Dragon Springs Road – Janie Chang

Cover of Dragon Springs RoadDragon Springs Road by Janie Chang has as many layers as a Chinese puzzle. This beautifully painted tale is a saga containing a mystery, with elements of romance, fantasy, fairy tale and Chinese spiritualism. The story is set against the dramatic backdrop of the 1911 Chinese Revolution; the last reign of the Xing Dynasty.

Jialing is a young hun xue (mixed breed) girl abandoned by her mother. The other word used to describe her isn’t very nice. Jialing’s mother was Chinese, her father British. Her plight highlights the status of women and those of mixed race in a changing society. Women at this time were regarded as property, with little options for independence.

Grandmother Yang, the Matriarch of a well respected family, takes Jialing in as a Bond Servant. She is property of the family until she can buy her freedom. Unfortunately for Jialing, her options as an adult are limited. Although educated, discrimination against her Eurasian appearance makes her almost unemployable.

When a family finds itself in financial difficulty, even wives can be sold; or as servants, or worse, into brothels. Jialing can only hope to be a mistress or a prostitute, unless she is lucky. Aided and protected by a Fox Spirit, Jialing attempts to find a home, friendship, her mother, independence and love.

Janie Chang is also the author of Three Souls.

This is the perfect book to read during Lunar New Year!

Dragon Springs Road
by Janie Chang
Published by HarperCollins New Zealand
ISBN: 9780062388957

Lunar New Year events

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The Vorrh – A surreal and timeless fantasy

the-vorrhThe Vorrh. The name rolls mysteriously off the tongue. It’s a book, and a forest. Ancient, sacred; populated by monsters, angels, and those who have lost all memory and time. This is the first offering from B. (Brian) Catling, and it comes recommended by Alan Moore (Watchmen, V is for Vendetta) who said of it –

Easily the current century’s first landmark work of fantasy

This is a great book. It’s highly readable, imaginative and vivid, with a thread that winds four story plots around an altered sense of time. Catling, who sees his work as Surrealist, draws a very human character in Ishmael, the Cyclops, while some of the humans have monstrous tendencies.

The web of the characters’ various journeys are brought together in the ancient forest, somewhere in darkest Africa. Be warned there are one or two grisly scenes, but quite essential to the sense of ceremony in the plot. Likewise, there is a little sex.

The story revolves around the Vorrh, a Cyclops, an English Photographer, a Frenchman (based on Raymond Roussel), and a Scot; “One of the Williamses”, who abandons the Army to fight for the native Erstwhile, and his wife Este.

B. Catling has penned two sequels to The Vorrh, picking up on the Trail of Tsungali, an Erstwhile hunter, as he takes the Bow back to the forest.

A little Gormenghast, a little Cloud Atlas, perhaps? Surreal and timeless.

Read more about The Vorrh