Tag Archives: China

Blood, Monks, and Marco Polo

Blood Assassin by Alexandra Ivy

This book is one of the books in the Sentinels series all entitled with ‘Blood’.

There were, according to the book mater, two groups of Sentinels – those with high magic and heavily tattooed with symbols to prevent them being attacked and to enhance their magic; and those who were hunters, the policemen of the race. All had come from Valhalla (is this the Nordic Valhalla or another city/building/enclosed environment?) and all were non human but hunters could pass as being human when needed.

The Sentinels with magic had been trained by monks (think Jackie Chan and those films about the mysterious monks and Chinese fighting skills – see also Marco Polo as being shown on Netflix for the blind monk who trains and can beat all warriors in the army of the Great Khan). Therefore they were mighty warriors and ever inclined to the way of the Tao and silence and meditation. But the skills were kept secret and the monasteries remote in the high mountains and very very mysterious.

So in this book we are confronted with good and bad and the necessity to hold to belief systems under extreme personal pressure.

Sentinels were used to protect those with special and singular skills such as being able to read the soul of another person – whether good or bad, light or dark. And also to fight with Necromancers who of course are the users of dark and ‘bad’ magic.

A new enemy had appeared – called The Brotherhood they were the usual anti-anything unlike themselves type of fanatics who disliked anyone with these singular skills or who was a Sentinel or called be called a mutant by them – ie non-human. Zealots is the word used in the book for them.

In the book there are some romances with complications and women who are extraordinary in their appearance (wish fulfilment fantasies) who fall for Sentinels with bad results, as well as a kidnapping of an innocent for the Sentinels to deal with.  In between there are fights and mistakes and nasty events.zena

So basically, the plot is very similar in many ways to the type of films (with added romance for female readers but with women we definitely can’t identify with… too much like Zena Warrior Princess, but nice for the male readers) that usually star Chinese style Kung Fu/ walk up walls/jump off high buildings and not get hurt/walk on the ceiling type of events with mysterious monks and monasteries in remote mountains.

Did I enjoy it and was the writing readable and interesting?

Well both yes and no.

Yes in that it kept its focus and style and although the plot was thin it found ways to add to it. marco-polo-episode-10-fight8

No in that it had not real depth and I came away thinking it would make a good fantasy style game or film – but I required more depth of character and writing to encourage me to read more of this series.

This was my first book by Ivy and I doubt I shall read more by her. 2.5 stars.

China and its Mythology: Dragons Galore!

The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly

This is definitely a book for those who loved Jurassic Park! In fact it would make a similar great movie – so much happens it is quite amazing – every possible disaster that you can think of and some you can’t – or wouldn’t have thought of, happens. But then the author admits he did like to create ever more fanciful disasters…. and the more the merrier.

Now when it mentioned that was going to be a zoo about very unusual indeed creatures – we had to imagine it would either be the abominable snowman – or dragons. After all, as it says in the book, dragons are very well known in China and their stories are full of encounters with these creatures, so it may not be surprising that some really do/did exist. There are of course, some stunning Chinese Dragons depictions, all over silk dressing gowns from Hong Kong of course and this magnificent robe that was found in a tomb of a prince in China and can be seen in the British Museum.:

dragon robe







and beautiful paintings in fanciful landscapes,

dragon painting






not to mention the strange creatures that lurk on the top of Chinese buildings




So dragons are really a common concept in China and of course we know that we have a number of different types of dragon reptiles available to buy as pets some from China, others from Australia, some that live in deserts and others in water.

Take a look at these…

frilled dragon

chinese water dragon red dragon
Of course, dragons have been written about before. Shakespeare in King Lear Says “come not between the dragon and his wrath” [Act1 Scene 1] and this is certainly what this book by Reilly tries to portray.

In the bible of course, Satan is often portrayed as a dragon – a great serpent with wings. And they are also the beasts that inhabit the desolate and devastated places. Sometimes also called a great worm – again with wings but… So again dragons are not nice creatures.

I thought I should try and find some ancient references to this mythical creature and according to the trusty (?) Wikipedia before the 5th century bc you can find references to dragons in:

  • Book of Job(5th century BC?): leviathan (chapter 41).
  • Apollonius of RhodesArgonautica(3rd century BC): where the dragon was guarding the golden fleece – Book 2), and also the dragon whose teeth can be sown like seed to make an army grow (Book 3).
  • Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca(after 1st century BC): the sea monster that Perseus slays to rescue Andromeda is a water dragon, and there is a dragon guarding the apples of the Hesperides (Book 2).
  • John of PatmosBook of Revelation(1st century AD): portrays Satan as a dragon (Chapters 12-13, 16:13, 20:2).

A lot of people have attempted their own best dragon story list eg http://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/the-top-6-best-dragons-in-literature/ March 2014; and  http://www.abebooks.co.uk/books/avid-reader/dragons-literature.shtml.

But here are my favourite dragons:

  1. Ursula K. Le Guin, in her world of Earthsea (1964): the portrayal of dragons undergoes significant changes from book to book. In the original, they resemble Smaug, with unbounded greed for hoards of precious jewellery; later, they grow in stature and nobility, to become virtual demi-gods who speak the “Language of Creation” as their mother tongue. Later still, it is revealed that they share an ancestry with humanity, and that some rare humans (always women) can change into dragons at will (or they may be considered as dragons who can take human form at will). In contrast to the dragons of C.S. Lewis’s fiction, the dragons of Earthsea do not eat each other. Like Tolkien’s Smaug, they are susceptible to drowning. Le Guin is a great writer and I used some her work and advice on how to write a good story when I wrote my PhD up – good writing style goes across all genres – my doctorate was in Information Systems! But I wrote the case element up as a story and linked the history in the 5 elements as recommended by Davies and as demonstrated by Le Guin.
  2. Anne McCaffreyDragonriders of Pernseries (1966): The (genetically engineered) Dragons of PernDragons in Pern (genetically modified fire-lizards, which were Pernese natives) are ridden by “dragonriders” to protect the planet from a deadly threat, the Thread. The dragons include Faranth, MnementhRamoth, and Ruth.
  3. David and Leigh EddingsThe Belgariad(1982) and The Malloreon series (1988): Unnamed dragons. There used to be three: two males and one female but the males killed each other in the first mating season leaving the female alone for millennia.
  4. Michael EndeThe Neverending Story(1979): Falkor (Fuchur in the original German version), the luckdragon, and Smerg, an evil dragon.

Other good dragons in literature are:

  • Melanie Rawn, the Dragon Prince series(1985–1994):
  • George R. R. MartinA Song of Ice and Fireseries (1996–present), and the CCG based on the books: Drogon, Viserion, and Rhaegal, the dragons hatched by Daenerys Targaryen. Also, Balerion the Black Dread, Meraxes and Vhaghar, ridden by Aegon the Conqueror and his sisters in the conquest of Westeros.
  • Cornelia FunkeDragon Rider(1997): Firedrake, Slatebeard, Maia, Shimmertail and several unnamed dragons. The cannibal Nettlebrand from the same book may also be considered a dragon due to his appearance.
  • Robin Wayne BaileyDragonkinseries (2003): The dragons of Wyvernwood.
  • J. K. Rowling, “Harry Potter” series (1997–2007): Various dragons (including Norwegian Ridgebacks, Hungarian Horntails, Swedish Short-Snouts, Common Welsh Greens, Hebridean Blacks, and a Chinese Fireball). Dragons are mentioned throughout the Harry Potterbooks and a baby dragon appears in the first instalment and dragons later play a significant role in the fourth and seventh books. They are portrayed as having strong magic, but they do not exhibit any hints of intelligence or self-awareness. Within the series, dragons are considered very dangerous by most characters (Rubeus Hagrid being a notable exception) and private ownership of dragons is illegal.





But if you really like dragons in literature then do try this test:


In fact looking on the internet, the number of ways you can look at dragons is very long indeed  good ones, bad ones, in the bible, in classical literature, in films, what their names are and on and on.

They have certainly fascinated us humans ever since we thought them up – or did we? And that is the key question in this book – do they really exist but are rarely seen and what we are hearing about are folk-lore tales that we have turned into stories?

After all if the Flood that is mentioned in the Bible did really exist, and there really was an island which was inhabited which could have been called Atlantis for all we know, that sank because of a great volcanic eruption and earthquake, and it is certainly true that people worshipped bulls in Crete and we know that labyrinths exist as we have seen them in churches , who’s to say that dragons don’t or haven’t at some time, existed?

We really don’t know everything even if we pretend we do….

2014 in review: And why you should read Tiggerrenewing!

At this time of year, WordPress and GoodReads offer their users a summary of their input for the year with lots of statistics and detail. I am going to let you have some of these statistics below but first I want to tell you why you should join my readers and ensure that by mid year I have over 1000 followers!

I know, everyone wants you to be their follower and read their blog and as WordPress is offering everyone the opportunity to blog about their site well I am sure that there will be lots of people saying ‘Follow Me’ – ‘My blog is awesome!’.

Well, I don’t promise that my blog is awesome, and I don’t blog about the stuff that seems to get lots of followers like fashion and young adult and mental health or…

So here are five reasons why you should read and follow my blog :

1. I don’t blog a lot about my health and moan about my family or the state of the union or be vehement about my politics or… I blog about a variety of subject matters that interest me and hopefully you, some of which, especially as the majority of my followers are from the US, may be unfamiliar to you;

2. I write good grammatical English (UK spelling), properly punctuated, and I know how to use the apostrophe. I don’t usually write in stream of consciousness mode but nice precise paragraphs.

3. I write about a good variety of subjects so you are very likely to find something to interest you in them  – from flowers and gardens, to crafts, to travel, to – in particular – books. Illustrated by my husband’s excellent photographs. As a European I get to a lot of countries you may wish to visit in Europe, but also have been to many more exotic locations such as China and India and these are  described here. More still to come on past adventures, but this year I shall be flying out to Boston and New York and cruising back on the Queen Mary 2; and also Ireland later in the summer for sure.

4. I read a lot of books and write informative and well researched reviews that don’t give the plot away and are not summaries. At last count it was some 130 plus in 2014 – see the blog to come which will give the details on them. There is no plot synopsis but a comment that will be relevant to the subject matter and will inform. See for instance the comment on PANTHEON OF THE DEAD: Greek Gods and marriage.

5. If I can get over 1000 followers, I will be authorised by more publishers on the NetGalley site which means I will get to read yet more books that are just being published, and more books by new authors you may not yet have heard of. I shall endeavour to keep up the interviews with them that I have recently started (Dark Prayers: Natasha Mostert explains) is due later in January.


 So now to some details of 2014’s activity:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,300 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 38 trips to carry that many people.

There were 134 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 217 MB. That’s about 3 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was January 21st with 75 views. The most popular post that day was Feminism? Vegetarianism? Linked or not?.

Posting Patterns

In 2014, there were 60 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 231 posts. (This will increase in 2015 as I shall be retiring and also I am building up a scheduled list of created blogs to keep the flow coming, already working on February and March )

Attractions in 2014

These are the posts that got the most views in 2014.

Views of London: the Changing Landscape

Feminism? Vegetarianism? Linked or not?

The Unicorn Crisis by Jon Rosenberg: Hidden Academy book 1

Sweet strawberries: Child Actors and the Price of Fame

More about Shanghai: Bund and Rain

Some of the most popular posts were written before 2014. The writing has staying power! Consider writing about those topics again.
I can certainly write about London more and will…. but I am not returning to Shanghai and some of the others were book reviews. I shall write more about my female heroes though and am already working on a post about women in the Great War.

Where did they come from?

70 countries in all!

Most visitors came from The United States. U.K. & Canada were not far behind.

The most commented on post in 2014 was I shall wear Purple and a Red Hat: Posts for older women? 

– hmm

Not enough written about older women on WordPress – it is dominated by the under 40s I find. I shall try and buck the trend…

Are you convinced yet? I hope so. Do come and follow me and add your comments below!

In the meantime A Happy New Year to all my current followers and thank you all for coming and reading my posts. May you continue to do so for many years to come!