Genie Lo thought she was busy last year, juggling her academic career with protecting the Bay Area from demons. But now, as the Heaven-appointed Guardian of California, she’s responsible for the well-being of all yaoguai and spirits on Earth. Even the ones who interrupt her long-weekend visit to a prestigious college, bearing terrible news about a cosmos-threatening force of destruction in a nearby alternate dimension.
The goddess Guanyin and Genie’s boyfriend, Quentin Sun Wukong, do their best to help, but it’s really the Jade Emperor who’s supposed to handle crises of this magnitude. Unfortunately for Genie and the rest of existence, he’s gone AWOL. Fed up with the Jade Emperor’s negligence, Genie spots an opportunity to change the system for the better by undertaking a quest that spans multiple planes of reality along with an adventuring party of quarrelsome Chinese gods. But when faced with true danger, Genie and her friends realize that what will save the universe this time isn’t strength, but sacrifice.
In case you don’t know, The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee is an incredible book about a girl named Genie Lo, who discovers that she’s the reincarnation of a powerful celestial weapon. This book, after so many years, remains to be one of my favourite books of all time.
And then, I read The Iron Will of Genie Lo, the sequel of this favourite book of mine. So listen up when I say this: The Epic Crush of Genie Lo may have a special place in my heart forever, but The Iron Will of Genie Lo was such a flawless and incredible sequel that I think I loved it even more than its predecessor. And I am overjoyed that I get to share with you all my review of this incredible book.
Takes everything good in the first book and makes it even better
Aside from the fact that I grew up with Journey to the West and love the legend of Sun Wu Kong, I loved The Epic Crush of Genie Lo was that it was such a refreshing and light-hearted spin on a beloved folktale that succeeds in being warm and funny, sharp as hell, brutally honest, and balances an array of brilliant and loveable characters and a compelling plot. Similarly to the first book, The Iron Will of Genie Lo has such a fantastic narrative that blends almost blends the exaggerated comedy of slapstick (which works perfectly with Genie’s powers) and dry humour, and will have you grinning from ear to ear.
Following the events of the first book, Genie now has an immense and important celestial duty resting on her shoulders whilst balancing her last year of high school and determining her path for the future. In this book, you can expect Genie to grapple with demons who espouse elusive Daoist philosophy (and reading this was such a throwback to my Chinese philosophy classes), more divine mayhem and the utter pomp and chaos of Heaven, and a mysterious demonic force that could destroy existence as she know it. You will get to meet old characters that we met in The Epic Crush of Genie Lo, but what makes this book outstanding is a lot of the characters are developed further – including our favourite angry teen heroine, Genie, and her now-boyfriend and the literal legend Sun Wukong, otherwise known as Quentin.
At its heart, a relatable story about fears for the future and change
Going into The Iron Will of Genie Lo, I expected to see more celestial shenanigans and seeing Genie getting mixed up in another demonic evil. And whilst that is true to an extent, what I found most compelling was that even though the story is about deities, demons, celestial responsibility, and how human life just a drop in the ocean of time, the story unexpectedly – and welcomingly – explores the significance of a mundane thing: making decisions for the future. The story also adopts a sterner note and shows how scary events can reorientate your priorities and force you to confront that some things in life are beyond your control.
You see, The Iron Will of Genie Lo explores the choices you have to make on the precipice of change, how those choices can define you and the trajectory of your future, and it’s about grappling with the uncertainty of the future. For Genie specifically, it’s about what she wants to do now that she’s nearly finished with high school and the decision of college – where to go and what she wants to do – is looming before her. There are also some very poignant and introspective parts where Genie ponders the whole race and chase for college – what that means for her, as someone who is poor, and how college is something that seems so immense and ‘the ultimate goal’. Yet, Genie ponders what takes place after college, and what that means for someone who has defined her identity around getting into college, and these explorations were so… profound and meaningful and important. I really related to Genie’s internal conflict and doubt, as I felt the very same before going into university, unsure of what was to come.
The story also grapples with relationships, and how big changes can throw otherwise stable and uneventful relationships into a state of flux. (Yes, we definitely see more Quentin and Genie!) And I think this is particularly important – when the end of something we have worked so hard for is in sight, sometimes it also changes our perception of how our relationships fit. It can be a really tough and challenging thing, especially for a teen on her way to adulthood to navigate. Thus, I think The Iron Will of Genie Lo is about how we face life’s greatest changes and challenges, what we do in the face of them, and how these things teach us what really matters to us.
About why we live and fight, and what we fight for
I’ve said this before, but I’ll say this again: The Iron Will of Genie Lo has one of the most satisfying endings to a series that I’ve ever read. (Yes, I’m disappointed that there won’t be a third book, but if this is how Genie Lo ends, then I am satisfied.) The ending of the book is the kind of ending that demonstrates that what Genie has wrestled with, the doubts that she may have had across the story – those all meant something and her journey and lessons culminated to the very last chapter of the book. To be honest? I cried. I didn’t expect the story to end the way it did, but I really really loved it.
Underneath all the comedy and fighting scenes, The Iron Will of Genie Lo is ultimately about finding the things that we are willing to fight for. And it’s not just the physical fighting, which Genie does plenty in this book. Rather, The Iron Will of Genie Lo is about fighting for the things that we hold onto and the things that matter to us. It’s about contemplating what those things are – the things that matter in our lives – and how far you are willing to go for someone. I thought it was poignant, a little bittersweet but I felt satisfied. Because after the events of the book and whatever otherworldly catastrophe that Genie will have to deal with, she will be okay.
MY CONCLUSION: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Up there with the likes of The Green Bones Saga, I am pretty certain that Genie Lo series may go down as one of my favourite series ever. The Iron Will of Genie Lo is an amazing and meaningful conclusion to a truly epic story, and is a story that means so much to me – not only because it’s inspired by one of my favourite folktales, but also because this story speaks so much to me and my soul. Saying goodbye to Genie Lo and the gang says like saying goodbye to an old friend — but I’ll love this friend forever and that’s what matters to me.
Is this book for you?
Premise in a sentence: A Chinese teen has to defend Earth from a demonic force that could threaten all of existence – whilst also grappling with her future and college.
Perfect for: Readers who loved the first book, The Epic Crush of Genie Lo; readers who would like to read a retelling of Journey to the West; readers who love comedic and silly writing.
Think twice if: You aren’t a fan of dry humour; you didn’t enjoy The Epic Crush of Genie Lo.
Genre: young adult, fantasy
Trigger/content warning: death; murder and explicit description of murder; medical emergency of loved one
Again, I am so sad that this series is over but… I’m actually okay. I’m okay because I know that, whatever comes Genie’s way, she’ll be okay. My whole gang, my children, will be okay. And I think that’s what makes a very satisfying ending – knowing that the struggles they went through was worth it and knowing that they’ll be okay after the events of the book.
- Are you looking forward to reading The Iron Will of Genie Lo?
- What are you hoping to read about in this sequel?
- What is your favourite ending to a book series? Why was it your favourite?