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Sword (Forbidden Tales Series)

Sword (Forbidden Tales Series)

4.1 7
by Da Chen

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On the morning of Miu Miu's fifteenth birthday, her mother makes a startling revelation: Miu Miu's fate is to travel to the faraway city of Chang'an, avenge her father's death, and find her true love. But the evil emperor has other plans for her. Defeating him will take all of Miu Miu's courage, wit, and martial arts experience.

Master storyteller Da Chen


On the morning of Miu Miu's fifteenth birthday, her mother makes a startling revelation: Miu Miu's fate is to travel to the faraway city of Chang'an, avenge her father's death, and find her true love. But the evil emperor has other plans for her. Defeating him will take all of Miu Miu's courage, wit, and martial arts experience.

Master storyteller Da Chen paints a vivid portrait of his native land in this classic tale of honor, adventure, and romance in ancient China.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Chen (Wandering Warrior) again mixes martial arts, Chinese lore and light romance with great success in another Forbidden Tales novel. His cunning heroine, Miu Miu, steps forward on her 15th birthday, determined to kill the emperor who murdered her father. Secretly trained in martial arts, Miu Miu repeatedly and narrowly evades misfortune and death. Her many near-misses keep readers hooked, while Chen, in a languid poetic voice, masterfully weaves in Miu Miu's thoughts about traditional Chinese ways ("She knew for certain that she did not want to be a human hen [whose] chore was merely to lay eggs and daily face the bullying of roosters"). After Miu Miu unknowingly challenges her betrothed to a kung fu duel-nearly killing him-the two pledge their love and team up to slay the evil emperor. Here Chen's story gets less grounded in reality, involving magical swords and other fantastic elements. In an unexpected twist, the tale ends with a satisfying look at family honor and the triumph of love. Atmospheric and exciting. Ages 10-up. (Sept.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Children's Literature - Elizabeth D. Schafer
Miu Miu, age 15, seeks justice for her swordsmith father's murder in this "Forbidden Tales" series novel. The narrator, Ar Kin, an elderly book dealer, told the author this story during China's Cultural Revolution. Themes of honor, loss, and vengeance guide Miu Miu, who feels spiritually connected to her deceased father who was slain prior to her birth. Her mother demands Miu Miu leave their Goose Village home to find Tong Ting, her father's apprentice's son who was chosen to become Miu Miu's husband, and together kill Emperor Ching, who ordered her father's torture and death. She says Tong Ting will have the other half of a necklace Miu Miu wears to prove his identity. Miu Miu, dressed as a young man, carries a treasured sword forged by her father, and practices wu shu, warrior martial arts moves Master Wan taught her, as she travels toward the emperor's palace. Fighting a stranger who insults her, Miu Miu realizes her opponent is her betrothed. Together, Miu Miu and Tong Ting outsmart guards to enter the Tang Dynasty capital, Chang'an, and scheme how they will assassinate the emperor. Violence and supernatural events emphasize the despair, betrayal, and courage Miu Miu experiences. Miu Miu and her mother represent strong females whose devotion and sacrifice for family endures. Pair with Adeline Yen Mah's, Chinese Cinderella and the Secret Dragon Society (2005). Reviewer: Elizabeth D. Schafer
VOYA - Laura Woodruff
A Chinese folk tale by the popular author of Wandering Warrior and China's Son: Growing Up in the Cultural Revolution (Delacorte, 2003), the book begins as a young narrator describes the storyteller, an ex-convict and rare survivor of a twenty-year sentence in China's Siberia. At first shunned, Ar Kin becomes a respected teacher and source of books, which are routinely destroyed under the Communist regime. What follows is the tale that the narrator hears before Ar Kins' house is burned. Miu Miu, daughter of China's greatest sword maker, has never known her father. Commissioned to create a sword made of magic metal borne of a concubine, he was horribly murdered when he delivered the sword to the Emperor right before Miu Miu's birth. On her fifteenth birthday, Miu Miu learns that she is destined to avenge his death with the help of her betrothed, son of her father's assistant, whom she has never met. As her mother prepares her by disguising her as a man and unearthing her "female sword" made of the same metal, Miu Miu is secretly happy that she has become an expert in self-defense. She begins her long, uncertain journey with a joy and confidence that will be sorely tested. Vividly and poetically written, this novel is reminiscent of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It effectively uses folktale elements, including violence and magic, giving the story a flavor of authenticity and creating excitement and suspense. Simple vocabulary and fast-paced dialogue make it a winner. Reviewer: Laura Woodruff
School Library Journal

Gr 6 Up

In a short introduction, Chen describes an ex-convict who was both an outcast and a sage in the village in China where he grew up. It was from this man that the author first heard the story he tells here. That prologue is immediate and vivid, placing readers in the world where Chen was a child. Unfortunately, the style changes in the novel, and the story of Miu Miu, who must avenge her father's death at the hands of the emperor, is never as personal or vibrant as those initial pages. The 15-year-old martial artist leaves home, disguised as a boy, with the intent of killing the emperor. On the way she meets Tong Ting, another martial artist to whom she was promised in marriage as a baby, and they work together to face the emperor. When they are unable to overcome him, the destiny written for them is death, but Miu Miu believes that her father would want her to live. There is likely to be a cultural disconnect for American readers, as the novel features the traditions of warriors drinking each other's blood as a pledge and widows hanging themselves as honorable deaths. If the character development were deep and genuine, these cultural gaps would fill easily, but the people in this story never become more than folktale figures. For its folkloric quality, the novel is certainly worth reading, but students looking for tales of kung fu and magic might be better off with Lawrence Yep's "Tiger's Apprentice" series (HarperCollins).-Alana Abbott, James Blackstone Memorial Library, Branford, CT

Kirkus Reviews
In the China of the Cultural Revolution, Ar Kin returns to his village after years spent in prison for speaking out against Communism, bringing with him a library of forbidden books and a head full of forbidden tales. One such is that of Miu Miu, who instead of seeing the matchmaker on her 15th birthday undertakes the task of avenging the murder of her father's murder, a swordmaker put to death by the Emperor after making the perfect blade. Miu takes another of her father's weapons and sets off disguised as a boy. After several adventures, she meets her betrothed, and the two plot to kill the emperor together. Miu Miu, like Ar Kin, the teller of her tale, defies tradition and the ruling powers and is punished, but survives. Ar Kin's tale of revenge and mystical Kung Fu takes place in ancient China, and both the era and the characters come to life. Fans of Asian martial-arts movies and manga will be satisfied and eager for the second volume, due in the fall. (Fantasy. 12-16)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Forbidden Tales Series
Product dimensions:
7.44(w) x 5.20(h) x 0.90(d)
1060L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Forbidden Tales: Sword

By Da Chen
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
Copyright © 2008

Da Chen
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780061447594

Chapter One

On the morning of Miu Miu's fifteenth birthday, her mother did not arrange a visit by a matchmaker, as all the mothers of Goose Village did when their daughters reached marriageable age. Instead, Miu Miu rose early to pick a basketful of green olives from the cliff of Goose Mountain behind her village. She washed them clean in the gurgling river fronting the town's houses and laid the olives, a symbol of longevity, before her father's memorial name plaque placed in the ancestral hall on the sacred central hearth in their two-story brick home. The delicate wooden plaque was mounted on a wide bronze base, with her father's name engraved at the top and the dates of his birth and death at the bottom. It was always there, standing solemnly, reminding Miu Miu every day that even though Father had died before she was born, he was always there, watching over her, no matter that he was no longer among the living. Sometimes she thought the only proof of his having lived was this evidence of his death.

Miu Miu prayed to Father every day, the first time at sunrise before she left the house for Goose Mountain to cut wood for her mother to sell in the market square, the second time at night just before crawling into bed after washing her face and feet, and combing her long dark hair.

She prayed for Father's spirit to accompany Mother so that shewould not be so sad and lonely, tormented by his absence. And she prayed for the day that Father's ghost would be lifted up by Buddha to ascend to Heaven from the hellish dungeon where all the dead languished before going anywhere. She never begged anything from Father for herself, for she did not need anything. She felt whole as an egg, round and lively, sufficient unto herself. God had given her a sturdy body and a steely mind. She saw the absence of a living father as a mark of fate, like rocks jutting up in a river's path, or dark moles on smooth skin: It was something to bear, something to endure, nothing more.

But today, on this very first day of her adult life, an occasion that other households of means would mark with much celebration honoring the end of girlhood and the coming of womanhood, Miu Miu's heart felt hollow. Her mind longed for something, though what that was she did not know. All she knew was that the canons of the Miu clan and the customs of Goose Village dictated that a girl turning fifteen be visited by a matchmaker, who would appear at her door as though unforeseen, bright and early, dressed in red, with a wild bloom pinned to her head. The mother of the household would wear red as well, and welcome the guest, pretending to be surprised by her visit. The matchmaker—the messenger of love, the ambassador of happiness—would bow and shout the girl's name in a joyful voice, and the father of the household would appear, dressed in a long red silk gown, clasping his hands together, offering deep and grateful bows. The matchmaker, usually a hunched woman of about fifty with crooked fingers, would roll her oily tongue and say, as she always did, "Don't thank me. Thank Yue Lao, the moon deity, and only do so after I show you whom I've got up my sleeve."

The mother would pull out a chair in the central hall, already deftly arranged in the traditional square of four, and invite the matchmaker to sit. The father would pour the first cup of tea while the mother rushed to the blushing daughter's xiu fang (bedroom) and dragged her down to join the early guest, who would then pull out a strip of red silk from within her left sleeve, inscribed with names of possible grooms. As long as the shy but beaming daughter was nodding, the matchmaker would keep reading off her silk list, one suitor after another. The wedding fee would be extracted from the groom's coffers, and the age, health, and appearance of the man were never objects of discussion unless the suitor was of little means.

But such a scene did not occur on the dreary birthday morning when Miu Miu turned fifteen. Of course, there was no possibility of her mother wearing red. Widows of Goose Village and beyond could wear only black until their own deaths. Red was the hue of the married sisters of the village who still had their husbands around, even though their husbands might be shared with other wives and concubines in da fang and xiao fangs—the big bedroom and smaller bedrooms.

There didn't seem to be a hint of any surprises coming Miu Miu's way, this day or the next, not in this life, for even if a matchmaker did show up, Miu Miu would stick to her childhood pledge to remain by her mother's side, protecting her till the end of her days.

The hens gargled as they did every morning, announcing the laying of their eggs, warm in their straw nests. Cocky roosters charged after them, their heads and tails lowered, vying for another round of early coupling. The peach trees in the front yard sang if you listened carefully to the breeze blowing along Goose River, passing through Goose Valley each morning along various paths, depending on which way the wind blew: from east to west, it whispered; north to south, it shouted, blending with the yawns of villagers waking, cows mooing, mountain goats baying, and the geese—a village full of them—honking noisily.

The cause of such sound and fury could only be blamed on her mother. All things seemed to revolve around Miu Miu's mother, the mistress of their humble manor. Hens seemed to lay eggs just for her. If Miu Miu tried to gather their morning eggs, the hens would peck her hands bloody with their pointy beaks, and the roosters would erect their combs, stretch their wings, and fluff up their feathers as if confronting a duelist. But for Mother the hens clucked proudly, reporting their production, and the roosters charged playfully after Mother's heels in hopes of receiving their morning feed.


Excerpted from Forbidden Tales: Sword by Da Chen
Copyright © 2008 by Da Chen. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Da Chen is the author of Colors of the Mountain, a New York Times bestseller; Sounds of the River: A Young Man's University Days in Beijing; Brother; and two books for children, Wandering Warrior and China's Son: Growing Up in the Cultural Revolution. He grew up in China during the Cultural Revolution and now lives in New York.

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Sword (Forbidden Tales Series) 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
*He smiles and watches her sleep* Goodnight, Asuna.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was very good but graphic in a few little places. Wasnt as gory as the Hunger Games but graphic. Over all four and half stars.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
clasique More than 1 year ago
When I stumbled on this author, I never realized the wondrous ride I was in for. I already have a vivid imagination and this story just simply made it soar. In my imagination, I was able to travel to where this story took place, see all the sites explained and even imagined a few for myself. The story was descriptive and thrilling and while I do understand that it was geared to a younger audience, I still would have liked a more concrete ending - I mean the ending felt rushed almost as if he was told to stop writing. However, I would indeed recommend this book to all avid readers and those who are looking for adventure.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was captivating and fast-paced, interesting, and quite different from anything I've ever read before. I guess I would probably classify it as Chinese Fantasy. Miu Miu learns on her fifteenth birthday that she is the daughter of a legendary sword maker, who was killed by the Emperor after crafting a magical sword for him. Miu Miu takes up the quest for vengeance and with her father's blue sword, the mate to the Emperor's, and a jade necklace with the name of her betrothed, she sets off for the capital. On the way she meets Tong Ting, her betrothed, and together they continue on the journey. But can they defeat the Emperor without losing their lives? Well-written and exciting, this was an extremely enjoyable read. Recommended!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Whats the title of the book? I know its in my recently wiewed list but which one is it?