Thursday, November 23, 2006

Review of I, Tutus: The Son of Heaven by Don Phillips

2005, Publish America
263 pgs
Rating: * (Fair)

First Sentence: My sire was Mighty Tiger Slayer, famous for his quickness, his ability to jump and his ferocious manner.

Reason for Reading: I was selected to review this particular book for Front Street Reviews.

Comments: Do not be fooled by this seemingly odd basis for a novel. It is actually a unique premise, which is at times charming. An anthropologist doing research into the insight that channeling can offer his studies, seeks help from a well known channeler who agrees to put him under hypnosis. Professor Sunny Dayberry hoped to contact someone from prehistoric times, but instead his continued attempts to do so resulted in his channeling a pug in China over 2000 years ago. I, Tutus: the Son of Heaven, is a compilation of his notes into the story of the pug’s life in China and her journey west. This is the first of two books that will follow the adventures of the sweet and brave pug, Xiao Ji Long.

Xiao Ji Long was born to greatness. Her father was the famous Mighty Tiger Slayer and her mother, the beautiful Most Delicate Harmony. Xiao’s birth was not an easy one nor would her life prove to be. Going from the loving attention of the eunuch called Uncle Stupid to the harsh lessons of Cheng Sung and then onto the more gentle guidance of Li Haun, Xiao is being prepared for her presentation to the Son of Heaven, the 11 year old Emperor of China.

Xiao leads a relatively simple life at the palace. Xiao takes pleasure in playing among the lovely and adoring concubines, especially the beautiful Splendid Moon and the clever Precious Wisdom. She romps around with the giant mastiff, Prince. Xiao lives her life much as a dog would be expected to, relatively oblivious to the politics, secret love affairs, sorrows and conspiracies, although each in turn impacts her easy life. All of that comes to a screeching halt, when Xiao Ji Long finds herself a victim of kidnapping, suddenly removed from all she knows and taken on the road where life will never be the same.

Don Phillips weaves into his story the philosophy, religious beliefs, and politics of the time. He captures the lifestyle and cultural differences between the various people Xiao comes into contact with throughout the novel, giving the time period and events a more authentic feel. At times, however, the philosophical discussions went on a little too long and bogged down the story.

Told from the point of view of Xiao, the pug, author Don Phillips skillfully fits in a dog’s natural behaviors, adding life and insight into his heroine. Her innocence is endearing, her energy and curiosity boundless. There was a certain disconnect, however, that was disconcerting at times, between the events going on around Xiao and what she was experiencing. Once Xiao was away from the palace and the journey west was under way, this problem seemed to be resolved.

While I do think that just about any dog lover who enjoys historical fiction as well, might enjoy getting to know Xiao and sharing in her adventures, the story in I, Tutus is on the surface, lacking any real depth to it.

Favorite Part: My favorite part of the book is when Xiao comes to live with Ayaru and Kaidan and their parents. I felt it was the best drawing out of Xiao’s character in the entire novel.

Miscellaneous: Hubby and I went to see Casino Royale in the theater last weekend and thought it was really good; one of the best James Bond movies I've seen.

To all my American friends, I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving! Save some pumpkin pie for me, please!

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