Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Dragon's Pupils - The Sword Guest by Martin Chu Shui

The story centers on Liz, born of half Australian and of half Chinese descent. Growing up in Australia, she isn’t very interested in her father’s ancient Chinese stories. She is concerned with problems that are far more contemporary — such as environmental issues, and particularly her friend’s handsome brother who is an environmental activist. But her disinterest in Chinese culture changes when her two worlds collide, after a catastrophic accident sets thousands of ancient monsters loose near her home. Suddenly Liz must learn many new skills and call on all of her Chinese heritage if she is to prevent the monsters from destroying Earth. Helped by her twin brother and best friend, Liz sets out to discover why the monsters exist and how to stop them. When she is injured in a battle, she must travel to China to seek a cure that is spiritual as much as it is physical. But can she find the old man who can help her before the monsters catch her? How will she manage in a country that is so strange and yet so familiar? And can she learn enough about a world she has ignored to stop the monsters in time?
This book had something interesting going for it: the premise was original. It’s not every day that a Young Adult book takes place in Western Australia with an immersion in Chinese culture.

The story is fast paced, sometimes too a fault. Many scenes I wished had been explained fully, not just brushed over. There is a lot of information, both plot-wise and about Chinese folklore, enough to confuse the reader if he or she is not a careful reader. I did enjoy the mixture of myths in the storyline, though, it is fascinating to read about magic in a culture we don’t usually think about when it comes to fantasy.

The characters at first were a little static, and it became a bit tough to relate to them, but as the story moves along, that improves tremendously, making the reader eager to see what would happen to Liz. When the plot moves from Australia to China, things become much clearer, the details unraveling before us and allowing us to understand some of the things we’d had problems at the beginning of the book. The evil creatures that the protagonists face are interesting and very different to what we are used to.

This is a good book for young adults, female and male, for teens that enjoy a good story along with some not-so-common myths. It was a fun, quick read.

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