Saturday, June 05, 2010

Book Review: City of Fire by Lawrence Yep

Book: City of Fire
Author: Lawrence Yep
Published: 2009
Source: Review Copy from publisher

Who I Told I’d Read It: the publisher
Time: 2:07:45

At twelve years old, Scirye feels like she'll never live up to the examples set by her famous diplomat mother or her highly skilled warrior sister. And she's bored, bored, bored accompanying the treasures of the Kushan empire on their visit to a San Francisco museum.

But suddenly, her dull day at the museum turns chaotic. All within half an hour, the museum has been invaded by dragons, her sister lies dead, and one of the greatest treasures of Scirye's people has been stolen. Scirye vows revenge and goes after the thieves.

She's joined on her pell-mell pursuit by Koko and Leech, two street-wise kids who lost their own friend in the attack, and Bayang, who looks like a mousy old lady and fights like an Amazon. Together they go from San Francisco to Hawaii in pursuit of the evil Roland, discovering the secrets of friends and enemies alike. One thing's for sure, this is much bigger than it seems.

I've really liked Yep's work in the past, but I have to say that this is far from my favorite of his novels. The setting--an alternate, magical 1941--is pretty imaginative, which may be part of the problem. The plot is necessarily fast-paced, but every so often, it had to be interrupted for another bit of world-building or character background. Sometimes I would look up from the book and think, "So . . . what's happening again?" It doesn't help that we're bounced from POV to POV, each one having its own background, both personal and cultural, that needed to be explained to the reader. Rather too much information for me, honestly. Kids who are used to dense worldbuilding, though, may sail through this and gobble up the whimsical volcano goddesses and evil shape-shifting dragons.

I did appreciate that the magical creatures (all the way up to gods and goddesses) were not the traditional Arthurian or Greek models, but Asian, Middle Eastern, and Hawaiian. The next book in the series promises some Scandinavian mythology, but unless I see some really good reviews, I don't think I'll pick it up.

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