Not sheepish, but individ-ewe-al (livredor) wrote,
Not sheepish, but individ-ewe-al

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Book: Bridge of Birds

Author: Barry Hughart

Details: I have given lethargic_man's copy back to him so I don't have any details. Here's a random edition.

Verdict: Very sweet, and great fun.

Reasons for reading it: ajollypyruvate recommended it to me, and then several other people piled on and said, yes yes, you absolutely must read it!

How it came into my hands: lethargic_man lent me his copy last time we were in Newcastle.

I was very taken with Bridge of Birds. It's something like an adventure story or even a fairy story, and definitely works at that level, being both exciting and charming. The characters are also absolutely marvellous; larger than life in some ways, but very engaging with it. BoB also has a delightfully sly sense of humour; in some ways it reminds me of Gaiman's Stardust, but has the great advantage over the latter of not taking itself too seriously.

The setting is very lovely. Because I know absolutely nothing about China, I was completely relaxed about whether it was realistic or not, not looking out for anachronisms and implausibility as I would if it were set in an equivalent fantasy Europe. At the same time, BoB has plenty of background detail, both in terms of culture and mythos, so it's either realistic and well-researched, or thoroughly and consistently thought out, which is just as good as far as I'm concerned.

There are some really lovely moments. The helicopter flight is like something straight out of Baron Munchausen, and there's lots and lots of exciting narrow escapes, without that trope ever becoming repetitive. I have to admit, in the scene where the invisible giant hand is revealed to be a spider, I shrieked and nearly dropped the book: aargh, what's Shelob doing in China?!

The happy-ever-after ending is in some ways satisfying, with every character of the rather expansive cast tied up nicely. However, I was somewhat bothered by the apparent underlying morality. The happy ending seems to rely rather too much on the quasi-Christian concept that it doesn't matter how unjust life is, because everybody gets what they deserve in the Afterlife. But perhaps that's looking to seriously at a book whose main merit is that it is such excellent fun.

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