An evil, long-dead dragon returns to life in a Chinese restaurant on Topsail Island, N.C., in the first installment of a projected fantasy trilogy.
Furious dragon fire and ancient myth set up what promises to be a roaring adventure when a young boy named Bei defeats Nian the dragon in China, 4000 B.C. Fast-forward to the year 2000, when Nian’s Chinese Buffet is having its grand opening on Topsail Island. Topsail has few good places to eat, so everyone lines up to try the new fare, including 12-year-old Doug. When the residents find out that the fortunes in the cookies actually come true, they really clamor to get in. Doug and his friends suspect something is amiss, but are unable to stop their families from going to the restaurant in search of good luck. Unfortunately, Doug turns out to be right. Stereotypically portrayed Chinese waitstaff capitalize on greed to lure people to the restaurant. There, the dragon waits to steal customers’ souls in order to stage its horrific return. Meanwhile, a second storyline features a young Chinese girl named Hong, who learns she is the descendant of Bei the dragon-slayer and that the birthmark below her ribcage is the harbinger of Nian’s return. She must leave China to find and kill the dragon once more, saving the world from ultimate destruction. Effusively metaphoric narrative strains and descriptive chapters flip back and forth from Doug’s perspective to Hong’s, causing some time-line confusion, until the children meet to destroy the dragon and save the people of Topsail.
There are many exciting moments in the battle against Nian, but interjections and details inserted for convenience–though she has carefully prepared for her quest, Hong forgets that dragons can fly–keep this fantasy outside the realm of believability.