Bridge of Birds: A Novel of an Ancient China That Never Was by Barry Hughart
I first read this book years ago after find a copy in an old bookshop, I remember enjoying it but somehow over the years had completely forgotten all about it until I was sorting out some books and came across it again. I glanced through and was soon hooked again by the story.
This is the description:
When the children of his village were struck with a mysterious illness, Number Ten Ox found Master Li Kao. Together they set out to find the Great Root of Power, the only possible cure, and together they discover adventure and legend, and the power of belief....
I can hear the sighs of boredom now; I promise you that the description does not do the book justice.
Our heroes are number ten Ox and Li Kao. Ox who was called that quite simply as he was very strong and the tenth of his family. When a strange poison strikes down the young of his village, Ox is sent in search of a Sage. The only one he can afford is an ancient old man who looks like an alcoholic, but despite his looks is one of the cleverest people alive and calls himself a sage with a slight flaw to his character. The search for the cure for the children drags Ox and Li Kao backwards and forwards across China, and they soon find that the cure they seek is caught up in an ancient mystery, which they have to solve before the children can be saved.
It is an entertaining story; and it is full of excellent characters, Ma the Grub, Henpecked Ho and Doctor Death just to name a few. There are monsters and magic, gods and ghosts and a real evil villain who is trying to live forever. It is also a love story though, but a not a mushy one, but one that everyone will enjoy.
There is quite a lot of violence involved in the story, with people being killed but the writing is so full of humour and very much tongue in cheek that it keeps the story light and moving along at a fast pace as our heroes race against time to save the day.
This is not a long story but has a real feel good feeling about it, although the puzzle itself is not hard to work out before the end of the book, the writing will still keep you turning the pages.
I am pleased I found this book again, and made sure, now that it is sitting safely with all my other books.
10 out of 10