Monday, December 22, 2008

Dragon in Chains-Daniel Fox

Dragon in Chains
Daniel Fox
Del Rey, Jan 27 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 0345503058

The pirates of the ship Shalla led by Captain Li Ton kill Master Doshu the scribe and take prisoner his young apprentice-servant Han. Another pirate raiding party brings a boy Yerli they captured from his master a fake magician they killed. Li needs a new cabin boy, but only wants one child who will obey once he loses a finger or two. He asks the candidates what skills they possess. Han says he can read; Li explains he is not needed as he is the only one allowed to read. Yerli says he can see the future; Li insists only he chooses the future. Li forces a dual between the boys with the winner having a job and the loser a swim. Instead Yerli shows Han what he sees before leaping into the sea; Han becomes contaminated with magic even as he is the new cabin slave.

On Taishu Island, the exiled young Emperor Chien is in hiding when a local brings him a magical jade. Meanwhile Li and his crew kill monks who kept an ancient sea dragon chained just off the island; Han takes over the burden of keeping the monster contained. Their adventures have just begun.

This is a terrific medieval fantasy that captures the essence of Chinese mythology. The story line is fast-paced as Han ends up in one misadventure after another while serving a brutal pirate captain. Fast-paced from the onset, the opening adage sums up the saga: “When dragons bleed, they bleed in gold. When they weep, they weep in jade”. Humans want both so they need dragons to bleed and weep. Fans who relish something different in their quest fantasy will appreciate DRAGONS IN CHAINS as pirates, monks, mages, and two boys make for a stirring Chinese historical fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

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