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Friday, May 08, 2009

The Hunting of the Last Dragon

I recently read The Hunting of the Last Dragon, by Sherryl Jordan. I discovered it because it won a South Carolina Junior Book Award for 2004. I'm not sure anyone save school librarians pays attention to such awards, or at least I wonder if the Juniors do. I did, and it is a good book.

There are several interesting features, besides what, from the title, would seem obvious.

One of those is the narrative structure. Almost the entirety of the book was ostensibly dictated to a monk, who wrote everything that Jude of Doran said, in his presence, with goose quill pens, on parchment, in 1356 AD, in England. Jude was a peasant boy, perhaps 15 or 16 years old during the time of the narrative.

Another is the presence of Chinese characters in a book set in 14th century England. The author doesn't seem to know whether or not that really happened at that time, but it is a central feature of the book, in several ways, and certainly adds interest. One thing I can tell you, without giving away anything essential, is that footbinding, an ancient Chinese practice, plays an important role.

The third feature is that, perforce, a fair amount of the book, although not the main action, takes place in a monastery. Although monastery life is not seen through rose-colored glasses, Jordan presents it respectfully. She treats the death of a monk, and his promotion to God's presence, as if it were true.

Finally, the book is a love story, although Jude doesn't realize it until the end.

Here's a quotation that I found interesting:
"Ambrose always said that fear was faith in one's enemy . . . " Sherryl Jordan, The Hunting of the Last Dragon, New York: HarperCollins, 2002, p. 87. (Ambrose does not appear in the book.)

I see what Jordan is saying. In a sense, fear is faith in one's enemy, be it a dragon, or Satan, or tornadoes, or our own nature and appetites. But that's not the whole story. Christ told us that there are some things that we should fear:

Luke 12:4 “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! (ESV)

Thanks for reading!


Julana said...

That is an thought-provoking quote, from Ambrose.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Julana. I thought so, too.