Remember when I accidentally read the third book of an obscure trilogy that my friend loaned me? And I loved it so much that I wrote my very first fan letter to an author? Well, my wonderful husband who works at a bookstore down the street from our apartment got his hands on the omnibus of that trilogy so I finally got to read book one!
And spoiler (not really): it was awesome!
Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart is the first book in the Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox. The story starts off strong with a mystery in Number Ten Ox’s small village; he’s sent to the city to find a wise man to help him, and through some questionable judgment stumbles upon the brilliant, old, and slightly inappropriate Master Li. It’s a match made in heaven, and the two go about with their hilarious adventures: solving mysteries, swindling the bad guys, and making (kind of) bad decisions.
The first book in this trilogy, like the third book that I loved so much, takes place in the ancient China that never was and is full of majesty, mystery, and mayhem. I laughed out loud numerous times, was blown away by Hughart’s beautiful imagery, and never got bored as Master Li and Ox charmed their way in and out of trouble.
I still can’t decide which of the men is my favorite: Ox with his great physical strength and lacking mental strength is incredibly endearing, but I can’t help but love Master Li’s cleverness and honesty regarding his “slightly flawed character”.
Maybe book two will help me decide who I prefer? And oh well if it doesn’t. I can’t wait to read it soon either way.
I highly recommend getting your hands on Bridge of Birds for a good laugh, a trip to beautiful and majestic ancient China, and an entertaining mash-up of a mystery and a comedy of errors.
Onward to Story of the Stone!