Saturday, November 2, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 Secrets of the Terra-Cotta Soldier

Ying Compestine has written the story of what it must have felt like to discover the army of terra-cotta soldiers in Emperor Qin's tomb. (You may have seen the terra-cotta soldiers in the second Tomb Raider movie.) She and her son (co-author Vinson) became interested in the tomb after a trip to Xian where they visited the Terra-Cotta Museum and talked with one of the farmers who found the first terra-cotta soldiers. The setting of the story is similar to what Ying experienced growing up in China during Chairman Mao's regime; the description of living conditions, the disrespect for intellectuals, and the government policies in place at that time are all accurate historically. The character of Ming is easy for readers to sympathize with. His mother has died, he and his father live in a village controlled by a corrupt political officer, his father's job is in danger and there is little money for food. As we read, we want him to succeed almost as much as he wishes for it himself. What makes the story much more exciting is the terra-cotta soldier known as Shi. He is discovered by village farmers digging a well and they bring him in to sell him to Ming's father, who works for the museum in Xian. But when Ming arranges all the parts of the statue, something incredible happens - maybe incredible enough to change everything.

The book has mystery, danger, excitement, and characters of legend. Photographs of artifacts from Emperor Qin's tomb and from Chairman Mao's time are scattered through the story. Ying has also included several Chinese recipes at the end and there is a great Q & A section where she and Vinson tell what the writing process was like and why they chose to write a novel about this topic. Readers who enjoy historical fiction with a little fantasy mixed in will probably enjoy this very much.  

We have several of Ying's books in the library, including The Runaway Wok and D is for Dragon Dance. Visit her website to find out more about her. The publisher has provided a trailer for the book. I also found a 50-minute-long documentary on the terracotta warriors.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. It will be published on January 7 ,2014.

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