I was just going to read a few chapters before I went to bed.....yawn. Pardon me, but I'm not used to staying up reading until 2am! However, I couldn't resist finishing this fast-paced and exciting middle grade fantasy.
Bayang is pursuing a centuries-old bloody mission. Koko and Leech just want to survive. Scirye, in a moment of grief, has made a rash vow to her goddess. Wherever Scirye goes, her griffin Kles goes also. If they want to achieve their goals and destroy the evil dragon Badik and his mysterious master, they must put aside their differences and learn to work together.
There's no lengthy world-building or description to slow down the reader; we're plunged immediately into a world similar and yet vastly different from our own, full of magic and strange creatures, from griffins to shapechangers, trolls to walking shark-people. Laurence Yep skillfully weaves his world-building into the adventure and as the reader is pulled along by the action we're fed fascinating bits of information about history, magic, and seemingly mythical creatures.
Following the trail of the thief Badik, the group of friends end up near Hawaii, where they will meet a powerful and unpredictable goddess and her allies. Each member of the group has prejudices and fears to set aside; each character must overcome their shortcomings and fear if they are going to survive and be successful in their mission.
An afterword and bibliography directs readers to the historical sources of many of the people, events, and geographies included in the story and eager readers will be on tenterhooks waiting for the next book in the series!
There's a nice mixture of high fantasy romance and adventure fantasy action which will please a variety of readers. I did feel that the "Cloud Folk" were a bit Oz-ish for the story, but that's a minor quibble.
Verdict: Fantasy fans, especially those who like the emphasis on adventure and action, will love this story as will fans of magical creatures and those who like complex world-building that's not too overpowering.
ISBN: 978-0765319241; Published September 2009 by Starscape; Review copy provided by publisher; Purchased for the library