Imagine an Australian Kung Fu movie in a book and you have Dragon’s Pupils – The Sword Guest, a unique and highly imaginative story full of strange creatures, awe-inspiring magic and non-stop action set primarily in Western Australia. I really enjoyed seeing a story where magical aspects of Chinese culture come to life in an Australian context. Given the long history of Chinese immigrants here, (almost as long as the Europeans), I’m surprised it has taken so long for something like this to appear. The writer obviously knows about Tai Chi and his inclusion of Taoist wisdom in the story gave the book a depth that I admire.
Half-Chinese, half-Australian, Liz is not interested in her father’s ancient Tao wisdom, or his cryptic tales. She is more concerned with environmental issues—particularly the plan to mine one of Australia’s great landmarks, Wave Rock. Her father’s latest gift, a Chinese calligraphy pen, seems set to take its place in her bottom drawer forever.
Then Wave Rock is blasted open by something more than a mining operation, and Liz finds that she must battle monsters from ancient times as well as creatures from other worlds, all intent on destroying Earth. She must call on all her powers, from both her Eastern heritage and her Western upbringing, to save her world. Her pen becomes her way into a new and magical world, and Liz discovers she has powers—and allies—that she never could have guessed.
An exciting, fast-paced tale that combines the wisdom of ancient tradition with the pace of a Kung Fu movie and brings them to life in contemporary Australia, this exciting tale takes the best of two cultures and blends them to open up a new world of adventure and mystery.
It took me a while to get into this book and I almost gave up, not because the story moved too slowly, it didn’t, but because the characters initially seemed a little flat, and I was too impatient to wait for answers to make sense of it. In the end, I’m glad I stuck with it, because by the time the story moved to China, I was hooked. The writing improved considerably at that point, with wonderful descriptions of China and more inner contemplation, which gave depth to Liz’s character.
In the Chinese context, I was able to accept aspects of the story tha I’d had trouble with before, like the teens sudden onset of fighting and magical ability. I think there’s a cultural difference here in what is believable in stories, and had I placed the story squarely as Kung Fu style in the beginning, I would have accepted more of it without so many questions. Some of what I saw as stilted dialogue, I also realised was probably not so strange for those of Chinese descent.
I loved the puzzles and the way Liz discovers the wisdom in those ‘stupid’ old stories. It’s a good reminder to us all not to dismiss the pearls of our culture without examination. I also enjoyed the Animal Monster King and his minions, especially C1 & C2 the crocodiles with their touch of humour.
I think the novel is best for younger teens and even though it has a girl protagonist, I think it would be popular with boys because of the many Kung Fu style fight scenes. I especially recommend it to all young Australian Chinese. I give it 3 stars and look forward to further installments. Martin’s ideas are excellent and I expect that his writing will improve with more experience, at only $0.99, I urge you to support this self-published author.