Saturday, July 23, 2011

Review: Dragon's Pupils - The Sword Guest by Martin Chu Shi

Dragon's Pupils - The Sword Guest
Author: Martin Chu Shi
Publication: BookPal (July 27, 2009)

Description: 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?

My Thoughts: This was an interesting and entertaining young adult book. The main characters are all fourteen. Liz, her twin brother Henry, and best friend Sue find themselves battling monsters out of legend to save the world. They are pretty ordinary Australian kids. Liz and Henry are half Chinese. They have grown up hearing but not listening to their father's Chinese legends and folktales. They, along with their friend, have studied Tai Chi since they were little. They are concerned about the environment and attend a lot of protests.

One day they attend a protest at an Aboriginal site that is going to be opened for mining and witness an explosion. They think they see monsters escaping from the new hole in the ground. But most others dismiss this as nonsense. Their Tai Chi teacher Li Ping and a few others believe them. Li Ping prepares them to battle the monsters in what the kids call the Long Dream. They have three years intensive training in using Tai Chi, Gong Fu, and Qi as a way to fight during the course of one night's sleep.

It is a good thing they did too. Because during the first battle with the Vampire King Li Ping is so badly hurt that she that she flies away on a yellow crane which the kids realize is the Chinese way of saying that she died.  The kids are left on their own to battle the monsters. 

What I liked about this story besides the Chinese mythology which was new to me was the fact that the kids aren't your typical superheroes. They aren't seven feet tall and bulletproof. They can be hurt. They can wander around and not know what to do. They can make mistakes. 

After Liz is hurt in one battle, she goes to China to see if she can find some help. There she learns a number of things that will help them in their battles.

This was a good story with lots of action. I think young readers would enjoy it. The characterization was a little thin. We learn mostly about the characters quirks - Liz's crush on Fred, Henry's over-willingness to fight, and Sue's fears. The characters are a little one-dimensional. However, in this one, the action carries the day. Even though Liz gets most of the emphasis, I think that boys would like this one because of the action and battles.

Favorite Quote:
Her father touched the brush hairs with a gentle finger. 'According to legend, the Yellow Emperor of China received a Dragon Whiskered Pen from the Four Sea Dragon King at his coronation.' He mumbled softly as he spoke, as if his words were surfacing from long lost memories.
I received the ebook from the author for review. You can get a copy at Amazon of the ebook or the paperback.

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