Kingdom of the Golden Dragon: Isabel Allende

Remarkable South American writers of fiction are not that rare a phenomenon. But for marrying magic realism with the everyday, for verve and even a spot of the diabolic bizarre, Isabel Allende is in a class of her own. The House of Spirits and Eva Luna are perhaps two of her best known books; works of fiction that made her reputation and garnered readers for her all over the world. Every new book of hers is greeted by booksellers singing Hosannas and critics rushing forward to grab it and shake it by its metaphorical neck to see what's on offer

The book begins interestingly enough with a description of a Buddhist monk and his disciple making a trip. By chapter two, you feel a frown gathering in your brow when you encounter the 'valley of Yetis' with the monk and disciple. The frown stays but you tell yourself: Alright, so this is to be a lot of fantasy, and if Harry Potter could chat with Centaurs, and have a broomstick to zip around, why not a valley of Yetis with a queen priestess called Grr-ympr. Meanwhile fifteen year old Alex Cold, his eccentric grandmother Kate a journalist with the international Geographic, their Brazilian friend Thirteen year old Nadia set out on a journey to a hidden kingdom in the Himalayas. The kingdom of the golden dragon or the Forbidden kingdom so called because though a place its monarch seeking to keep it intact strives to limit western influences. Key to the kingdom's peaceful and affluent existence is a statue of the golden dragon which the monarchs have traditionally consulted as an oracle…. and it is this 'The Collector' a billionaire westerner has asked the 'Specialist' to steal for him….. There after the book is all about how the two children and disciple Dil Bahadur who is none other than the heir to the kingdom seeking to prevent the golden dragon from being stolen…. there are numerous adventures, each rivalling the other in their fantastic scope… And yet despite all this the book just doesn't make the grade. While the children are busy with their quest, you are busy trying to understand the nature of this beast. So is this an adventure story or children's fiction? Or Fiction for Young Adults? Or a thriller? Or literary fiction?

Much as I admire the author's previous works, my problem with Isabel Allende's Kingdom of the Golden Dragon is that it lacks that sure touch that characterizes her other books. At best pallid despite large dollops of exotica ranging from the sect of the scorpions to totemic animals and telepathic communication between man and man, man and beats, man and yeti, the book 'Kingdom of the Golden Dragon' is like an amateur attempt at cooking bouillabaisse. It straddles too many genres and none are blended competently and with flair. If Roald Dahl or J.K. Rowling commend the attention of both children and adults alike, it is because they make no pretences of their writing being anything but unabashedly children stories. That adults love them merely go on to show the extent of their imagination and their ability to marry the world of fantasy with the everyday. A realm that Allende does magnificently enough when her books are aimed at adult readers. However the'Kingdom of the Golden Dragon' reads like the work of a writer who can't make up her mind about what this book is all about.

More Book Reviews by Anita Nair...






   Copyright© 2001-2005 Anita Nair. E-mail Anita