***My newest giveaway is of “First Daughter“ ***
Author: Da Chen
Number of Pages: 240
Date of Publication: August 26, 2008
2.5 stars: I wanted to like this!
“Many nights I filled my spare time by squeezing into his doorway and claiming a spot on the crowded floor, listening devotedly to his tales of another time and place, after enduring a few slaps on the head from the older folks who didn’t want me there. He was an optimist, and his words made you see the bright colors of spring and the majestic snow-capped mountains of Xinjiang. The sunsets in his tales were especially glorious, and the people with whom he had shared his life the most gifted.”
(“Sword” pg 6*)
“Sword” by Da Chen opens with a prologue describing a young boy listening to a great storyteller, and then chapter one splits off into another tale- one that the storyteller is supposedly telling. That story is of a fifteen year old girl named Miu Miu who sets off to avenge the death of her father. The movie “Mulan” comes to mind, as Miu Miu disguises herself in her father’s clothing before leaving her village. But unlike Mulan, Miu Miu has the permission of her mother and village elders to take up her quest. Eventually she teams up with the man she was promised to at birth, and they both plot to kill the one responsible for Miu Miu’s father.
The language of this book is beautiful. It really reads like poetry- the imagery in particular, and the readers can perfectly picture these landscapes in their heads. Even the fights are poetic, and bring to mind graceful but powerful battles- like those in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”.
One thing bothered me as I was reading (and it sort of is the same thing that bothered me when I read “The White Mary”). It was the use of foreign words throughout a story being told in English. For example, on page 74 it reads: “Long quiang–spears– were in their hands, and short daggers were plunged into the side of their boots.” I just don’t see that ‘quiang’ is necessary. It is the Chinese word for spear, but the whole story is being told in English- not Chinese. That said, it didn’t take away from the story- but it did annoy me each time it happened. I could see how it would be useful to teach us random Chinese words, but why for ‘spear’ and not for (for example) ‘daggers’?
My problem with the Chinese words aside, I did enjoy most of this story. I was about to recommend it highly to those who enjoyed “Mulan”, or to those who enjoy a good adventure….. And then I got to the end!! I felt like one ending was written- then more was written and tacked on so that the audience didn’t feel so depressed. Whatever happened, it didn’t work for me. (And that first ending wouldn’t have really worked either!) I’m left scratching my head- and I’m afraid I can’t exactly recommend this the way I wanted. It’s a shame too, because 7/8 of the book is amazingly beautiful… So maybe just buy it but don’t read the end!
Also, according to the back of the book, this is recommended for ages 10 and up or grades 5 and up…. I’m not so sure that’s a good idea. There’s a scene where a man wants to put his hand between her legs to find out if she’s a woman or not, there’s mention of her betrothed watching her suggestively as she changes clothes…. I just don’t think I would recommend it for ten year olds.
Please- if you’ve read this, or have a different opinion, tell me about it!
*These words may change in the final publication of the book
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