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Kingdom of the Golden Dragon

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Kingdom of the Golden Dragon (2004) Isabel Allende
Translated by Margaret Sayers Peden

Alexander Cold asks his grandmother, Kate, if he can accompany her on her latest expedition for International Geographic, this time to a remote country in the Himalayas. A country nicknamed The Forbidden Kingdom, because of its far location and the fact that very few are allowed to visit each year. Elsewhere in the Himalayas, Dil Bahadur, disciple to the Buddhist monk Tensing, travel and see unexpected wonders, as Dil Bahadur trains and prepares for his future.

I picked this (and several other books) up at the Bookshelf clearance sale. I figured that for 30% off I could stand to pick up some new authors, and although I am still trying to read Daughter of Fortune, I decided that at 30% off I’d try something different, to see if I liked it better.

What I didn’t realize is that Kingdom of the Golden Dragon is the second book in a trilogy. Luckily, this trilogy is three books with the same characters, rather than the traditional fantasy where it takes three books to tell a single story. I had no difficulty picking up the story, and the story arc was concluded within this book, so the draw for reading the other books is that you liked the characters and want to spend more time with them, rather than a desperate need to learn what happened. I have tremendous respect for fantasy authors who are able to do this, so that right there predisposed me to like this book.

And I did like Kingdom of the Golden Dragon. It’s a young adult novel, which means that there’s no sex and no swearing (which may automatically elevates it above some “adult” novels) so she had to build some degree of romantic tension between the teenage characters without resorting to boinking. And in this she also succeeded.

I think what I liked best about this story is that the adult characters are not morons, and the teenagers don’t act as if the adults around them are idiots. Even when Alexander and Nadia do something foolhardy, there’s a reasonable explanation as to why they followed that course of action.

The characters in this story are wonderful. Alexander, Nadia, Dil Bahadur, and Pema are all very likable, and the kind of teenagers you wish you ran into more frequently. (Although I have a feeling that Alexander wasn’t so wonderful at the start of the previous book, though I could be wrong.) And although the teenagers are the focus of this story, the adults are also interesting, and even the bad guys had reasons for the actions. Although I can read stories were the bad guy is evil solely because he is insane and evil, it’s always more satisfying when you can see why a bad guy might act the way he did (and I’m using he in a gender neutral term here.)

Although I did figure out the main plot point about halfway through, it didn’t bother me, because things were so well done I was just enjoying reading along.

SPOILER

(rot 13)
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END SPOILER

All in all, the book is well-written, the plot is well-done, the characters were interesting and likable, and in general the book was a lot of fun to read. And, although this is the second book in a trilogy, you can easily pick this up without having read the previous book, and enjoy the story and the characters.
Rating: 8/10

Categories: 8/10, Fantasy, Kids, Paper, Translated
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