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Being the fourth and last of the series which began with Dragon of the Lost Sea.

The sea is still lost, and the dragon princess Shimmer and her companions are still trying to deal with the intransigence of the Dragon King, the fact that the local human government has been taken over by a petty tyrant who is going to war with the dragons, the treachery of Shimmer's brother, and the various metaphysical damage Shimmer's party has done to various parts of the world in attempting to restore the sea (which by this time amounts to Large Problems).

This is a well-plotted, action-filled, and satisfying ending to a wonderful series. I don't think it's as strong a book individually as Dragon Cauldron, which had an amazing eerie numinous feel that this doesn't; also the war is, I believe, toned down some because this is for a younger audience. (There are just not as many casualties as I would expect given the progression of battle.) But it moves well, it gives us every moment that had to happen because of earlier events, as well as several bonus surprises, and it is still narrated by Monkey, which means it brings the snark.

If you're going to read this series, you should of course start with the first book. There are very few series where that is not the approach I recommend, and this is not one of them. Proceed in the assurance that it does stick the dismount, and that the quartet overall is unique, and very lovely.
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On the one hand, an unexpected flight delay meaning that we will arrive at our destination at ridiculous o'clock in the morning is annoying. On the other hand, this airport has free internet, so at least I don't have to write my book review at ridiculous o'clock in the morning, which is... something, I guess.

Anyhow! This is the third of the series which began with Dragon of the Lost Sea and Dragon Steel. The dragon princess Shimmer and her traveling companions have a list of things they need to do to set the world to rights that has become truly ridiculously long, and the unofficial motto of the series remains 'it is always more complicated'.

This is yet another notch up from Dragon Steel, although that may be a more purely fun book; this one is darker, concentrated on numinous and eerie instead of action and adventure. It's really good numinous and eerie, too, everything from soldiers who apparently spontaneously generate from snow to a woman who has a shell on her back like a snail, and not one but two of the better shut-into-a-small-space-with-something-whose-intentions-we-cannot-determine sequences I've seen. The plot threads from the first two are starting to cohere, and it's as interesting to see what Chekhovian guns haven't gone off yet as to note which ones have.

Also, because apparently the book just needed to be that much more awesome, this one is actually narrated by Monkey, who is of course a never-ending fountain of snark. I am extremely impressed by Yep's ability to communicate that things are actually creepy and serious while using a narrator who is constitutionally incapable of being anything other than perky and flippant. (I am devoutly hoping for at least a cameo by Tripitaka in the fourth book, as he has been mentioned several times and that could be very interesting. Don't tell me.)

All in all, this is some of my favorite of Yep's writing, definitely my favorite of his fantasy (although I do want to see where the series he's in the middle of now goes), and I hope he sticks the dismount, because the fourth book has the potential to be really impressive.
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Very kindly lent me by [personal profile] dorothean.

And well worth waiting for; this is a really good book. It's the sequel to Dragon of the Lost Sea, and the thing is that Dragon of the Lost Sea has the kind of ending that could have been a one-off, that could have stopped there. So Dragon Steel is one of my favorite kinds of book, the kind that points out that endings are beginnings and that it is just never going to be that easy. This book is therefore quite intimately tied to its predecessor, and I would not start here, because there isn't really a recap-- well, there's an attempt at one, but it's a terrible poem, and it both could have been left out and doesn't help one remember any useful information. I think it's the book's major flaw, perpetrating terrible poetry on page one, but once you get past that everything is much better.

The thing that's not going to be so easy is getting that Lost Sea back. The exiled dragon princess Shimmer and her young human friend Thorn have defeated one of the major obstacles in doing so, but now they have to go to the High King of the dragons to explain the remaining issues, and things become... complicated, as they tend to do when you combine the words 'exiled' and 'High King'. Also, Monkey shows up, which is both a help and a hindrance no matter what one might happen to be doing. And there's a Chinese version of the Wild Hunt, which I can only describe as awesome.

This is a book full of beautiful atmospheric detail (since it takes place in an undersea dragon kingdom, primarily), interesting political factionalism, dragons fighting krakens, and various people facing various crises and growing from the experience. It's so good, in fact, that it retroactively makes me annoyed at Yep's entire later Tiger's Apprentice trilogy, which is, and I am in no way exaggerating, ninety percent of the plot/setting/characters of this redone except at half the quality level. I can go through this book and tell you who got translated into which character in that trilogy. I cannot imagine what he was thinking, and I retract my earlier recommendation of the later two books of that one, because it's become obvious to me that he was badly handling material there that he had already done very well. Why would a person do this sort of retread? I don't get it. Fortunately, his currently running fantasy series does not share the same subject matter at all.

I am now looking forward immensely to Dragon Cauldron and Dragon War, which ought to be easier to come by, since the library claims to have them both. (Another thing in life I don't understand: stocking books one, three, and four of a series.) If the next two live up to the first two, I expect I'll want to buy all four and keep them around, because they'll be quite an achievement.
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Oh hey I finished one of the three separate Laurence Yep childrens' fantasy series I was in the middle of! I feel obscurely smug. (I have been thwarted on the other two by City of Ice not existing yet and there being no copies in this town of Dragon Steel.)

I think this is the first entire series I've read since starting this book-a-day thing. I could have forgotten something, though.

Anyhow, you probably know not to start a trilogy with the third book, but this is a good third book, a step above either the first or the second. Tom, the protagonist, is apprenticed to Mr. Hu, the tiger. Mr. Hu is the Guardian of the egg of the legendary phoenix, which has the power to create peace in the world, but can only be born when there is already peace in the world. Well, theoretically... And of course the forces of evil want the egg. The first book had a feeling of being rushed, of never quite taking the time to breathe and just take in the sights of the fascinating Chinese mythology; the second book was a distinct improvement, an undersea dragon kingdom full of intriguing color and texture.

This one has actual character development. Also, it's about a war, a war literally to hold the sky up. Possibly because the characters are slightly older than in the first book, possibly because the subject matter is more serious, and possibly just because Yep has had three books to get used to these people, this has a feel of solidity and depth to it that the other two didn't attain; it's still a romp more than an epic, and the moral decisions are still pretty obvious, but this time the plot is not an express train shoving you from point A to point B.

I think the first book is weak enough that I would advise beginning with the second (it would be easy enough to figure out what happened before it), but I recommend the second and third as pleasant light adventure reading with fun mythical creatures. I like them now and would have loved them to pieces when I was eight.

I see City of Ice is due out June 7th. That will be nice.
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The novelty of having the second book of a Laurence Yep fantasy series appear at the library was so huge that I had to pick it up. Seriously, I had read the first book of three separate fantasy series of his, and there the availability stopped. Fortunately, one of those series was this one.

The main problem I had with the first book, The Tiger's Apprentice, was that it felt very rushed and condensed and tell-not-show, so it was mostly just a travelogue with cool bits. This one has a fair amount of that as well, but substantially less; there are huge chunks where it feels like a book instead of an outline for a book. Consequently it is much better, although still nothing I would call spectacular.

Also, the protagonist is chasing around an undersea dragon kingdom for most of it, so if you like undersea dragon kingdoms this is quite a good one. It reminds me somewhat of L. Frank Baum's The Sea Fairies in that the undersea things (except the dragons) are based entirely on things that actually exist and aren't magical, but which are so strange and visually interesting that the text treats the distinction as fairly academic. The Sea Fairies, though, has a horrible case of twee, so it's nice to see someone doing this without it being actively nauseating.

I don't think you'd need to have read the first book to follow this, as previous things were pretty well summarized and also in some ways not much happened earlier. This jumps to 'would recommend for a very low energy day or to a young kid' from 'would not recommend except as interesting failure or if doing research on this mythology', so though it's still nowhere near as good as the non-fantastical Yep I've read, it might be worth starting here if you're interested in his fantasy. If I run into it I'll certainly read the third one.
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First novel of a children's fantasy series by Laurence Yep that isn't either of the other two children's fantasy series by Laurence Yep of which I've read the first novel.

This would be because the second novel of the City of Fire books doesn't exist yet and I am having trouble finding the sequel to Dragon of the Lost Sea (the library has, of course, the first and fourth ones, as is ever the way of the world).

In this one, there is San Francisco's Chinatown (magical version), and a shapeshifting tiger, and a phoenix's egg, and Monkey again, and a great deal of pretty cool mythological this-and-that with which I am not familiar. It's a short, fast-paced book that works very well as travelogue, but which I would have liked to see at a somewhat greater length, as some of the emotional beats feel overly compressed and consequently spelled out more than they ought to be so that they go by more quickly. Yep's naturalistic fiction is pretty emotionally subtle, so this surprised me. Possibly the reason I still like City of Fire best of the fantasy I've read of his is that he got an extra hundred-and-fifty pages due to the way YA publishing works now. This could have used an extra hundred-and-fifty pages and then it would have been really awesome, as opposed to fun.

But it is fun. There's not a thing in it but plot, but the plot allows for, as I mentioned, several myths I have not remotely heard of and a lot of shapeshifting fighting and general badassery. It would make an extremely good animated series-- it has that art style, if you know what I mean. And it has a sly sense of humor. The sort of book where I might at some point take an afternoon and just sit down and read all the sequels, and it will be enjoyable, if not spectacular.
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I've been familiar with Laurence Yep's rich and interesting realistic novels since I was very young, but for some reason I never came across any of his fantasy. In fact, I didn't know of its existence until I saw it mentioned on [community profile] 50books_poc. At Wiscon, I scored an ARC of City of Fire, the first of his current fantasy series; I note that the book came out in early August, and I recommend it highly. It made me hunt down Dragon of the Lost Sea.

I enjoyed it. I'd have fallen head over heels for it at ten. There's a dragon princess, who is very prickly; there's a human boy, who is just as stubborn back. There's an ocean compressed into a little blue pebble. There's Monkey, who is just as Monkey usually is. There's an awareness that villainy is never one-dimensional.

City of Fire, which features equally interesting characters and worldbuilding so conceptually fascinating to me that I wouldn't have cared if there hadn't been any characters, is more the sort of book I read nowadays, but I read Dragon of the Lost Sea remembering the ten-year-old I was, and I will read the others in the series.

Assuming I can ever find them. I don't know what it is with the library systems I've run into about these. Kind of odd.


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