregnant woman warrior(view spoiler)[ who literally gives birth during battle and continues fighting wtf (hide spoiler)] . An utter joy.

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