Autistic Book Party, Episode 78: Tiger Honor

(ETA: Yoon Ha Lee appears to have been misdiagnosed with autism, and has asked to be removed from Autistic Book Party.)


Today’s Book: “Tiger Honor” by Yoon Ha Lee

The Plot: A young tiger spirit named Sebin gets their acceptance letter from the Thousand Worlds Space Forces – on the same day that they learn that their beloved uncle Hwan has deserted forces and been disgraced. As Hwan’s presence haunts a disastrous first day of training, Sebin must decide between loyalty to their family and sacrifice for the greater good.

Autistic Character(s): The author!

This book is a really interesting sequel to Dragon Pearl – in part because the tone is so different. Sebin is a very different narrator from to Min – serious, rulebound, and dutiful, not to mention their steadfast devotion to a family which, to an adult reader, looks fairly unloving and shifty from the very first scene.

Seeing the setting through Sebin’s eyes instead of Min’s means losing most of the caper-y tone that made Dragon Pearl so charming – but it also adds unexpected depth. Sebin feels the injustice when people betray each other, and the confusion when they’re getting mixed messages about who to trust, more strongly than Min, and they think through the ethics of their situation in a different way.

Min is in the story too, of course!. She arrives early on, intent on a mission of her own. After seeing through her eyes in the previous book it’s fascinating to see her through Sebin’s as they slowly puzzle out what’s going on with her. In Dragon Pearl, from Min’s perspective, the mind control capers felt fairly innocent, even when they went too far; there was almost a sense that foxes were viewed with suspicion because people were small-minded or something. In Tiger Honor, we get a much clearer sense of why people fear foxes, and of how distressing the mind control really is for those who realize they’ve been affected. It’s a sobering shift. Having read the previous book, we know that Min is ultimately on the side of good, but it makes total sense why Sebin views her as an enemy or even a monster. The way that they do reconcile with her, towards the end, is non-obvious and quite interesting.

Despite a more serious tone, there’s still a lot of fun to be had! Tiger Honor is still ultimately an adventure story about a quirky young group of space cadets who find creative ways to use their skills to foil an enemy. The character and setting details are as delightful as ever. Overall it’s a solid addition to the series that adds new dimensions to the previous book’s themes. The trilogy will conclude in October 2023, with a book called “Fox Snare.”

The Verdict: Recommended-2

For a list of past/future/possible Autistic Book Party books, click here.