Friday, February 22, 2013

Book Review of The Court of the Lion by Eleanor Cooney and Daniel Altieri

Name of Book: The Court of the Lion

Author: Eleanor Cooney, Daniel Altieri

ISBN: 0-380-70985-6

Publisher: Avon Books

Type of book: China, 700s, barbarian, Tang Dynasty, love, politics, relationships, bonds, eunuchs, emotions, mathematics, supernatural, logic, filial piety

Year it was published: 1989

Summary:

In a magnificent age of exotic splendor and blackest treachery, the sun set on the mighty T'ang dynasty

In the 8th century, the great Emperor Hsuan-tsung arose from the flames of chaos and terror to rule the majesty that was China- a vast and mysterious domain of witches, artists, concubines, poets, and assassins. But by the year 738 AD, tragedy upon tragedy had unhinged the beloved Son of Heaven, setting loose the jackals in the Court of the Lion: Li Lin-fu, the evil Chief Minister, discretely gaining power through intrigue and murder...An Lu-shan, the sadistic barbarian general, who played the royal bufon while plotting his master's downfall...Yang Kuei-fei, the beautiful Precious Consort, whose hunger for decadent erotic pleasures could destroy a dynasty. And the fate of the T'ang throne rested in the hands of one trusted advisor: the eunuch Kao Li-shih- he who had sacrificed his manhood to become the second most important man in Imperial China...and would sacrifice his life to save a glorious kingdom.

Characters:

For a book that's 1001 pages long, there seemed to be lack of character description towards the Precious Consort for instance, although I enjoyed the characters of Kao Li-Shih, Li Lin-fu. Also, An Lu-Shan wasn't fully drawn as I would have liked. I would have liked to know the fate of the poet that was sent to an island and so forth. What had happened to Consort Wu's children if I may ask?

Theme:

Nothing I can think of.

Plot:

Third person narrative from omniscient point of view, or from everyone's point of view rather.  The author do give slight page breaks when a new character speaks, but many plots are unresolved, such as who created the spider box, and what happened to Li Lin-fu's favorite daughter and so forth. Also some things didn't make sense when it comes to book and history such as Precious Consort Issue or what happened to the eldest sister.

Author Information:
(from goodreads.com)

Eleanor Cooney:

born
The United States

genre
Historical Fiction, Nonfiction

About this author

Eleanor Cooney is the author of four previous books, all coauthored with Daniel Altieri: Deception: A Novel of Mystery and Madness in Ancient China; The Court of the Lion: A Novel of the T'Ang Dynasty; Shangri-La: The Return to the World of the Lost Horizon; and Shore of Pearls: A Tale of Seventh Century China. She lives in Mendocino, California.

Daughter of Mary Durant

Daniel Altieri:

N/A

Opinion:

I originally bought this book at a library sale in 2006, and since then I have attempted numerous times to read it, each time without success. The characters would confuse me and so forth. Somehow I got through reading this book. Although I appreciate that the authors have tried to stay loyal to Chinese names, at times it was difficult to figure out who's who and one had to remember. The authors also worried more for details rather than building the tensions between Kao Li Shih and Li Lin-fu; the scene where they meet isn't filled with tension. I also had hoped there would be more romance between the Emperor and the Precious Consort. Instead, the book turned out to be way too long with lack of tension, especially towards the end, and an epilogue as to what happened to the characters wasn't there. I had problems that the number system wasn't used, and I had no idea if years or months passed through that period? What I liked were the quotes added to beginning of the chapters to enrich the story. Also there was lack of helpnotes. For example, why were some things given helpnotes while others were completely ignored? I would recommend it for those who are curious about China, and who are well versed, but I won't say its a casual read at all.

3 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

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