Boxers and Saints


Bibliographic Information 

Paperback: (both) $22.81, 512 pages, First Second (2013)

(book 1)$15.28, 336 pages, First Second (2013)

(book 2) $13.05, 176 pages, First Second (2013)

Library Binding: (book 1) $31.80, 336 pages, Turtleback Books (2013)

(book 2) $28.15, 176 pages, Turtleback Books (2013)

Kindle: (both) $17.99, 512 pages, First Second (2013)

(book 1 & 2) $9.99, 336 pages, First Second (2013)


  • ISBN-10: 1596439246
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596439245
  • ISBN-10: 060632304X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0606323048
  • ISBN-10: 1596433590
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596433595
  • ISBN-10: 1596436891
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596436893
  • ISBN-10: 0606323058
  • ISBN-13: 978-0606323055

Rating (VOYA)

5Q, 4P

Readers Annotation

Both sides of the Boxer Rebellion portrayed in graphic format.


Boxers is the story of Little Bao and his journey through the Boxer Rebellion. Little Bao loved the opera as a child and would sit with the god’s idol. When Christians come through the town they destroy the idol and yell at the people. Bao’s father goes with a few villagers to talk to the Emperor but they are attacked on the road. Bao’s father is never the same. A warrior by the name of Red Lantern comes to the village and soon starts to teach the boys kung-fu. Bao learns at night. Red Lantern leaves with Bao’s two brothers and another villager on a mission for the Brotherhood of the Fist and sends Bao to the Fat Man. Bao listens to the Fat Man for a while, but soon he angers the man and leaves his studies. His brothers and the other boy come back without Red Lantern and Bao rushes off to the Fat Man to steal his sword. When he takes the sword the Fat Man dies and Bao becomes one with the warriors of China’s past.

Bao teaches his brothers and the other boys the ritual to become the embodiment of a great warrior and they attack the imperial troops sent after the boys. They continue across the land killing “Foreign Devils.” At first Bao does not want to kill the “secondary devils” but when they do not renounce their faith he has all but the women and children slaughtered.

The historical Chinese warrior that Bao has communed with does not like his mercy and insists that Bao should have killed them all.

The troop stays in a village for some time, and gain an ally in Mei-wen when they save her from some renegade “secondary devils.” The boys eventually leave after Bao’s spirit warrior convinces him he’s becoming weak staying here with Mei-wen and the village gets attacked. They leave Mei-wen behind.

The Brotherhood starts to terrorize the countryside until the come upon a big town. Bao hastily attacks without a plan and his warriors start to fall around him. He get seriously injured but just when all seems lost, Mei-wen and her women warriors (red lanterns) show up and take out the rest of the town. Once the groups have healed they decide to move on to Peking.

In Peking the Brotherhood and the Red Lanterns, hold up in a prince’s stronghold. Soon enough the war within Peking starts. The Boxers are trapped and the only way Bao can think of to get the drop on the Christians is by burning down the library. Mei-wen begs him not to, but he does anyway. As soon as the dust settles the Boxers are wiped out by troops behind them.

Saints- follows Vibiana, a Christian convert. Vibiana was called Four-girl by her family and told that she was a devil. So she embraced that she was a devil and started to make faces. Her family sent her to an acupuncturist and while there she saw a crucifix. When she went home she learned about “foreign devils” and decided that was the way to become and even worse devil, so she decided to learn how to be a “foreign devil.” She starts learning about Christianity. She hexes her Grandfather and then he dies. She asks the priest if its possible to be forgiven and he says it is if she gets baptized. Over time and education she becomes a true believer.

Vibiana starts seeing Joan of Arc and wonders what her purpose is. She runs away from home and follows her priest to a large town. She briefly decides to marry a boy before deciding she’s going to be a warrior. That’s when Bao and his army attack. Bao meets Vibiana in a alley and tells her to renounce her faith. She refuses. She asks him to wait for her to pray before he kills her. He does.

The end of the tail has Bao coming out of the slaughter of his troops to be spotted by Christians who accuse him of being a Boxer. He prays a little to convince them he’s not and escapes with one of his brothers.


I liked these two books. They weren’t the most compelling books, but they did give an interesting pair of perspectives on a single event in history. I like the dual timelines and how they met up and affected one another. I did think that Bao went about things wrong (they were thugs and murderers) but had the right ideas (imperialism, being sucked up into another culture and losing your own is bad). Vibiana was a more sympathetic character, and a more compelling journey.

I think the plot worked for the most part. There were times when I thought it could move along, and times where I wish there was more, but for the most part it worked for me.

I think the two characters that were three dimensional were Bao and Vibiana. We knew them, we connected with them and mostly understood why they did the things they did. I think Vibiana was a more real character than Bao, but perhaps that’s because I didn’t entirely understand his POV or the actions he took. The setting was a little vague. I think it was mostly the sparse backgrounds of the art, but sometimes I didn’t feel like I was in China, it just didn’t work all the time. The action was stiff, but that was the style of art.

I didn’t really get emotionally invested in this story. I had problems with how and why Bao did things, and I think the Christians were shone in a little too nice a light. Vibiana’s journey, however, was compelling and I wish she had a better ending.

This is great for a Young Adult audience. Its a good doorway to the Boxer Rebellion and Chinese history altogether. Its not too deep or fact driven, but it does give them the idea behind the rebellion and both sides of the story.

Flaws? Sometimes the art took me out of it. I just wish there was a little more detail in the backgrounds. I also wanted a bit more from the Christian side of the tale. I feel like it was slightly unbalanced.

There really aren’t any books in YA on the Boxer Rebellion so I don’t think this could replace, or be replaced by anything.


Nonfiction-History, Graphic Novels


Samurai Shortstop by Alan Gratz

Maus by Art Spiegelman

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi


A graphic novel depicting the Boxer Rebellion. You don’t see a lot of material (especially material for Young Adults) on the Boxer rebellion. Its a unique topic and a unique way of telling the story (from both sides).

Book Discussion Questions and Ideas

Talk about what we know about the Boxer rebellion vs what the books tell us about the Boxer rebellion.

What would you do in Bao’s situation?

Were the Christian’s right to change the culture and religion of the Chinese?

Does the style of art fit the story?

Author’s website

Gene Luen Yang


Booklist Editor’s Choice-Books for Youth-Older Readers Category: 2013, Conflicted: Life During Wartime (2014), LA Times Book Prizes: Young Adult Literature, School Library Journal Best Books: 2013, YALSA Great Graphic Novels for Teens: 2014





Why I Chose It

Book Talk book. But an interesting take on the Boxer Rebellion showing both sides of the conflict. Nonfiction Graphic Novels.

Other Information


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