“Gold hunting is no picnic” in this adventure set in a mythical Chinese desert.
By exaggerating his feng shui expertise and lying about his age, 17-year-old Tianyi, along with his childhood friend and fellow grave robber, Kai, is hired to lead a group of scholars and adventurers across the Black Desert. There is no shortage of fantasy-archaeology material, as our heroes tangle with hairy corpses that come to life, vicious sloths with sharp fangs, blinding sandstorms, and flesh-eating ants. What begins as an intrepid expedition to find the lost city of Jingjue quickly descends into labyrinthine, implausible plot twists. The story may appeal to those who appreciate fast-paced excavation thrillers, complete with a “family heirloom medallion” that can be used to unlock treasure, but by the time a member of the expedition suggests extraterrestrial beings, readers may be well and truly exasperated. Perhaps due to the translation of this story from its original Mandarin, there is a fair amount of awkward moments. It is often difficult to discern whether the author is actually aiming for humor. When defending himself, Tianyi laments, “Kai and I have a good reputation. Just ask anyone in our home village! I once was voted student of the month at my school.” The audience is unclear: older readers may not tolerate the immature feel of the story, but younger readers will struggle with the reading level.
Give this a miss. (Adventure. 10-14)