Dragons, sprites, griffins, goddesses, and trolls aren’t what you might usually think of when you try to imagine San Francisco and Hawaii in the year 1941, but those are the sorts of mythical beings who populate them in the two-time Newberry Honor Award-Winning author Laurence Yep’s latest page-turning urban fantasy novel, City of Fire. The author skillfully makes them a part of the age and alternate Earth that he writes about, and by doing so has made City of Fire a highly inventive and entertaining start to his new City trilogy. His novel of 12-year-old Scirye’s attempts to seek out revenge for injuries to her mother and the death of her older sister, Nishke, and the recovery of one of her people’s greatest treasures after a dragon attacks them, is an exciting magic-filled adventure you won’t want to miss.
Her “lap griffin,” Klestetste, or Kles, is her fierce pet and adviser, offering her wise counsel on a variety of topics and his invaluable fighting skills whenever they’re faced with danger. She and her family are representatives of her people, the Kushans, who actually existed in our world. Laurence Yep does a great job of incorporating into his novel the research he did about the Kushans, mummies, the Yueh-Chih tribal confederation, myths, and magic, so you can–ugh–learn something about history as you also are spell-bound by the fantasy and the superb story and the world depicted in City of Fire.
Scirye is joined in her seeking for revenge and her adventures by three other people who become friends of hers over the course of the novel. There’s the orphan, Leech; his loyal companion Koko, who taught him how to survive on the streets after he ran away from the orphanage; and Bayang, a dragon disguised as a Pinkerton detective agent in the form of an elderly woman. Leech has powers that he doesn’t suspect he has until later in the novel, and Koko also has a secret we don’t discover until later as we read. Leech, Koko, and their friend Primo Chan become involved with the story from the very first chapter. The chapters alternate perspectives, some focusing more on one main character than the others, but each still moves the story along and carries the plot forward.
Bayang, the dragon, is an assassin of her people, sent on a mission to kill Leech before he becomes fully aware of his powers. Against her better judgment, Bayang finds herself thinking of Leech as a basically kind-hearted person, and Leech saves her life, which makes her obliged to also save his before she can once again consider killing him. Leech, Koko, and Scirye act very differently from how Bayang has been taught all of her life that humans act, and Bayang begins to wonder if all that she’s been told is really the truth, or if the Elders have been lying to her.
City of Fire is a wonderful book full of fantasy, magic, and adventure. It takes the reader also to Houlani, a newly-created Hawaiian island, where they pursue Badik. They have learned that he is working for one of the richest men in the world, the mysterious Mr. Roland, who is really the one behind Badik’s theft of the ring. They befriend Pele, the goddess of volcanoes, who becomes their ally. Can they stop Mr. Roland from gaining the Five Lost Treasures of Emperor Yu? If he attains all of the treasures, he will have the power to alter the very fabric of the universe! If you love to read excellent urban fantasy novels, you should check out City of Fire today!