Book Review: The Relic of the Blue Dragon by Rebecca Lim

The Relic of the Blue Dragon, Rebecca Lim, Allen and Unwin, 2018

When Harley Spark accidentally releases Qing, one of five dragon sisters, from the ancient vase she’s been trapped in for centuries, he is soon on a dangerous international mission with Qing to find and free her four sisters.

Harley gave a little shiver as he peered at the mysterious girl’s message. She’d written: DRAGON KING RETURNS

Harley Spark is just an ordinary thirteen-year-old kid who lives with his mum, Delia.

Rumour has it that his dad, Ray, is an international crime figure with a talent for nicking old, valuable things.

So, when Harley finds an antique Chinese vase on the footpath, something compels him to stuff it under his school jumper and run for home. Little does he know he’s about to reignite a centuries-old war between two ancient, supernatural families…

Featuring magic, mystery and martial arts, The Relic of the Blue Dragon is the first book in the action-packed Children of the Dragon series.

 

When I was a little girl, about my daughter’s age, there was a show on the ABC called T-Bag. When I talk to other people, now, who grew up in Australia at the same time, very few of them remember this show. They remember Monkey Magic and Round the Twist and I loved these shows, too, but for me, T-Bag was life.

This was pre-streaming, of course, and pre-household internet, and television schedules were unpredictable. I had no idea when the next series of my favourite show would be shown – or even if it would ever return, from season to season. Partly because of this, T-Bag became this mystical thing. I dreamed about it and longed for it, poring over the TV guide, searching for news of its imminent return.

T-Bag is, at its heart, a show about magical objects and I can trace my avid fascination with enchanted artefacts back to this time. Between this show and Disney’s Aladdin, I became a kid obsessed with finding my own magical key, or ring, or lamp, or coin. It was also T-Bag that first sparked my love of history, as the main character had to travel back to different time periods to find the objects she needed to collect.

Both these obsessions – as well as a lifelong passion for all things magical and mystical – have lasted to this day and it was in part due to this that I was extremely excited to hear that Rebecca Lim’s new series would feature both a magical vase and Chinese history and mythology.

I was also excited simply because it was Rebecca Lim. I’ve been a fan of her work since the Mercy series and have been lucky enough, in recent years, to come to know her as a person, through the magic of the internet. So, every release of hers is highly anticipated. This one did not disappoint. Lim’s own background (she was born in Singapore) gave the book a wonderful depth. It’s clear that Lim has a deep connection to her heritage, and the benefits of being an Own Voices writer when writing about culture cannot be understated. It is it deeply important to hear stories told by the people who own them. For readers outside of a culture, it provides us with insights and knowledge that we can trust and learn deeply from. It is also so important that young people see their own stories in fiction, told by people like them. Lim is also behind the Meet Me at the Intersection anthology and Voices from the Intersection initiative and is proving herself a real force in this area.

The Chinese dialects sprinkled through the book, and the examination of culture, history and mythology, gave this book a depth that made it really stand out alongside similar offerings. It is clear that, as well as knowledge gained from personal experience, Lim has done extensive research, to ensure her story is authentic and layered, I believe this book will prompt many young readers to continue their education in the area, which is a wonderful thing!

I loved that The Relic of the Blue Dragon brings Chinese myth into a modern-day Australian setting, instantly anchoring readers who do not have Chinese heritage into the story. I also loved the organised crime elements that brought a real-world danger to the mystical events.

The action is beautifully paced and had me on the edge of my seat. The mystery is expertly handled and the plot is full of surprises. The characters are fleshed-out and whole and real and I loved Qing, in particular. She is so fun and funny and clever and skilled and I wish I knew her. Harley is a wonderfully empathetic character and I was rooting for both of them throughout the book. The ending left me wanting more and dying to read book two – I can’t wait to dive right in to the magic of it, just as – when I was a child – I could not wait for the next episode of my favourite show.

The best part, though, is that this time I don’t need to wait very long! Book two is out this month and I am beyond excited.

In the meantime, I’m going to go back to dreaming about finding my own magical object and fantastical quest. I mean, I’m only thirty-six. It could still happen, right?

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