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Bass, L.G. Sign of the Qin.

BASS, L.G. Sign of the Qin. (Outlaws of Moon-shadow Marsh, Book 1.) Hyperion. 383p. c2004. 078685566-5. $7.99. JS*

This first book in the trilogy is rich and satisfying, with wide appeal. At birth, Prince Zong bears the sign of the Qin (pronounced ch'in), the mark of a band of outlaws. These people are out of favor with the old emperor, and in his anger, he banishes the prince's mother, Silver Lotus. But the gods have plans for the young prince: he is the new Starlord, intended to quash a plot to release thousands of demons and conquer the world by Yamu, Lord of the Dead. To that end, Zong has a sequence of guardians: outlaw spies Jade Mirror and Day Rat, the infamous trickster Monkey, the Tattooed Monk, also known as General Calabash, and the outlaw twins White Streak and Black Whirlwind. The prince is a diligent student, and the gods accelerate his growth so that he will be ready to face his adversaries as soon as possible.

The plot is fast-paced and action-packed, full of battles and confrontations of all kinds. Cleverness and thinking through a situation count as much as kung fu skills and swordplay do. Although the story is based mostly on Chinese legends, Bass introduces mythological creatures from other cultures, such as the Japanese kappas, demons whose adherence to manners is always their undoing. This adds richness to the blend and opens up new avenues for creativity.

Bass does not sacrifice characterization and narrative to plot; her language is rich and cadenced and the characters develop with remarkable nuance and subtlety. Her characters have the full range of emotions, and unlike many similar stories, she allows some of her villains the opportunity for redemption. A satisfying story that will leave readers clamoring for more. Donna Scanlon, Librarian, Marietta PA

J--Recommended for junior high students. The contents are of particular interest to young adolescents and their teachers.

S--Recommended for senior high school students.

*--The asterisk highlights exceptional books.
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Author:Scanlon, Donna
Date:Jul 1, 2007
Previous Article:Askounis, Christina. The Dream of the Stone.
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