When a crazy scheme to rob Chinese peasants of their silk harvest leaves the village children poisoned, Lu Yu, known as Number Ten Ox sets off on a journey to find a cure. Most of the wise men in Peking refuse to help him for what the village can afford, but one sage, Li Kao, agrees to help. Li Kao recognizes the problem but the cure is a different matter--and sets Ten Ox and Li Kao in an epic journey that pits them against monsters, a money-hungry Duke, and an ancient legend of Ginsen and Gods.
BRIDGE OF BIRDS was author Barry Hughart's first novel and it does start a bit slowly. Once it gets going, however, it becomes a fascinating adventure, a humorous story, and a thoughtful look at humanity and human obsession. It took me days to get through this book, not because it isn't interesting, but because it is so full. It took me a bit of recovery time to launch myself into the next adventure. By the way, there's also a bit of a mystery. See if you can figure it out before Li Kao and Ten Ox.
Hughart creates a different kind of fantasy. The protagonists aren't powerful warriors, but a peasant and an alcoholic sage. Their quest doesn't start out as saving the world from evil, but saving some children from the evil acts of a couple of misers. But the book's subtle power sucked me in, made me care about the characters and the story, and made me think that I was actually seeing something about the world for the first time.
Too heavy? Okay, the book is also a laugh. It's a series of unfortunate events in an adult style. I like this book a lot.