skygiants: Princess Tutu, facing darkness with a green light in the distance (Default)
The Dragon of the Lost Sea series is always going to be the Laurence Yep fantasy of my heart (and I'm so mad I forgot to nominate it for Yuletide this year!) but now I've finished his City Trilogy, which is also PRETTY CHARMING.

As I said when I wrote up the first book, this is super roller-coaster everything-and-the-kitchen-sink fantasy. An evil industrialist is trying to build a mythological super-weapon to conquer the AU 1940s! The only people who can stop him are a RAGTAG BAND OF MISFITS: a 12-year-old Kushite princess diplomat's daughter who's accidentally sworn her soul to a warrior goddess, her tiny griffin friend, a street urchin who is the reincarnation of the greatest enemy of dragonkind, his equally urchin-y money-loving tanuki bff who would just like to be home in San Francisco, and a world-weary exiled dragon assassin who wandered in from a much grittier book and is constantly wondering how she got stuck babysitting ALL THESE HUMAN CHILDREN, OH MY GOD.

Bit players and supporting characters include the goddess Pele, the god Dionysus, a Sogdian caravan train, a couple of ifrits, a secret Utopian society of foxes and polar bears hanging out in the North Pole, the semi-sentient Aurora Borealis, the North Wind, and an evil vizier. AMONG OTHERS. What I am saying is that THERE IS A LOT GOING ON IN THESE BOOKS.

My favorite, of course, is Bayang the dragon assassin. The development of the emotional arc between her and Accidentally Reincanated Baby Dragon Enemy Leech is really the heart of the story (whenever the story has time in between all the roller-coaster hijinks to have a heart).

BAYANG: Last week I was supposed to assassinate him, but now I have all these urges to tell him to put on a scarf before he goes outside . . .
BAYANG: . . . oh no . . . I think . . . I'm falling in Mom with him . . .

LEECH: Bayang look at me look at me I'm going to go take these dangerous weapons and go flying!
BAYANG: You put those weapons DOWN young man it is not SAFE
LEECH: YOU'RE NOT MY REAL MOM
LEECH: Also you systematically hunted down and slaughtered every single one of my past lives, so it's kind of hard to actually trust that you have my best interests at heart here :(
BAYANG: I know, our love is star-crossed and can never be :( :(

Why are there not more stories about star-crossed familial love? "Our households are at war, and there is all this terrible history that divides us, but I just want to adopt you!" Can we make this a narrative trope?
skygiants: (wife of bath)
Of all the books in Laurence Yep's long, generation-spanning, loosely-linked historical fiction series about a Chinese family's relationship with America, I'm pretty sure that The Serpent's Children and Mountain Light are the only two that directly follow the same characters - Cassia, the mom of the protagonist from Dragon's Gate, is the narrator of the first book and the secondary lead in the second, and in both she is AMAZING. I just have to laugh at the cover of Mountain Light, which is all 'man protect Cassia!', because all that ever happens in both books is Cassia kicking everyone's ass. Cassia is pretty much a wuxia heroine, I'm not even kidding.

So The Serpent's Children starts with tiny Cassia and her even tinier brother Foxfire, children of "the Gallant," their village's most awesome warrior who has gone away to fight in the revolution against the Manchus. After their mom dies, the kids quickly run into trouble with their other relatives, who want to take them in and bind Cassia's feet so she can make a good match. Cassia is not down with this - bound feet will not help her fight for the revolution! - so, in a step that moves her straight through 'spunky' and into 'EXTREME,' she locks herself and her baby brother in the house, grabs up a giant butcher knife, and informs all her relatives that she will stab them in the face if anyone comes any closer.

. . . they mostly leave her alone after that.

More, mostly unspoilery, about The Serpent's Children )

I love Cassia, but to be honest The Serpent's Children feels sort of like half a book, so I wanted to wait and see what happened in Mountain Light, which is . . . A STAR-CROSSED ROMANCE. I was extremely curious, because, as I've said before, I'd never seen Laurence Yep write romance ever and I wanted to know how he'd do it. The answer is, HILARIOUSLY.

More, mostly unspoilery, about Mountain Light )
skygiants: Princess Tutu, facing darkness with a green light in the distance (ooooh)
I would say that [livejournal.com profile] genarti lent me Laurence Yep's Shadow Lord, which is perfectly true, but, uh, the lending only happened after I lurked over her shoulder while she was buying things on Amazon saying things like 'hello, my Star-Trek-fan-shaped friend! Have I mentioned yet that the brilliant Laurence Yep has written an out-of-print Star Trek novel, available for less than a dollar on Amazon, that I would really like to read? Because I could mention it again, if it would help.'

Anyway the point is that she bought it, entirely of her own accord, and then read it and then kindly and again entirely of her own accord lent it to me! From the back cover, which informs me that the whole book is about SPOCK and SULU and an ALIEN PRINCE, I was already anticipating great things:



And, wonderfully, the alien prince does in fact have a fantastic eighties style sense and lots of mascara, although he probably looks a bit less human than in that picture. The basic plot is that the prince has spent most of his formative years being educated on Earth and is now returning home to a low-tech and politically vicious home culture, which is pretty clearly a setup for Laurence Yep to do two things: have Spock talk about being a third-culture kid, and have Sulu swordfight ALL THE TIME. (Sulu also gets a chance to talk about being a third-culture kid, and Spock also gets to swashbuckle a bit, but mostly it is the other way around - and, having seen George Takei swordfight, I'm not going to complain about this.) Most of the rest of the cast barely appears. Kirk's in the beginning a bit to sit back and go LOLOLOL at everyone, which seems about right for Kirk. [personal profile] genarti, who is, as I have said, much more of an OST fan than I am, finds much of the Spock dialogue interesting but a bit OOC; I think she's probably right, and you can tell where Laurence Yep is Putting This Discussion Here (subtle is nooot the word for much of the book) but at the same time I'm glad Laurence Yep got a chance to put that discussion there. And did I mention all the swashbuckling? There is A LOT of swashbuckling. Plus a hilarious attack of giant evil cockroaches! (I am pretty sure Laurence Yep was also really excited to be writing a novel not for kids where he could kill extras off in a noble Dumas fashion all over the place.)

The book isn't entirely unproblematic - I do find it totally hilarious whenever Spock and Sulu start talking about how the Federation totally just helps other cultures modernize without having ulterior motives, NO REALLY, IT'S ALTRUISTIC AND IDEALISTIC AND STAR TREK IS SUPPOSED TO BE SET IN A POLITICAL UTOPIA WE SWEAR, let's watch Laurence Yep try to convince himself that this is possible because these are the rules of the franchise! Also most of the aliens seem to have random and inexplicably Hindu names, which was disorienting for me and probably would be moreso to someone who would recognize that trend sooner. But overall I found it highly enjoyable; I would be so much more likely to watch more Star Trek if 50% of the focus was always on Sulu swordfighting everything.
skygiants: Princess Tutu, facing darkness with a green light in the distance (bring it)
In a previous Laurence Yep booklogging post, I made a reference to the bit in the Dragon of the Lost Sea books where a teenaged boy sacrifices himself to make a magic cauldron, and [livejournal.com profile] bookblather responded with "I remember that one! Child of the Owl, right?"

And I said, 'no, it was in one of the Dragon books!' because, though I had not yet read Child of the Owl, I knew that one was set in the 1960s, which is a time period without a lot of magic cauldrons, and also surely there could not be two Laurence Yep books in which a teenaged boy sacrifices himself in a cauldron, right?

OH HOW WRONG I WAS. [livejournal.com profile] bookblather, I am sorry for doubting you; Child of the Owl is indeed set in the 1950's, but, just for you dark fairy-tale lovers out there, contains a story-within-the-story that does in fact feature a young boy who sacrifices himself in a cauldron to make soup for his family. Once was chance, Laurence Yep, but twice is suspicious! If it happens in a third book I will have to consider it a THEME in your work.

Anyway, that aside - and I don't mean to suggest I didn't like the story-within-a-story, because I did, a lot; Laurence Yep is very good at complicated pieces of story-mythology - this book is also going up among my top Laurence Yep books for other reasons. Honestly, the more I read of the Golden Mountain books, the more I'm impressed with his range; I haven't seen him write this kind of confident, street-smart teenaged girl before, and he pulls her first-person voice off really well. Casey is wonderful. She's thoroughly capable of taking care of herself and her gambling-addicted deadbeat dad; she's fierce, funny and rebellious, but not Capital R Rebel Without a Cause - as soon as she starts meeting people she can actually connect with (like her grandmother! Laurence Yep's elderly ladies CONTINUE TO BE WONDERFUL) she tries really, really hard to use those smarts to help them out. And she makes unlikely friends with the wannabe-fashionista next door over their mutual love of Wonder Woman! GIRL GEEKS FTW. \o/ I could also just read about her adventures with Gilbert the James Dean Wannabe pretty much forever.

It's also - this, more even than his other books, is set in the Chinatown where Laurence Yep grew up, and you can really tell. The sense of time and place is incredibly strong. Laurence Yep! <3 Every book reaffirms my excellent life decision to read everything you have ever written.
skygiants: the main cast of Capital Scandal smiling in a black-and-white photo (children of the revolution)
Man, guys, Laurence Yep - much as I love him - is generally a pretty optimistic and feel-good writer, overall; I was not expecting Dragon's Gate, which is probably the darkest Laurence Yep book I've yet read, and that includes the one in which a teenaged boy sacrifices himself to make a magic cauldron.

Dragon's Gate starts out in China in 1867, with Otter - an upper-class Chinese teenager whose adopted father and uncle travel back and forth from the US, with cash - and his AWESOME REVOLUTIONARY ADOPTED MOM, who spends all her time a.) being a financial genius and b.) plotting against the Manchus. She is only in the first few chapters and is nonetheless the most amazing character in the book.

OTTER: I want to go to America and have adventures with my dad and uncle!
OTTER'S MOM: No son, someone has to stay here and learn my job so you can be an AWESOME REVOLUTIONARY INVESTMENT BANKER like me.
OTTER'S DAD: Well, honey, maybe Otter can -
OTTER'S MOM: >:|
OTTER'S DAD: Have fun staying home and being a revolutionary investment banker, kid!

Except then Otter accidentally kills an official (which already ratchets this a level or two in srs bsns above most of Yep's other books) and his mom has to ship him off to America anyway. Otter is super excited - until he realizes that the job his father and uncle have taken to learn about the railroad for ~revolutionary purposes~ has backfired, and now they are all working fourteen-hour days inside a giant snow-covered mountain where people are dropping like flies from frostbite or ill-timed explosives every day. Oh, and despite the fact that they're technically free hires, nobody's allowed to quit.

OTTER'S DAD: Oh great, not only did we basically get tricked into slave labor, but now my son is here too. AWESOME. BEST WINTER EVER.
OTTER: I seriously did not sign up for this. D: D: D:

This is really gritty stuff for Laurence Yep,and he is not pulling his punches about how terrible the conditions were. It's not completely grim and depressing though - I mean, one of Laurence Yep's main theses is that the people who hacked their way through a solid mountain to build this railroad were awesome, and everyone better recognize. One of my favorite bits is when Otter and his uncle have volunteered for an extremely important and near-suicidal job in an attempt to get off the mountain:

SEAN, THE BRUTAL FOREMAN'S SYMPATHETIC SON: I feel bad about my privilege, so I'll come on your suicidal mission too!
BECCA: Is the noble white kid going to be the one to complete the dramatic mission? Because I like Sean, but I'm pretty sure I'm not down with that.
SEAN: *ten steps in, falls in a hole and twists both ankles*
OTTER: . . . well, I appreciate the thought! But I think you'd better crawl back to camp now. Don't worry, we got this.
BECCA: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Other things I liked: the fact that Yep goes out of his way to set up the complicated political situation in China before transferring his attention to the US; Otter's class issues, and how he's got his own privilege to deal with as well; the semi-ambiguous ending; OTTER'S MOM. Whenever I read a Laurence Yep book, I always end up wanting to read the prequel about the awesome mom! And fortunately such a prequel usually exists, so Serpent's Children and Mountain Light are also now totally on my list.
skygiants: Nice from Baccano! in post-explosion ecstasy (real nice girl)
Oh, Laurence Yep, how are your books so heavy-handed and yet so ridiculously adorable?

When I picked up Thief of Hearts (the most modern-set of his Golden Mountain chronicles about multiple generations of a Chinese family in San Francisco) it was mostly because I figured just from the title that it was likely to be a romance, and I as I have never seen him do one before I was kind of bizarrely curious to see how Yep handled that. It turns out: no, it is not a romance! Instead, it is a MYSTERY. Except not really, mostly it's about a preteenager learning about herself and bonding with her awesome great-grandma and figuring out that her mom is secretly maybe a little bit cool.

The plot, such as it is, centers around half-Chinese Stacy, who is given the arduous task by her parents of showing new immigrant Hong Ch'un around school. At first, bonding is not so much happening. (Bonding does not even really happen by the end of the book, which I actually really liked - Hong Ch'un and Stacy learn to understand each other more over the course of the story, but they absolutely don't become insta-friends.) Except then someone starts stealing stuff! And Hong Ch'un is accused and runs away! Which is basically an excuse for Stacy and her mom and her great-grandmother to take a ROAD TRIP from the suburbs into Chinatown to look for her and have stealth bonding.

Things that Laurence Yep is awesome with: AMAZING OLD LADIES. Stacy's great-grandma may not be as awesome as Aunt Lil, because NO ONE is as awesome as Aunt Lil, but she is still pretty cool. Also, believable preteen friendship dynamics - I actually thought the plotline with Karen, Stacy's clingy childhood best friend, was . . . okay, obvious, but also interesting and well-handled, and none of Stacy's other friendships are put into the standard identity-crisis-storyline boxes. Also, the totally adorable details! The SPY NETWORK OF AWESOME OLD PEOPLE! Stacy's dad up on the roof with a cherry branch to pollinate the cherry trees! I don't know, man, this one may not be great literature, but somehow whenever I read a Laurence Yep I usually just end up beaming at the world for a few hours after. I also think I need to read Child of the Owl next, which is the one about Stacy's mom. (When she's twelve, so presumably before she's got it going on. - man, did I really date myself with that reference?)

Other things, by the way, that are also totally adorable: Disney's Rapunzel! (It has another name; I've forgotten it.) I suspect that the Mother Gothel-Rapunzel relationship may have been given a lot more depth and complexity in my head than we actually see onscreen, but it's hard for me to tell because I find the version in my head so interesting. Overall I thought the film spent a lot of time being really, really pretty. And I am totally okay with that. (The lantern scene! I just sat there with my eyes like this *_______*) I don't really want to think about it in too much more depth, because other issues aside, sort-of spoilers! )

Also, the angry dictatorial horse made the movie.
skygiants: Princess Tutu, facing darkness with a green light in the distance (*_*)
First things first: I woke up yesterday morning to the BEST SURPRISE EVER, which is that someone had come along and illustrated my most recent fic! Look look look! (Seriously, every time I look at Selim's TINY ANGRY FACE I start cracking up all over again.) You all should go here and tell [livejournal.com profile] he03 how awesome she is; as a bonus there are hilarious King Bradley/Mrs. Bradley comics! (HIS TINY FACE.)


Aaaaand now back to our regularly scheduled booklogging, which in this case is our regularly scheduled fangirling of Laurence Yep. City of Fire is the start of a new Laurence Yep fantasy trilogy, in which Laurence Yep was clearly just like "I am going to write about EVERYTHING I THINK IS AWESOME." It is totally the everything-and-the-kitchen sink approach to worldbuilding; the main characters include:

1. A diplomat's daughter/semi-princess from the Kushan Empire (which in this AU has survived into the 1940s) whose dream is to join her big sister in the Elite Amazon Warrior Guard
2. Her tiny griffin friend, who seems to be a cross between a Companion and Zazu
3. Two streetwise San Francisco orphans with ~secret identities~ (one of them involves dramatic and tragic reincarnation backstory; the other one involves WEREBADGERS)
4. A DRAGON ASSASSIN who spends most of her time disguised as a Pinkerton agent
5. The Hawaiian goddess Pele. (Why, you might ask? Laurence Yep's answer, clearly: WHY NOT.)

The plot: our Ragtag Band of Misfits weathers an attack from the evil industrilists who are stealing priceless artifacts from a museum, chase the evildoers to Hawaii, hook up with Pele, and encounter five million more mythological creatures (Kappas! Norse fire giants! Hired goons who are walking sharks!) There is also lots of dramatic surfing. I have to admit, I kind of love Laurence Yep's gleefully all-encompassing approach to stealing bits of mythology in this book; you can't accuse him of privileging any one mythos over another, because basically he's just throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks. All the actual emotional development kind of seems shoehorned in in the shuffle (oh wait, is this character supposed to be grieving for a suddenly dead mentor figure? Okay, obligatory grief-check, can we get back to the DRAGON SURFING now?) but I don't even care; Laurence Yep is clearly having way too much fun with it, and so was I.
skygiants: Sophie from Howl's Moving Castle with Calcifer hovering over her hands (a life less ordinary)
Okay, you guys know I love Laurence Yep . . . in the way where up until recently the only books of his I had read involved CRANKY DRAGONS and CRIMEFIGHTING GREAT-AUNTS and he is an author who is actually known for writing Newbery-award-winning YA historical fiction about Chinese immigrants in San Francisco, um. But now that is no longer true, because I finally got around to reading Dragonwings, which is possibly his most famous book. (Dragon's Gate is the other famous one which may come next!)

Dragonwings was loosely based on the account of a Chinese man who, inspired by the Wright Brothers, built and tested an improved version of their flying machine in the hills of Oakland in 1909. (Because that wasn't enough awesome for him, for good measure he also built his own wireless sets and telephones for the local Chinese community.) The book is told from the perspective of Moon Shadow, the hypothetical son of the builder, who leaves his mother behind and goes to join his flying-obsessed father in America at the age of eight.

The coolest thing about the book - aside from, dude, flying machine - is how Yep is very consciously setting out to provide a Chinese perspective and not an American one. All the spoken-in-English dialogue is conveyed in italics to emphasize that most of the time Moon Shadow is thinking and speaking in Chinese, and Moon Shadow takes the time to carefully explain to the reader all the bizarre things that those wacky Americans do. One of my favorite scenes is when Moon Shadow kindly and condescendingly decides to enlighten his American landlady on the subject of dragons, because it is such a glorious reversal of the standard "kindly American shows immigrant the ways of learning!" trope.

A lot of the ugliness that was a part of the early immigrant experience is - not glossed over, exactly, but lightened. Yep is not out to write a grim and depressing book. So while institutionalized racism is very clearly a factor the threat of serious danger is always there, and there are background references to prostitution and lynch mobs, most of the white people that Moon Shadow himself encounters and interacts with on a long-term basis are surprisingly enlightened and kind. On the other hand, I don't think that everything has to be grimdarkdepressing all the time, and it's kind of nice to get to read a story like this where the protagonists get to actually win some of the time. I also really liked the focus on the sense of community and family within the Chinese company that Moon Shadow's father works for.

So in short: Laurence Yep continues to be awesome. (But because I'm shallow I still like the ones with cranky dragons and crimefighting elderly aunts best.)

In other news, in a few hours I am leaving for Chicago to descend on [livejournal.com profile] newredshoes >:D So if I don't see you, internets, have a good weekend!
skygiants: Princess Tutu, facing darkness with a green light in the distance (kdrama punch!!!!)
Tragedy strikes! I have now read all three of Laurence Yep's Tiger Lil mysteries, and as far as I am aware he has no plans to write any more. :(

To recap, the mystery series stars Lily, twelve-year-old sidekick to her Great-Aunt Lil, wisecracking Chinese-American movie-star action heroine and BEST DETECTIVE EVER, who has completely eclipsed all other detectives and all other badass old ladies in my heart!

The Case of the Lion Dance, the middle book, may be my favorite of all three books because it is the most full of wacky Indiana Jones-style hijinks. There is a BOMB that explodes at the opening of a Chinese restaurant (the owner's son has a dorky crush on Lily) and Lily and Lil must hunt down the culprits! They have to team up with a street tough who must help them find the bomber to clear his name and restore his honor! Occasionally they get held up by the fact that Aunt Lil does not actually know how to pick locks with a hairpin - "in the movies I always just kind of stuck it in the lock and wiggled, so I'm sure it will work now!" At one point they are almost maliciously run over by a RUNAWAY TRUCK! In a crowning moment of awesome, Great-Aunt Lil challenges a kung-fu master to SINGLE COMBAT and then uses the POWER OF HER MIND (and stage tricks learned from her time in the Taiwanese film industry) to defeat him! IT IS GLORIOUS.

The Case of the Firecrackers is almost as good, with the bonus that it involves wacky sibling bonding - Lily's older brother Chris becomes a suspect in an attempted murder case after getting into a fight with a teen star, and so he and his new girlfriend get to tag along on the investigation. Lily, who is totally old hat at this detecting business by now, is very dismissive of her brother's attempts to protect her - "I've got street smarts!" The one point that's more frustrating here than in the others is that occasionally Yep makes Lily a little too ignorant in order to get a chance to exposit (I find it hard to believe that anyone who grew up in San Francisco wouldn't know about the existence of Little Saigon); on the other hand, it's especially awesome for mockery of TV stereotypes, since a lot of the action takes place on the Fake Chinatown set of a TV show.

I am so sad that there will not be any more! But I guess I should not complain too much, because there are like five million Laurence Yep books I have not read, including the actual Newbery-award-winning ones. However, because I have tons of class, I feel that it is a higher priority for me to read Laurence Yep's Star Trek novel, Shadow Lord, which apparently revolves completely around Spock and Sulu swordfighting their way through a planet of 80's-haired rock stars. *_* Seriously, look at this cover! AMAZING.
skygiants: Katara from Avatar: the Last Airbender; text 'just kicked butt' (katara kicks butt)
Last time I wandered over towards the Ys in the children's room at the library, I was intending to pick up one of Laurence Yep's Newbery-award-winning novels. Then, out of curiosity, I picked up and flipped over the first one of his Chinatown mysteries, The Case of the Goblin Pearls and read the following words:

What if your aunt thought she was still the famous action heroine Tiger Lil and decided to catch the thieves? What else could you do but become her sidekick?

WHAT ELSE INDEED! Yes, that's right: in this book, a shy twelve-year-old and her wisecracking movie star great-aunt FIGHT CRIME! Also injustice and racism in Hollywood! I am 100% charmed and I need to read every other mystery Laurence Yep wrote in the series, because so many warm fuzzies!

It is true that Yep is not so much a subtle writer - there are a lot of hit-you-over-the-head-with-a-message-here moments - but the message-ness is pretty well balanced with ~wacky disguise hijinks~ and madcap chase scenes and a formerly awkward group of kids bonding over how totally awesome Great-Aunt Lil is in her 50s action movies. She hits people with her purse and leaps rooftops in a single bound! <333333 How, how I wish these movies had actually existed!

My favorite part, however, is totally the bit where Aunt Lil is talking to a cop after some impromptu-justice hijinks, and he eyes her darkly and says something along the lines of "We don't tolerate vigilantes in San Francisco anymore," because what this basically means is that AUNT LIL IS BATMAN and now forever in my heart San Francisco's main costumed vigilante is going to be a wisecracking sixty-something Chinese-American film star with a genius for publicity. *_* WHY HAS NOBODY MADE THIS COMIC YET.
skygiants: Princess Tutu, facing darkness with a green light in the distance (wrapped up in books)
So last year I reread Laurence Yep's Dragon of the Lost Sea books, which were a Formative Part of my Childhood. I know Laurence Yep is probably quite a bit more famous for his historical fiction than for his fantasy, but as a small thing I had approximately zero interest in most things non-fantasy-shaped, so I never read anything of his but that. So it goes. However, when I was in the library a few weeks ago, I was poking through the children's section and discovered, dude, Laurence Yep has a NEW quest fantasy! Published in my post-childhood years, which is why I had never heard of it. Naturally I dived upon it like a hawk.

. . . then I almost gave up after the first book, The Tiger's Apprentice, because it read basically like Dragon of the Lost Sea Lite without the fun of the first-person voice. The huffy dragon exile is Shimmer 2.0, the solitary orphan who might be sort of a bad guy but really has just never had anyone to be KIND to her felt like an Indigo rehash, and even the Monkey King, who pops up here again and is presumably the same character, is . . . kind of Monkey Lite, compared to the awesome Monkey of the first books. And Tom, the protagonist, is not nearly as much fun as Thorn. And they all run around protecting a Magical MacGuffin, and though it was a decent enough quest-fantasy with a parade of interesting mythological monsters I was kind of thinking I might as well just reread Dragon of the Lost Sea.

And then Laurence Yep pulled out a plot-point about a character having personality-and-species-altering magic done on him to save his life at the end of the first book, with a lot of ominous warnings about how they might not end up being grateful for it, and I was like "dammit, Laurence Yep, now I need to know what happens next!"

So I did end up reading the next two books, Tiger's Blood and Tiger Magic, and . . . they continued to be decent and readable, with fun moments, and occasional frustrating touches on interesting themes (aging elderly heroes! forgotten gods!) that I wanted them to go into further, but they didn't. (Also there is a baby spoiler who speaks in really frustrating baby talk.) So if you are looking for Chinese-mythology-influenced quest fantasy, I would say go for the Dragon of the Lost Sea books instead, which have fun first-person voices for the main characters, and also the significant advantage of having True Lesbian Dragon Love!

(Although the Tiger books did have one glorious moment of "And now I will work the magic to save the world, and all you main characters must sacrifice your lives to make it work! Ready? . . . hahaha, just kidding! But the look on your faces!")
skygiants: Princess Tutu, facing darkness with a green light in the distance (teach me to hear mermaids)
When I was sorting through the books I have at home this summer (note: past tense is deceptive; project still unfinished) I rediscovered my copy of Laurence Yep's Dragon of the Lost Sea. I had completely forgotten about these books, but flipping through I remembered that I had loved them lots when I was little and decided on a reread of the series.

The four books, to be specific, are Dragon of the Lost Sea, Dragon Steel, Dragon Cauldron, and Dragon War, and are a decent example of your standard YA quest fantasy with the significant difference that instead of doing a remix of European mythic elements, Yep uses Chinese mythic elements to create his fantasy-land. This was pretty new to me as a small thing - actually I think these books were my first introduction to the character of the Monkey King, which is what stuck with me best - and I enjoyed them muchly on the reread too, though I would not necessarily recommend them for an adult first-read. There are strong female characters, lots of banter, one or two tragically noble sacrifices, a secret identity that is no secret at all to anyone who has read a quest fantasy before, and redemption for everyone except the Ultimatest of Ultimate Evils. There is also a hilarious (to me, because I am a bad person) scene in the last book in which one of the human sidekicks proclaims that the titular dragon is the only person they have ever loved and she will never leave her, which I still thought was in a platonic way until it was followed up by comments like "well, I guess you can fall in love with anyone!" I had forgotten about True Lesbian Dragon Love!

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