Chapters 1–12

Inspired by her father's fantastical stories, Minli sets off on a journey to change her family's fortune.
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definitions & notes only words
  1. jagged
    having an irregularly notched or toothed margin
    Far away from here, following the Jade River, there was once a black mountain that cut into the sky like a jagged piece of rough metal.
  2. coax
    influence or urge by gentle urging, caressing, or flattering
    To coax rice out of the stubborn land, the fields had to be flooded with water.
  3. meager
    deficient in amount or quality or extent
    Ma sighed a great deal, an impatient noise usually accompanied with a frown at their rough clothes, rundown house, or meager food.
  4. weariness
    temporary loss of strength and energy from hard work
    Ba seemed to drop his gray and work weariness—his black eyes sparkled like raindrops in the sun when he began a story.
  5. reverence
    a feeling of profound respect for someone or something
    She was very proud of her power and of the reverence the people of earth paid her.
    Compare with "esteem" in the list for Chapters 13-24. The two nouns (which can also be used as verbs) can be synonymous but "reverence" is closer to a respect that's almost holy, as if to a god of great power.
  6. anguish
    extreme distress of body or mind
    They were horrified at the anguish and misery on earth.
  7. grueling
    characterized by effort to the point of exhaustion
    It was planting season, which was especially grueling.
  8. fiery
    like or suggestive of a flame
    “I’ll buy that one,” Minli said, and she pointed at the fiery orange fish with the black eyes and fin that had caught her eye.
  9. fierce
    marked by extreme and violent energy
    The magistrate was fierce in his anger as well
 as his pride.
    "Fierce" and "fiery" can be synonymous adjectives, but in these two example sentences, they are not, because one focuses on the physical appearance of a fish, while this focuses on the temper of a law official.
  10. wrath
    intense anger
    All feared his wrath, and when he roared his orders the people trembled.
    Compare with "infuriate" (the synonymous noun "fury" can be seen in this verb)--both words and example sentences show how the magistrate's anger connects to his power.
  11. manipulation
    exerting shrewd or devious influence for one's own advantage
    His every decision was crafted for that purpose; every manipulation was part of a strategy to achieve acceptance into the imperial family.
  12. infuriate
    make extremely angry
    The old man's indifference infuriated Magistrate Tiger and he ordered the carriage to stop.
  13. scoff
    laugh at with contempt and derision
    "You can answer any question in the world?" the magistrate scoffed.
  14. outwit
    beat through cleverness
    On the wedding day, Magistrate Tiger bragged to his son about how he had arranged the marriage and outwitted the Old Man of the Moon.
  15. perish
    pass from physical life
    In a flood many years ago, the grocer's family perished—except for the daughter.
  16. enthralled
    filled with wonder and delight
    “I do,” Minli said, enthralled and eager.
  17. conceited
    having an exaggerated sense of self-importance
    "A conceited, self-important man, who, when only the imperial family is allowed to use the image of a dragon, commissions one."
  18. flaunt
    display proudly
    Now that his son has married the king's daughter, Magistrate Tiger will do anything to flaunt his power and overstretch his authority.
  19. tribute
    something given or done as an expression of esteem
    "May I present this, which I humbly painted in tribute to the great magistrate's rule."
  20. flaw
    an imperfection in an object or machine
    "Magistrate," a third voice said, one that seemed a little kinder, "it is only a minor flaw."
  21. leer
    look suggestively or obliquely
    I saw the magistrate's fat face leering over me as he reached over and dotted in my other eye.
  22. haggard
    showing the wearing effects of overwork or care or suffering
    The goldfish man’s eyes also flashed as he looked at Ma and Ba and their dust-covered clothes and haggard, tired faces.
  23. wail
    a cry of sorrow and grief
    My parents and aunts and cousins burst into exclamations and wails.
  24. delicacy
    something considered choice to eat
    Before the aromas of the delicacies were captured in our most ornate box, they floated in the air, causing all the neighborhood animals to whine at our door.
  25. beckon
    summon with a wave, nod, or some other gesture
    "Yes," I said, and I came closer as he beckoned.
Created on November 8, 2013 (updated April 25, 2019)

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