Mulan: Before the Sword

by Grace Lin (Author) Grace Lin (Illustrator)

Mulan: Before the Sword
Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade

From New York Times best-selling author, Grace Lin, comes a novel filled with adventure and wonder.

Family is important to Hua Mulan--even if her parents don't understand why she would rather ride her horse, Black Wind, than weave, or how her notorious clumsiness can be so different from the graceful demeanor of her younger sister, Xiu. But despite their differences, Mulan has a deep love for her family, especially Xiu. So when her sister is bitten by a poisonous spider, Mulan does everything she can to help, including seeking out a renowned healer.

However, it quickly becomes apparent that there is more to both the mysterious spider bite and the healer than meets the eye. On a quest with the Jade Rabbit of legend, Mulan visits extraordinary places, meets Immortals, and faces incredible obstacles while searching for an antidote for her sister. And the danger only rises when Mulan learns of a prophecy foretelling that a member of the Hua family will one day save the Emperor . . . and of the powerful enemies who will stop at nothing to prevent it from coming to pass.


Exciting action, humor, and warm-heartedness course through the narrative for a spirited, uplifting read.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review

As usual, Lin artfully develops captivating characters with rich histories.... A legendary tale for a legendary figure.

Publishers Weekly

In this original fantasy prequel to Disney's 2020 live-action Mulan film by Lin (A Big Mooncake for Little Star), Hua Mulan accompanies the Jade Rabbit of Chinese lore on a quest to save Mulan's younger sister, Xiu. A formidable, shape-shifting foe named Daji, the White Fox; Daji's pitiable servant, Xianniang, the Red Fox; and a few Chinese Immortals round out the cast. When a nine-legged spider bites the perfect, demure Xiu, she falls ill. Mulan, along with her beloved horse, Black Wind, is sent to fetch a healer visiting the next village. Revealed to be the Jade Rabbit, the Healer discloses that Xiu has been poisoned by Daji and will die if not given the antidote "before the night of the new moon." Because a Hua daughter is prophesied to save the Emperor, Daji is intent on Xiu's death. With the Jade Rabbit also poisoned by Daji, and waylaid at every step by Daji and her minions, Mulan has her work cut out for her. In the midst of this fast-paced quest, Lin's distinctive peppering of folkloric tales throughout the narrative adds engaging layers, providing backstory and fleshing out characters' relationships and motives. Ages 8-12. Agent: Rebecca Sherman, Writers House. (Feb.)

Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.
Grace Lin
Grace Lin (she/her), a New York Times bestselling author/illustrator, won the Newbery Honor for Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and the Theodor Geisel Honor for Ling and Ting. Her novel When the Sea Turned to Silver was a National Book Award Finalist, and her picture book A Big Mooncake for Little Star was awarded the Caldecott Honor. Grace is also an occasional commentator for New England Public Radio, a reviewer for The New York Times, a video essayist for PBS NewsHour, and the speaker of the popular TEDx Talk "The Windows and Mirrors of Your Child's Bookshelf," as well as hosting the two podcasts: kidlitwomen* and Kids Ask Authors. In 2016, Grace's art was displayed at the White House, where Grace herself was recognized by President Obama's office as a Champion of Change for Asian American and Pacific Islander Art and Storytelling. You can visit Grace online at and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @pacylin.

Chelsea Clinton (she/her) is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of She Persisted, She Persisted Around the World, She Persisted in Sports, She Persisted in Science, Don't Let Them Disappear, It's Your World and Start Now!, as well as Grandma's Gardens and The Book of Gutsy Women, which she wrote with Hillary Clinton, and Governing Global Health with Devi Sridhar. Chelsea earned a master's degree in public health from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, where she is now an adjunct assistant professor, and a PhD in international relations from Oxford University. She is also the Vice Chair of the Clinton Foundation, where she works on many initiatives, including those that help empower the next generation of leaders. She lives in New York City with her husband, Marc, their three children and their dog, Soren.

Gillian Flint (she/her) is an illustrator who has a passion for painting in watercolors. She has been drawing and creating characters for as long as she can remember. Her work has been published in the USA, the UK and Australia. In her spare time she enjoys reading and gardening at her home in the UK. You can visit Gillian online at and follow her on Instagram @gillianflint_illustration.

Alexandra Boiger (she/her) has illustrated nearly twenty picture books, including the She Persisted series by by Chelsea Clinton; the popular Tallulah series by Marilyn Singer; and the Max and Marla books, which she also wrote. Originally from Munich, Germany, she now lives outside of San Francisco, California, with her husband, Andrea; daughter, Vanessa; and two cats, Luiso and Winter. You can visit Alexandra online at and follow her on Instagram @alexandra_boiger.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Disney Press
Publication date
February 20, 2020
BISAC categories
JUV001000 - Juvenile Fiction | Action & Adventure
JUV016030 - Juvenile Fiction | Historical | Asia
JUV016020 - Juvenile Fiction | Historical | Ancient Civilizations
JUV027000 - Juvenile Fiction | Media Tie-In
JUV012060 - Juvenile Fiction | Legends, Myths, Fables | Asian
Library of Congress categories
Quests (Expeditions)
Hua, Mulan

Subscribe to our delicious e-newsletter!