Baen, 1999 (1999)
Reviewed by Theresa Ichino
ophie Lee copes uncomplainingly with what life has dealt her. The sudden death of her parents left her alone to make her own way in the world. (Sophie's mother was disowned by her wealthy family when she insisted on marrying a Eurasian man.) Now eking out a frugal existence as a teacher in a school for the underprivileged children of Victorian London, Sophie wonders occasionally if life will hold anything more. It is a thought that the practical side of her character firmly squelches.
n uncle she has never met throws her carefully-ordered life into confusion. An explorer and archaeologist, he writes on his deathbed to express regret for never having defied his parents to stand by his sister, Sophie's mother, and leaves her an odd bequest. At the heart of it are a round object, a few scraps of parchment, a ring, and a delicate ivory unicorn. The object is reputedly a dragon's egg; and he asks, indeed challenges, Sophie to return it whence it came.
he parchment tells a fantastic tale, supposedly from the journal of a young woman named Summer. (Readers of
Pigs Don't Fly
Master of Many Treasures
will recognize that name.) The practical side of Sophie rejects the idea; the side that still wants something more in life is tempted. The balance is swayed by the ivory unicorn, which turns into Ky-Lin, a mystical, magical creature who urges Sophie to return the egg to the dragons.
ophie sets out on an epic journey to China, with two employees of the law firm along to ensure she fulfills the terms of the bequest (she has only a year to do so). Like Summer, Sophie cannot resist a plea for help; hence young Toby, fleeing from abuse, and the cat she rescues in Tibet. The ring, made from a unicorn's horn, enables Sophie to communicate with animals; and the cat assures her he is an enchanted prince. Three kisses will set him free, but Sophie has no intention of kissing a cat!
rown spins yet another engrossing story, filled with adventure, humour, and drama; it seems a bit less intense that those that preceded it. She delivers consistently excellent entertainment, with well-delineated characters, surprising twists, and vivid settings. Asian mythology and beliefs are treated with sensitivity and respect, and provide another rich element. The ending contains Brown's trademark unexpected turn, and leaves us with a tantalizing question. One can only hope there she has at least one more tale to spin ...
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