Diane's Reviews > Bridge of Birds: A Novel of an Ancient China That Never Was

Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart
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Mar 23, 09

bookshelves: fantasy, read-before-2011

The opening chapters of this book are very good, and set up high expectations for the rest of the story. The author invokes mythology, history and superstition, and infuses them into the affairs of a small Chinese village. The action begins when the children of Ku-Fu fall into a mysterious death-like coma. The hero, Number Ten Ox, hires the sage Li Kao, and together the two set off on a quest to find the Great Root of Power, which is the only known cure.

The end is wonderful, surprising and mythical. There is a twist, a mystery is solved which turns out to be much more than the original mystery, heaven itself is happy, and loose ends are tied up in a satisfying manner.

So then, why only three stars? Because honestly, aside from the first few chapters and the last few, the rest of the book is riddled with flaws - so many, in fact, that I almost gave up on it. For one thing, there turns out to be not one quest, but a tedious succession of them, into dark labyrinths from which there is no escape, etc., etc. Throughout the many adventures, the protagonist tends to be passive, allowing himself to be led by Li Kao, who is clever but not really likable. There is not a realistically-drawn female character in the book, and the humor is tasteless and sometimes mean. All of these things spoiled my enjoyment of the book. However, I am glad that I finished it, since the reward at the end was worth it.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Sid (new)

Sid riddled with flaws indeed; a guilty pleasure like the Harry Potter books; one groans at some of the contrived and culturally-inappropriate machinations; but the ending is strangely powerful and moving, makes it all worthwhile and looking for more books by the author.


message 2: by M (new) - rated it 5 stars

M Scott The female characters do not make out well, and I felt that as I read... but I found so much to like that -as I do with Steinbeck or Tolkien who can't write a female character (or simply chose not to) - I decided to enjoy all that was marvelous about this modern ancient tale.


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