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Sword: Forbidden Tales    by Da Chen order for
by Da Chen
Order:  USA  Can
Laura Geringer, 2008 (2008)
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Da Chen has written a remarkable, lyrical tale of a special sword in Goose Village in ancient China. Approaching her fifteenth birthday, Miu Miu awaits her betrothal to Tong Ting of Cicada Village. Father died before her birth, and now Mother tells her daughter the truth of Father's life and death.

Miu Miu learns that he was a master swordcrafter, known far and wide for his skill, and renowned as the 'legendary dao xian'. China's emperor employed him to forge a particular sword, with the promise that another like it would never be made. The dishonorable ruler then ordered that the swordmaster be killed in a most atrocious manner. But, knowing of his fate to come, Father had forged a duplicate female sword, hidden from the emperor. And in years past, Mother paid for Miu Miu's right to travel as a son to avenge her Father.

Mother performs the village farewell ritual and in turn Daughter performs the ritual of thanking the old, 'by offering a cup of freshly brewed tea as she knelt and kowtowed'. Disguised in Father's clothing, Miu Miu sets off for the emperor's court in Chang'an, capital of the Tang Dynasty. Her journey is fraught with challenges which demand all of the young woman's courage, wit, and martial arts experience. Kung fu was secretly taught to Miu Miu by Warrior Wan Shan, the author telling us that 'No martial artists of repute anywhere desired to make known their pupils, who were the keepers of their masters' secrets. When their identity was known, such seedling were often uprooted and their branches ruthlessly cut down.'

Before Miu Miu reaches her destination, she outwits a 'pint-size dwarf' who claims 'I am the lord of Bridge Town ... I rule this town and the next three. All bridges are my possession'. At the top of a ridge, under the scrutiny of palace guards, masses of travelers face the fortress checkpoint. To bypass them, Miu Miu hides on the roof of a cart, covering herself with a buffalo hide. On the outskirts of Chang'an, a tired and hungry Miu Miu takes on the challenge to fight a young man - who is wearing a familiar necklace, and ends up helping her. Exciting battle scenes follow, with marvelous descriptions of the forms of kung fu.

Da Chen shares with readers emotive, dramatic and humorous scenes, along with visions of old China, its sights and sounds, people, customs, traditions, and a young girl's maturing to womanhood. Chen's mesmerizing words flow with the delicacy of song set to compelling, well-paced notes. Readers will be enchanted with the tale of a Sword ... 'Aiyah'.

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