The Five Ancestors: Tiger by Jeff Stone
|The Five Ancestors: Tiger by Jeff Stone|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: An enjoyable first in a series about five young warrior monks who must turn to their animal totems and kung fu training when their monastery is destroyed by a renegade from their number. Infuriatingly anachronistic dialogue lets the narrative down, but the story has some strong messages about respect and self-development in amidst the swashbuckling fighting.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 224||Date: October 2007|
|Publisher: Hodder Children's Books|
It's sixteenth century China and a temple has just been destroyed by a renegade monk intent on revenge. The grand master is dead and only five young warrior monks have survived the massacre. Each young monk is highly trained in kung fu and each has his own animalistic style: Malao is the supple, mischievous monkey, Seh is the serious, sinewy snake, Hok is the quiet, light crane and Long is the multi-talented dragon. Fu's totem is the tiger. Fu is stocky and headstrong and solitary and it is Fu's adventures we follow in this first book in Jeff Stone's Five Ancestors series.
Fu flees the burning monastery and escapes to the forest where he discovers a wounded tiger cub. Rushing to protect it from hunters, this impetuous boy doesn't stay hidden for long. Rushing headlong into a possibly catastrophic mistake, Fu put his planned rescue of the temple's sacred scrolls at risk. Can he learn to apply grand master's teaching and control his impetuous nature, or will the precious scrolls be lost to the renegade Ying forever?
This is an entertaining book to read. Fu is a deeply flawed hero, but he means well and he tries to learn from his mistakes. He's got some mad kung fu skillz (you spell skillz with a z if you're under 16 dontchaknow) going on and he is rather too keen to take the opportunity to use them. Much of the narrative is taken up with Fu's lessons in self-development; violence is to be used only in defence and only as a last resort. Patience, peace and respect are virtues he must learn. So, in this way, Stone gets away with some swashbuckling, but won't incur the wrath of any parents. It's light and fun, easy to read, but there are some reasonable life lessons too.
So far, so kung fu good.
But butter but, there's a but. The dialogue is just dreadful. You expect something in the way anachronistic sensibilities in this kind of light action thriller for children. Young readers need to identify with their central characters. However, you can take it so far that it becomes ridiculous and this is what happens with the dialogue in Five Ancestors. Sixteenth century Shaolin monks, even adolescent sixteenth century Shaolin monks, did not say give me a break or right now we need action, not philosophy or or or. It's like fingernails on a blackboard. By the time I'd reached the end of the book, I was weeping with irritation. It's a shame too, for it ruined a nice, if perhaps overly light, enjoyable adventure read that would appeal especially to the more reluctant reader of nine or ten.
Principally because of the misplaced modern sensibilities, I'll recommend you borrow Five Ancestors from the library rather than spend money on it, but this doesn't detract from it being great fun.
My thanks to the nice people at Hodder for sending the book.
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You can read more book reviews or buy The Five Ancestors: Tiger by Jeff Stone at Amazon.com.
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