My rating: 4 of 5 stars
An expressive, thoughtful YA graphic novel about the Boxer Rebellion. Little Bao, the youngest son of a farmer, witnesses the influx of Christians and foreign soldiers disrupting the traditions of his small village. Little Bao’s world seems to have no order until he mentors with two spiritual men and takes action into his own hands. Our protagonist comes to believe that he & his compatriots are empowered by the heroes and gods of Chinese operas that caught his imagination as a child. Little Bao ends up leading a band of men across the countryside toward Peking, righting what they see as injustices and eventually persecuting Christians and their followers.
Gene Luen Yang conveys the more brutal aspects of war through Little Bao’s main struggle to decide whether to do the right thing or act in service of a defining vision. The nobility of Liu Bei and the Peach Tree Oath from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Vol. 1 works against Ch’in Shih-huang’s hard advice about about allegiance to one’s land and authority. There are some suggestions of violence and sexuality that parents might object to. But mostly Boxers relies on Little Bao’s internal conflict to illustrate the ugliness of war as well as the slow disintegration of the stylized opera look into the harshness of reality. Recommended for those who enjoy historical fiction and don’t mind reading a YA title.