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The Journal of Rabbi Levy Wang Paperback – March 23, 2016
"Children of Blood and Bone"
Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut. Pre-order today
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About the Author
David Lang has lived in both Japan and China, and he currently resides in Hong Kong. His father and grandfather, Harry and Henry Lang, were fur traders who lived in Tianjin, China, from 1923 to 1933, and the book is based on a lifetime of listening to stories told over glasses of vodka and plates of herring. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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I had a great ride following this action packed quest for an ancient artifact through 1937 China. Villains include the cruelest of Nazi officers and maniacal Japanese military commanders who were based on historical figures. Opium dealers, crazed priests, bandits, monks intertwine in a saga of pursuit and escape through the Chinese countryside.
The author has spent a great deal of his life in Asia, and describes the different settings of his story as someone deeply familiar with the everyday Chinese life. His own father and grandfather were successful fur traders in 1930's China, and their own escape from the coming Japanese occupation was the obvious starting point of his tale.
Good read. I finished off in two days,
Towards the front of the book the author tells a history behind the existence and journey of a fabulous ruby, starting by playing fast and loose with the retelling of the Moses and Aaron leading the Children of Israel out of Egypt story. It ends up in a Chinese Jewish community of Kaifeng. Such a place did exist in the 1930’s. However, as the Rabbi Levy Wang questions his faith and seeks answers, he goes on a quest and takes the ruby with him. The only clues to the location where the good rabbi hid it are recorded in his journal found twenty years after his death.
The story follows the plethora of adventures of the three main Western characters—an American, a Russian and a German Jew. Juwu, a Chinese member of a resistance organization, was a fourth honorary member of this group on the quest. These middle-aged men used their wits and persistence more than brute strength to meet and overcome the challenges they faced in an effort to find the ruby. Along the way they met a wide variety of characters, helpful and not so helpful. Many of the cast of characters were Chinese and Japanese with a smattering of Germans and other Americans for good measure. It took a little doing for me to follow some of the names to keep track of the host of characters, but once I was able to identify the Chinese names from the Japanese, it became easier to keep track who was on what side.
Some characters came across as mystical, as if I had stumbled upon a fantasy novel. Some were contemplative, giving a sense of the religious teachings of China. Others were downright bizarre. They were all entertaining and they intertwined and moved the plot forward at warp speed. I especially enjoyed the scenes that took place in the mountainous regions, and recalling images of the mountains of China, I could picture myself there.
The author drew upon some of the stories told by his father and grandfather who were fur traders in China in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Also, he has lived in Japan and China and is currently living in Hong Kong. His understanding of these Asian cultures comes through in the book. This book is not for the faint of heart—there are some violent acts described—and the language was rough in spots. This was not a romance novel. It was fast-paced, laced with subtle humor in spots, and I enjoyed it very much.
If I had not read his other book "Devil in Hong Kong" first, I would not have realized that he could write even better than this. This book is fast paced and exciting, with lots of twists and turns. As always his Asia springs to life in his writing and you find yourself picturing, feeling, smelling and tasting China and its different regions and people as he takes you on a blood-racing romp through the dangers of China in 1933. If you like writers who can transport you to exotic places without bogging you down in paragraphs of description, you need to read David Harris Lang's books. His protagonists are interesting and have some meat to them. If his books were movies they would definitely be advention/action movies, but set in spectacular scenery. If you like mellow, fall asleep, elevator music type books these are not for you. Otherwise, hang on and enjoy the ride.
My only complaint about this book is that there are just too many dangers. Without details I will just say that having the Germans, the Japanese, Chinese brigands, crazy "Empresses", psychotic priests and officers, drug-crazed loonies of both sexes, and the Chicago/San Francisco mob may have been one or two more dangers than I found believable in the short time line in this book. Still a great read!