Author: Donna Jo Napoli
Xing Xing, whose name means stars, was always a precious, shining treasure to her father who loved her companionship and educated her far beyond what most girls in Ming China would ever learn. Upon her father’s death, however, she finds herself an orphan, bound to obey and serve her unkind stepmother and petulant older stepsister. Doing her best under the circumstances (for what other choices does an unmarried girl with an education and unbound feet have?), Xing Xing persists, sensing her dead mother’s spirit watching over her through all the trials she endures. And when it is announced that a local prince will be at the seasonal festival, Xing Xing decides to sneak in to enjoy the festivities–and the free food–never knowing that attending would change her fate forever.
Bound is a fascinating retelling of the classic Cinderella story, setting the tale in Ming China. Napoli sticks to the basic premises of the story as it is found in Chinese traditions, while adding some significant touches of her own, including the decision to place this in the Ming Dynasty. One of the most outstanding of these choices to me, however, is her decision to make Xing Xing a bright, strong, slightly impertinent girl who breaks the molds of subservience, foot binding, arranged marriages, and other things that made the women of her day truly “bound.” In a lot of ways, she chooses to be free, even while her circumstances demand that she not be. It works really well for the story. I also really enjoy Napoli’s general writing style: it has a sparsely poetic feel, each sentence relatively simple, yet the whole a beautiful picture. Bound would be a great story for those who like retellings, stories set in Ming China, or stories with strong female protagonists.