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Dragon's Gate: Golden Mountain Chronicles: 1867    by Laurence Yep order for
Dragon's Gate
by Laurence Yep
Order:  USA  Can
HarperTrophy, 1995 (1993)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* * *   Reviewed by Marian Powell

'You're riding the Snow Tiger now. And you can't stay on and you can't get off.' When he hears those words, fourteen-year-old Otter begins to realize that he is trapped in an awful situation and it's a trap he entered eagerly.

The year is 1867 and Otter is Chinese. He doesn't like his village existence and longs to join his father and uncle in America. They are leading lives that sound utterly glamorous and exciting - building a railroad across the country. Otter's dream seems hopeless until he suddenly has to flee China. He goes happily to America. That's when he learns the harsh reality of what it means to be set to work in mid-winter, drilling a tunnel through solid rock under unbelievably bad conditions. He meets racism and prejudice and is mistreated. When he forms a solid friendship with an Irish boy his own age, he also discovers how prejudiced his own people are about strangers.

Otter has to learn how to do the work. Perhaps even more important, he discovers the true meaning of love and friendship. He learns about friendship from the Irish boy and about love from his father and uncle. His first reaction is anger when he realizes that they lied in their letters home. Much of the book shows Otter learning to understand, forgive and love his family again - a struggle every teenager faces when they see that their parents are imperfect and full of normal human weaknesses. Dragon's Gate is actually part of a series although it works very well by itself - I had not read any of the other episodes but had no difficulty with this one even though it's the third.

The series as a whole is entitled The Golden Mountain Chronicles. Golden Mountain was the old Chinese term for America and, through the series, the author tells the stories of seven generations of the same Chinese family who immigrated to America, and their relationship with their new country. The series volumes are: The Serpent's Children, Mountain Light, Dragon's Gate, The Traitor, Dragonwings, The Red Warrior, Child of the Owl, Sea Glass and Thief of Hearts.

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