Review Detail

Kids Fiction 192
Animorphs in Ancient Asia
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A
Usagi lives in a world where some children are born with extraordinary powers, either ones that are animal like qualities or work with the elements. She lives with her younger sister Uma and friend Toma, since her parents were killed when the Dragonlord took over and outlawed anyone with powers. Times are very hard, and the children survive by stealing food and trading it for necessities through Aunt Bobo. When they bring her some rice to trade, they watch a performance by musicians, and Aunt Bobo's young son Jago floats up into the air. The soliders capture him, and eventually get Toma and Uma as well. Usagi needs to get her sister and friend back, and when she comes across bandits Saru and Nezu, she joins forces with them. They are descendants of The Twelve, Warrior Heirs, and live on Mount Jade where they are trained by the Tigress and are attempting to gather the Twelve Treasures and keep them safe from the Dragonlord. Usagi has to undergo some trials before she can even be allowed onto Mount Jade, and must then go through extensive training before she and the Warrior Heirs can infiltrate the training site where her sister is held. Getting to the city is difficult, and when the group finally makes it into the training facility, Usagi finds that her sister and friend are enjoying living there and are angry at Usagi for abandoning them. Will Usagi and the other Warrior Heirs be able to rescue the children being trained from being sacrificed instead, and will the Dragonlord be allowed to continue his reign of terror?
Good Points
Even with the refreshing number of fantasy books that are not clones of Lord of the Rings, it's still hard to find ones that stand out. This one does. It incorporates elements traditional to fantasy book, but puts a nice spin on them. The details of a world where the Chinese zodiac influences some children's powers related to the animals is described in a way that made me believe it right away. I was very glad to see that Uma liked the training facility-- that's a good twist! There's a voyage similar to classic medieval quests, training similar to Jeff Stone's Five Ancestors books, and enough food that Flanagan's Will and the Rangers wouldn't go hungry!(Although they might need to bring their own coffee!) The plot moved along quickly, and I didn't get too confused, which is always a plus when it comes to fantasy. I'm sure this will be a series, and that's okay!

There are lots of details about the powers that the children have, and the world building is solid. I liked that the children had a quest that involved finding treasures, and that they make it to the training facility without having to travel through underground caverns! (There have been a lot of those in fantasy books lately!) It would have added an extra layer of interest to have more details about life in ancient China, and maybe an idea of a time frame for the setting. (You can tell I'm more interested in historical fiction than in fantasy!)

I enjoyed this one so much that I gave the ARC to a student who was walking his dog past my house, because I knew he was a big Rick Riordan fan! This will be popular with readers who like the Rick Riordan Presents books as well as newer titles like Silver Batal and the Water Dragon Races that have a good mix of different cultural setting, creative fantasy powers, and intriguing characters.
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