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Forbidden Tales: Sword by Da Chen

Forbidden Tales: Sword

by Da Chen

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Miu Miu lives in Goose Village in ancient China. Before she was born, her father, a master sword-maker, was killed by the emperor. If Miu Miu had been born a boy, her fate would have been to avenge her father's death, but as a girl, her fate is to marry someone who will have to do the avenging for her. She has been engaged since birth to Tong Ting, a boy she has never met, and she has been secretly trained by the local monks in martial arts. Her mother makes a deal with the village elders to allow Miu Miu to seek vengeance as a son, and she is sent on an epic journey with little more than her father's last and best sword (long hidden in the dirt under their hut), his clothing, a few coins and a small jade pendant with her unknown betrothed's name carved into it. Miu Miu faced trials of all kinds, and finds allies in all sorts of places. Lots of fairy tale events, but a wonderful tale with strong characters, exciting events, and really good villains! Especially good for 7th grade, since we study ancient China. ( )
  KarenBall | Sep 23, 2011 |
On the morning of her birthday, Miu Miu's mother reveals some startling information. Miu Miu's father was killed by the evil emperor, and now it is her job to seek revenge. But wait. Girls aren't allowed to officially vow vengeance. You would think that Miu Miu could just set out on her quest without this "official vow" nonsense, but instead, she spends much time convincing her tiny, irrelevant village that she needs to defeat the emperor. After she is finally on her way, she is able to combat the emperor with her martial arts skills.
What a silly book. I love historical China, but I found the story to hold many pointless, irrelevant details, and go far too quickly, especially at the beginning. An unrealistic story with badly portrayed characters and events.
Not recommended.

End note - After reading this book, I read Da Chen's memoir Sounds of the River. I cannot understand the contrast between these two books, because his memoir is brilliant. Please, go and read that instead of this one. ( )
  joririchardson | Jan 20, 2010 |
Reviewed by Rebecca Wells for TeensReadToo.com

On her fifteenth birthday, Miu Miu wakes not to the matchmaker, as is tradition in her village, but to a frightening revelation from her mother. Miu Miu's father was murdered, she discovers, and Miu Miu must travel to the city of Chang'an to avenge her father's death and find her true love.

But the path to victory is never straight, Miu Miu learns, as she faces challenge after challenge in her journey towards Chang'an, only to find that her most difficult task lies in the form of the evil emperor who she must defeat.

SWORD is a captivating adventure that paints an intriguing portrait of ancient China. While the story is simplistic and sometimes predictable, readers will remain invested in SWORD because of the way it is crafted. Miu Miu is a sympathetic heroine and her adventures are highly entertaining, especially when they involve martial arts.

I enjoyed SWORD immensely, and heartily recommend it to readers in search of a good, clean adventure story with a strong female protagonist. ( )
  GeniusJen | Oct 10, 2009 |
One of the great things about books is their ability to open up new worlds to a reader, the author assuming the role of knowledgeable tour guide. Not many Western readers have the opportunity to experience China personally, so our view of China is often limited to what we read about it, which is greatly dependent on just how knowledgeable the author is about Chinese culture.

Da Chen, who grew up in China before moving to New York, has the credentials and life experience to be a wonderful tour guide. But while Chen’s latest young adult novel “Sword” is an enjoyable and action-packed romp that’s also a loving portrait of Chinese culture, it also suffers from some glaring weaknesses. The flow of the language in the book is awkward to say the least and the novel’s conclusion is a major letdown. For every part of “Sword” that I enjoyed, there was an equal part of the book which I did not.

Miu Miu wakes up on her fifteenth birthday not to the sounds of a Matchmaker knocking on the door to announce her choice of suitors, but to something much different. Before she was born, Miu Miu’s father was murdered, leaving her mother and her all alone. Now she has been informed that instead of starting her first steps into womanhood with her betrothal, she’s to avenge her father’s murder.

Before Miu Miu leaves for the capital, her mother reveals a secret that she has held onto for fifteen years. The son of her father’s apprentice Tong Ting has been chosen to be her husband, but only after he kills the murderer of Miu’s father, which just happens to be the emperor. (Talk about ratcheting up the difficulty factor!) Tong Ting will be wearing a jade necklace that matches the one that Miu’s mother gives her for her fifteenth birthday. She also recovers the last sword that her father had crafted, an immensely powerful weapon that can match the magical might of the emperor’s sword. Not wanting to leave revenge to someone who she’s never met, Miu begs the Elders to let her go and kill the emperor. Securing the permission of the Elders, Miu sets off on her murderous quest. It’s kill or be killed, since anything else will bring untold shame to her family and village.

On her long journey to the capital, Miu stumbles across a cocky young man who challenges her to a fist battle in the forest. (Miu is disguised as a man, so there are no fistic improprieties here.) While in the woods to settle this battle of egos, she discovers something she couldn’t have even imagined. During the heat of the battle, a necklace falls from his neck. It’s a perfect match to the one her mother gave her (you had to see that one coming) and is inscribed with Miu’s name. It seems she has found Tong Ting, he betrothed.

Together Tong Ting and Miu conspire to assassinate the emperor. (Who knew dating could be so much fun?) Finally on reaching the capital, nothing goes like they planned as they discover that the sword crafted by her father does more than just kill.

“Sword” has many enjoyable aspects. The narrative is very entertaining and engaging, effortlessly pulling the reader through the story. Chen displays great skill in creating his characters. They are interesting, warm and engaging, and I found myself empathizing with them. The fight sequences are detailed and vivid.
Sadly though, I found Chen’s use of Chinese terms for the martial arts moves very distracting. It’s not the Chinese words that are distracting, but the English translation that follows in parentheses. It’s like reading a book with parenthetical subtitles (which is so annoying, don’t you think?). This interrupted the fluidity of the narrative, the flow bogging down as each new technical term conveying the move is followed by a translation. Instead of trying to paint a picture with a description of the move, Chen only offers the technical term. It’s telling the reader rather than showing them.

The climax of the book felt very anti-climactic (although the fight scene was vivid if you could overlook the overabundance of technical terms in the description). But after the climax, the story finished somewhat flat, seemingly meandering to its conclusion. It’s a shame since every page of “Sword” has something interesting happening. The book doesn’t lack for page-turning action, and it never feels like a chore to continue. Unfortunately the resolution is disappointing.

Last Word:
“Sword” is a quick and enjoyable read. The action scenes were entertaining, even though the Chinese (English) description of the moves took away greatly from the flow. After finishing the book, I was left with a sense of emptiness like I’d missed the high point of the story. I wanted a stronger conclusion. ( )
  pstotts | Dec 17, 2008 |
The Sword by Da Chen was an enchanting Chinese fairy tale that tells the story of Miu Miu, the daughter of a famous sword maker who was murdered because the Emperor did not wish anyone else except himself to ever own such a beautiful sword as the one Miu Miu’s father made for him.

Miu Miu sets out to avenge the murder of her father in order to fulfill the destiny her mother mapped out for her. Her travels are both delightful and dangerous, and Da Chen beautifully writes with such fluidity the story seems to flow out onto the pages. I’ve read many fairy tales, and this ranks among the most well told I’ve ever read.

Even more intriguing than the fairy tale of Miu Miu and her betrothed Ting Tong, is the opening twelve pages that tell of an ex-convict named Ar Kin who returns to the village after serving a twenty year sentence in Siberia. I wish more had been written about Ar Kin. I found him fascinating and I was left wanting to know more.

My biggest criticism of this book is that the end wrapped up too quickly and too neatly. Da Chen could have easily written two different endings and up until the end of the book, I wasn’t quite sure which way it would go.

I found every part of this book to be tastefully written, and would not hesitate to recommend this book to any adult or child 11 years and up. ( )
1 vote awriterspen | Sep 23, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061447587, Hardcover)

On the morning of Miu Miu's fifteenth birthday, her mother makes a startling revelation: Miu Miu's fate is to travel to the faraway city of Chang'an, avenge her father's death, and find her true love. But the evil emperor has other plans for her. Defeating him will take all of Miu Miu's courage, wit, and martial arts experience.

Master storyteller Da Chen paints a vivid portrait of his native land in this classic tale of honor, adventure, and romance in ancient China.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:14 -0400)

When Miu Miu turns fifteen, she learns the truth about her father's violent death and discovers that she must avenge his murder before she can marry the man to whom she is betrothed. Based on a story told to the author by a former prisoner during China's Cultural Revolution.… (more)

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