Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Golden Mountain Chronicles: 1849 – The Serpent’s Children

Golden Mountain Chronicles: 1849 – The Serpent’s Children

Laurence Yep
Fiction  Series
For ages 12 and up
HarperCollins, 2001   ISBN: 978-0064406451

Cassia and her family strongly believe in the cause - "the Work" - which is to free their land of demons and Manchu oppressors. In fact they believe in it so strongly that Cassia, her brother Foxfire, and their mother insist that Cassia's father should go and fight the British demons. Once they are defeated then he can join the fight against the Manchus, the people who have oppressed Cassia's people for years. One day their people will be free to rule themselves.

Of course it is very hard not having Father around. Mother is ill and really should rest, but there are fields to tend and if they don't all work they will starve, and so mother goes to the fields. One day, while she is there, she has a coughing fit and breaths her last breathe. Cassia and Foxfire are now alone and they have no way of contacting their father to tell him what has happened. Cassia's Uncle Windy tries to force her to bind her feet so that she can marry well, but Cassia runs back home and does her best to take care of the land and her brother until her father comes home.

When Father does come home he is badly injured and is unable to fight for the Work as a soldier any longer. Hard times come for Cassia's village. There is a drought and everyone begins to starve. Then, to make matters worse, warriors from a nearby village stage a raid and they steal a good portion of the crops that Cassia and the villagers have struggled to grow.

Even though Cassia and Foxfire are not sure how they are going to survive without the crops that were stolen, Father still talks about the Work and fighting the Demons. Foxfire gets angry and frustrated because he does not see any point in fighting this battle any longer. There are more important concerns to worry about. Finally the young man decides to take matters into his own hands. Something has to be done to save his family, and he decides to leave his village and to go to Golden Mountain, to America. Maybe there he will be able to make enough money which he can send home.

Cassia is horrified when she finds out what Foxfire has done. Foxfire has always been the one who bumbles his way through life. Surely he will die on this journey to Golden Mountain. Surely her family will be ruined by his foolishness.

In this story from nineteenth century China we discover what it was like to live in a small provincial town during a very difficult time in local history. Beautifully written and carefully researched, this first book about the Young Family from Three Willows Village in Kwangtung Province, China, is extremely moving and thought provoking. Readers will find themselves wondering what happens next to this resilient and brave family.

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