Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Golden Mountain Chronicles: 1855 - Mountain Light

Golden Mountain Chronicles: 1855 - Mountain Light

Laurence Yep
Historical Fiction  Series
For ages 12 and up
HarperCollins, 1997   ISBN: 978-0064406673

Squeaky is in a very bad situation. He joined a rebellion so that the Manchus could be overthrown, but the uprising has collapsed. He is hiding from his enemies in a ruined house when three people come in. Quickly he proves to the young woman, the old man, and the large strong-looking man that he is on their side. He, like them, is fighting for the Work. When the girl, Cassia, discovers that Squeaky comes from a village that has been feuding with her village for many years, she almost kills him. Then her father, the Gallant, reminds her that they should all work together at this time – to fight against the Manchus.

Unfortunately, for now, the Manchus have the upper hand, and so Cassia, the Gallant, their friend Tiny, and Squeaky have to retreat and go home. They decide to travel together and their way is fraught with danger. Indeed the Gallant ends up being killed by rebels, and Tiny's life is constantly in danger because people all over the countryside have taken against his people, the Strangers. They think that the Strangers are betraying the rebel cause to the Manchus and they are eager to make them suffer.

Squeaky, Cassia and Tiny hope that things will be better in their respective villages, but they are not. Even there the villagers are angry with the Strangers and want to punish them. Desperately Squeaky and Cassia try to defend their Stranger friends. As he watches, Squeaky's best friend, who is a Stranger, is killed by Squeaky's cousin, Lumpy. It is an awful moment and Squeaky feels terrible because he did nothing to stop the murder. When he learns that Tiny and his family are in danger in Cassia's village, he risks everything to help them. He does this not only because he cannot bear to see another Stranger die senselessly, but because he has become very fond of Cassia.

Together Cassia, Squeaky and Tiny try to figure out what they should do next. Should Squeaky try to live in Cassia's village with her, or should he go with Tiny to Golden Mountain – to America?

In this remarkable book we not only follow a gripping story about the trials of the main characters during a very turbulent time in China's history, but we also get to see how Squeaky and Cassia change each other. Before his encounter with Cassia, Squeaky is "a clown" who survives by making other people laugh. He is a self-confessed coward who does not like being in dangerous situations, and who does not like to be serious – if he can help it – about anything. After being with Cassia for a time, Squeaky begins to see that there are some things which are worth fighting for and that are very serious and important. In her turn Cassia learns from Squeaky that humor can be very useful to deflect people's anger and to cool off an angry crowd. Sometimes laughter works better than angry words and violence.

This is the second book in the Golden Mountain Chronicles series. Readers who enjoy this book will definitely want to read the rest of the books in the collection.