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Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart
Review by CaleynaBridge of Birds is a light hearted mystery wrapped up in layers of Chinese myth and fairy tale.
An ancient China that never was. Hughart takes elements of Chinese history and legend, creating a China that never existed--thankfully! Cruel dukes, a horrifying Ancestress, and mythical creatures like The Hand that Can't Be Seen create a perilious world for our heros.
The main characters are Number Ten Ox, a giant of a young man who must save the children of his village, and Master Li, a wise man with a slight flaw in his character. We also meet an array of other amusing and alarming character: Fang and Wa, evil village henchmen, Henpecked Ho who can't seem to find a life of his own, Lotus Blossom the greedy peasant girl who everyone wants, Key Rabbit who is scared of everything, and many, many more.
When the children of Number Ten Ox's village are all poisoned, he is sent to find a wise man. He finds one, but the wise man has a slight flaw in his character. The flaw serves him well, as they go on an adventure seeking an antidote to the poison. They get in one deadly situation after another, and it soon becomes clear that finding the antidote is not the only thing they must do. They don't understand their task, but they put the pieces together and eventually figure out the mystery. I was surprised at the end, even though there were clues along the way.
I either give books 1 or 5 amulets. I'm too digital--I either hate something or like something. I have to give this book 5 out of 5 amulets. I loved it. At first I was almost irritated with many of the coincidences in the book, but the author explains the cause of the coincidences in a satsifactory manner. This really is a fairy tale, and if it is read as such it is delightful. I really liked how the author played around with Chinese history, creating a more magical world.
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