Silk Road: A Novel of Eighth-Century China

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
``Some tales must be told, and told again, in an everlasting rehearsal of love and betrayal and regret,'' says the narrator of this enchanting, ingeniously constructed first novel, set in eighth-century China. Larsen tells the same story from different perspectives, weaving a complex, colorful tale from a melange of Taoist and Buddhist myths and folktales, historical documents--and her own rich imagination. When seven-year-old Greenpearl, the daughter of a Chinese general, is kidnapped by Tibetan raiders and sold into slavery, she begins a picaresque adventure involving three related quests that emanate from the celestial as well as the human realm. Greenpearl (who is also called Little Imp, Parrot, Dragonfly, Bordermoon, Skywhistle and Heavenglaive by the people to whom she is sold and by the deities who know her true identity) becomes a singer and entertainer in various brothels and eventually a courtesan, but never loses the memory of her high-born origins and the burning desire to return to her father's city and for a reunion with her mother, who has been borne by enchantment to an undersea kingdom. The brutality and violence of daily life in ancient China is contrasted with the refinements of a highly sophisticated culture, and both are reflected in the hierarchical kingdoms of the gods, whose intervention in human affairs is commonplace. Magical transformations, ghosts and spirits, animals and birds that talk, a mute dancer who utters prophesies while in a trance and other supernatural events are deftly integrated into the plot. Poem-riddles add lyricism and suspense; historical and cultural details illuminate the era with brilliant clarity; observations and asides enrich a multi-textured, intricate tale. A professor of Chinese studies, Larsen has used a dazzling diversity of prose styles to adroitly demonstrate how history is transmuted through the centuries into something not quite true, yet not entirely false. In the process, she treats readers to an illuminating and absorbing story. 75,000 first printing; BOMC featured alternate. (July)
Library Journal
Fairy tale and myth entwine in this gently humorous fantasy set in ancient China. Greenpearl is seven when she is stolen by bandits and sold to a genteel house of prostitution. She escapes and embarks on a quest to rescue her mother from the realm of the Dragon Monarch in Cavegarden Lake. The goddesses and gods, behaving like celestial bureaucrats, barter favors amongst themselves to assist Greenpearl; despite their bumbling and the obscure form their aid takes, eventually she and the companions she gathers in her travels manage to fulfill their destinies in unexpected ways. The author, a translator of Chinese verse, has cleverly blended feminism, Chinese history and myth, and beautiful language in an enjoyable, exotic fantasy.-- A.M.B. Amantia, Population Crisis Committee Lib., Washington, D.C.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805009583
  • Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/10/1989
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Pages: 400

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2004

    Intriguing, well-researched and emotional

    Reviewed by Randy Farnsworth, author of ¿A Stand Yet Taken¿. Larsen's novel is a very refreshing view of male-dominated ancient China, told by a woman from a woman's perspective. The story follows the life of a diety that has been mortalized in order to experience life as a human. It's told in several parts, depicting major chapters in the protagonist's life. The tale is part fantasy, part history, part drama, and told in a very unique way. Larsen's language is eloquent and engaging. At times, she uses the first person viewpoint of the heroine/protagonist; other times switching to the flowery diction of a marketplace storyteller; and at other times using a more traditional omniscient narration and even a fair amount of poetry, which plays a major role in the outcome of the story. The story itself is fun and challenging to read; I really enjoyed it. However, there are parts that for me seemed too drawn out, where I wished the main characters would just get on with whatever they were doing. But don't worry, each slow part is followed by many quicker-moving and more exciting events. Perhaps Larsen is trying to make a point about something, but it seems that almost all the characters, both male and female, are extremely lascivious sluts, not really caring who or what they sleep with and what gender their partners are. I found that aspect of the book to be less enjoyable. I would have much preferred the main character to have avoided her fate as a glorified call girl. But again, perhaps the author is trying to tell us something about ancient Chinese culture. I would caution younger readers though, before reading this book.

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