After the Dragons by Cynthia Zhang

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The launch party for After the Dragons is happening tonight, August 19th, at 8PM Eastern! That’s in about forty minutes – sorry, I know this is last minute, but I hope this catches at least a few of you all. 🙂 There will be art, poetry, and a reading by the author. You should all go check it out!

When is forgetting too soon, and when it is simply moving on?

After the Dragons, Cynthia Zhang

After the Dragons is quiet, thoughtful, and, above all, kind. It’s not easy to do right by one another, especially when we’re put in hard places without clear answers. Death, and how we face it, matters.

Zhang transports us to a near-future world where tiny dragons flit across the skies in a hazy, polluted Beijing. Climate change has caused air quality to plummet… and related health problems to spike. Kai, a young man who rescues abandoned dragons from the streets, is terminally ill with Shaolong—a disease caused by extended exposure to poor air quality. He’s withdrawn into himself, distanced from his family, and has given his all to his rescue efforts while waiting to die.

His plans to fade away are interrupted when Eli, a young researcher from the United States in Beijing for a summer program, enters his life. The two orbit each other, warily at first, but growing slowly but surely closer to one another. While they both may be imperfect, they’re also two people who are fundamentally kind. They find themselves paralyzed when put into positions where they may cause hurt or pain to others, and they struggle to open up emotionally given the high risks involved.

This is truly a slice of life novel in that it’s small slice of their lives. Eli and Kai haven’t figured everything out by the end. They’ve worked through a lot, certainly, and it’s clear that their future is going to be a loving one, but they also have difficult choices ahead. Kai’s illness isn’t going away, and Eli still carries his own baggage. The ending is appropriately open-ended: there are no right answers, and Zhang doesn’t pretend to have them.

Goodreads |

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About the Author

Cynthia Zhang is a Ph.D. student in Comparative Studies in Literature and Culture at the University of Southern California. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in KaleidotropeOn SpecPhantom Drift, and other venues. She is a 2021 DVdebut mentee. Follow her on Twitter @cz_writes.

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