Organized as separate tales within one main plotline, Cao-Dac’s collection includes 11 Vietnamese stories from 42 B.C. to the future.
Lt. Toan fought for his country’s freedom in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. Over 40 years later, his chance encounter with fellow Vietnam veteran Cpl. Brad Miller sparks a sojourn into the past. The series of remembrances frame separate short stories about the history of the Vietnamese people as the descendants of a dragon and fairy. Beginning with two legendary sisters, the author continues through key points of Vietnamese struggles against the Han Chinese, Mongols, French and communism. The tales’ greatest strength is their vibrant portrayal of history, geography, and traditional dress and military garb. Part one focuses on Toan’s current life and his thoughts of the past as he watches his son’s children grow up in California. Part two sends the reader back over 1,900 years. Narration shifts to the legends of the dragon and fairy people. As the stories continue, the timeline moves forward toward Toan’s current life in America, and then it catapults into the future. The writer does a commendable job of weaving in historical facts, however, the tone of these accounts is sometimes flat. Sporadically, Toan comes alive on the page, and readers feel his pain in the trenches. So while many “Toan” moments ignite a sense of wonder and emotion, they also highlight the unevenly developed characters found in the rest of the series. The author includes a detailed appendix of sources.
Well-researched, intelligently organized stories somewhat dulled by two-dimensional characters.