City of Fire

City of Fire by Laurence Yep is a multi-mythological adventure that reminds me a little of Avatar:  The Last Airbender in its cast of improbable heroes and East-meets-West philosophy.  From Chinese dragons to the Hawaiian goddess Pele and even over to the Norse fire giants, Yep has clearly done a ton of research.  But none of that would matter if there weren't a good story here, and there is.  The story is told in alternating perspectives, but it's hard not to see it mostly from the young girl Scirye's point of view.  When her mother and sister are guarding precious Kushan relics as the Pippal warriors they are, the San Ffancisco museum is attacked by a dragon who steals and ancient ring and leaves behind devastation, including the death of Scirye's warrior sister.  This brings some unlikely allies together:  the royally raised Scirye, the street kid Leech and his friend Koko, and the old woman Bayang, who is really a dragon in disguise.  They band together slowly, as Bayang was initially hunting Leech for reasons that are revealed later in the book.  But as prey becomes ally, they are each revealed to have some magical heritage and mysterious powers.

While Yep pulls all the threads together, the opening is a bit chaotic, and the perspective-based chapters occasionally wander a bit in perspective.  So it does take some persistence to get past the first few chapters.  The attack is dramatic, but the ensuing chapters bog down a bit before the adventure actually begins (about 87 pages in).  And the dialogue is a bit slapstick at times, which keeps the characters fairly shallow (Koko is the jokey guy, Leech is a serious hero, Bayang is rethinking her dragon alliances... only Scirye is developed enough as a character to really follow emotionally).  But that's not unlike what Lloyd Alexander did quite successfully in the Book of Three series, so it really depends on your taste.  So.  I'm recommending this one, and saying:  just suspend your disbelief and trust Yep.  He's good at what he does, he knows what he's doing, and whether the mythologies and cultures he weaves together are familiar old friends to you or inspiration for exploration (only a mythology scholar would know all the references, but they're contextually defined), it's a good yarn.  Fans of Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians series will want to know about this book as well, though it will appeal less to the reluctant readers and more to those who are as interested in psychological motivation and snappy comebacks as they are in action.

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