Review of PRECIOUS DRAGON by Liz Williams
Night Shade Books, August 2008
Pin first witnesses the disappearance of a fellow member of his opera company, then is himself transported into the body of a demon. Mrs. Pa arranges the marriage of her dead daughter, mistakenly sent to Hell, and is suddenly (only days later) gifted with the daughter's living son. An aging water-dragon frees herself and swims to join the other dragons who have gradually abandoned Earth for a section of heaven. And Detective Inspector Chen, together with his demon associate, Zhu Irzh and a heavenly warrior, Qi, is sent to Hell to investigate a possible cultural exchange.
There's no question that the demons are evil--they enjoy blood, backstab one another, seem fixated on war and sex, and play power games all the time. What is less clear is what's up in Heaven. Although Hell and Heaven have long been in balance, at least some of those in Heaven wish to end the balance, eliminate Hell, and cut themselves off from Earth itself. Only in their solitary perfection, they believe, can Heaven be perfect.
In Hell, Qi is kidnapped and Chen and Zhu Irzh have to head to the Ministry of Lust to set her free. Meanwhile, far larger forces are at work--bringing to a head the long-awaited battle between Heaven and Hell.
Author Liz Williams creates an enjoyable world. Zhu Irzh, with his dysfunctional family, dangerous love life, and cynical attitude makes a perfect sidekick to the noble but crafty Chen. I found the early going, as we flipped between point of view characters to be a little distracting, but Williams integrated the story lines into a coherent whole. PRECIOUS DRAGON is an enjoyable story--I'll certainly consider looking for more in the Inspector Chen series.
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