Prairie Fire Review - Year of the Golden Dragon

Prairie Fire Review of Books
Reviewed by: Donna Firby Gamache

Year of the Golden Dragon is a fantasy for young readers set in modern-day China, though it begins with a short prologue set in 210 BC. In the main story, three young people 16-br year-old Hong Mei Chen of China and two Chinese-Canadian others, 15-year-old Ryan Wong and 12-year-old Alex must solve a problem that has existed for over 2000 years, one that can be solved only when the millennium and the Year of the Golden Dragon coincide. Hong Mei lives with her mother in a village outside Beijing. Her father has been mysteriously absent for some years. They move about from town to town, for the mother has magical healing powers, which sometimes causes people to distrust them. Hong Mei has recently received e-mails from 'Madam Ching' saying they have information about her father, and suggesting she come to Beijing for blood tests to prove the Ryan and Alex, who live with their aunt and uncle because both their parents died seven years ago in a mysterious fire, are flying with their aunt and uncle to Hong Kong to visit relatives and celebrate the beginning of the Chinese Year of the Golden Dragon. The two boys and Hong Mei all wear jade pendants, unaware that the pendants connect them to each other and to a tragedy that occurred in ancient China. Almost as soon as they land, weird things begin to happen to the boys. Ryan encounters a strange man in the airport and then later meets Hong Mei, who has been sent to Hong Kong to persuade the others to travel to Beijing for the celebration. The next day, while trying to avoid the same strange man, the boys get on a subway train which in a fantastical way takes them thousands of kilometres from Hong Kong to Beijing. At about the same time, Hong Mei magically obtains a boarding pass to fly to the same city. It seems they will all arrive in the Chinese capital for the celebration, but what other adventures and dangers await them there? I enjoyed this book, though in the first part I found the multiple viewpoints somewhat disconcerting, particularly those of the two others. The relationship between the two has not been good, partly because they are very different, but mainly because Ryan has always blamed Alex for the fire that killed their parents. Each resents the other, and the negative feelings they express make it difficult for readers to know which one is the main protagonist, and with which one to align themselves. Later, once the others learn what really happened and have reconciled, the multiple viewpoints are okay, and the reader can sympathize with both. Year of the Golden Dragon is classed for readers from age 11 up, though younger readers might find the multiple viewpoints a little confusing. Author Bonita Sauder was born in Alberta but lives in Bangkok.

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