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Item - Chinese Dragons

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(Original edition)
(ChooseCo reissue edition)
(ChooseCo reissue edition)

Combined Summary

Series: Choose Your Own Adventure (1979-1998) — no. 109
Choose Your Own Adventure (2005-) — no. 30
Translated Into: Dracs xinesos (Catalan)
Dragones chinos (Spanish)
Adapted Into: Chinese Dragons (Graded Reader) (Gamebook)
Author: Montgomery, R. A.
Illustrators: Donploypetch, Jintanan (ChooseCo reissue edition - cover)
Semionov, Vladimir (ChooseCo reissue edition - interior)
Tsui, George (Original edition - cover)
Lin, Yee Chea (Original edition - interior)
Dates: 1991 (Original edition)
June, 2009 (ChooseCo reissue edition)
ISBNs: 0553288288 / 9780553288285 (Original edition)
1933390301 / 9781933390307 (ChooseCo reissue edition)
Length: 119 pages (ChooseCo reissue edition)
Number of Endings: 12
User Summary: You are a young orphan living on a farm in Tang dynasty China. You must survive as nomadic raiders roam the rural areas.
Dtar's Thoughts:

I found this to be a good, realistic and potentially tragic historical adventure, especially suited to a young reader with an interest in Chinese history. References are made to political corruption, such as siphoning off funds that should be devoted to better protecting the people living in the border regions. Fairly advanced subject matter for a young reader.

More reviews by Dtar

Florik's Thoughts:

Bought this book for the good reviews on this page and was not disappointed. Thanks, guys! Chinese Dragons has a distinct early Chinese flavour, owing not least to the atmospheric drawings by Vladimir Semionov.

The rich historical background of the Tang dynasty, 618 to 907 AD, could really have served for a much longer book that this CYOA. With eleven endings and a maximum of four decisions per playthrough, many of the storylines felt like the first chapter of a novel. I would have loved to read on.

One thing I found a little odd was the handling of names. Some are given in the original tongue, like Li Shi-Min and Yi-Tung, others translated into English: "Hungry Eye", "Shining Face", "Birch". Also, what's up with Han Yu He telling me I can call him Han? That would be his surname, wouldn't it?

More reviews by Florik

KenJenningsJeopardy74's Thoughts:

Credit Choose Your Own Adventure for taking its readers to obscure eras in history, mining the richness of past civilizations for their distinct drama and intrigue. In Chinese Dragons, you are an orphan who walked many miles years ago to seek refuge on your uncle's farm after a plague wiped out your village, including your parents. It is A.D. 620 in China, ruled by the T'ang dynasty, a fearful time for commoners. Eastern Turks constantly invade from Mongolia, ransacking villages and murdering peasants as they stake claim on an ever-increasing swatch of the land. Their hegemony would seem inevitable if it not for Li Shi-min, a charismatic young Chinese warrior many believe has the intelligence and force of will to repel the Turks. You long to join Li Shi-min's patriotic soldiers and meet the Turks in battle, but all of that seems remote from your life. Your uncle, Wei T'ai, is not as prosperous a farmer as he once was. The River Wei has ebbed in recent years, making for meager harvests, and you are required to work from sunup to sundown gathering what little the dry land produces. Joining Li Shi-min's army seems an absurd dream, until one morning your cousin, Shining Face, announces that a ceremonial animal sacrifice by the military is planned near the city of Loyang, which isn't far from where you live. Wei T'ai would be furious if you abandoned your farming duties to attend the sacrifice, but is this not a monumental day for China?

"Do not welcome self-pity. It is but a poor guest who will rob you of much joy and energy."

—Chinese Dragons, P. 13

You owe your uncle for taking you in after your parents died, but if you elect to stay at the farm, the war soon comes to you. Eastern Turks swarm the village, torching buildings and killing all who resist. Even your mongrel dog, Black Moon, is a target. Within minutes most of your family and neighbors are brutally slain, and a Turk named Yi-Tung plans on selling you in the slave marketplace of Kashgar. You may find that Shining Face has also survived the massacre, but that's the only ray of hope. Will you go quietly with Yi-Tung, or would you rather wait for his associate, Three Finger Tong? He can't be as bad as Yi-Tung...right? You'll have opportunities to escape en route to Kashgar on horseback, but be cautious. You might wind up traveling with Hungry Eye, one of Yi-Tung's soldiers, and witness a confrontation between him and the legendary Li Shi-min; or, you and Hungry Eye could be injured in a riding accident. With the belligerent Turk at your mercy, will you seek help or let him die in the wilderness? Allow the spirits of your parents and grandfather to shepherd you toward the right decisions.

If you leave your uncle's farm to attend the sacrifice, you're spared the carnage of the imminent Turkish raid. You and your dog, Black Moon, are greeted on the road by a pair of strangers, a tailor named Han Yu and his wife, Flower. They're migrating to Loyang in search of a better economic future. They offer to hire you as an assistant, but are you ready to forsake your hope of joining Li Shi-min's army? If not, you'll eventually find their base of operations and enlist, but being a soldier isn't as romantic as you imagined. Few untrained fighting men will survive armed conflict with the Turks. Casting your lot with Han and Flower is safer, but succeeding in Loyang won't be easy; the city is a center of commerce and power, and attracts unsavory elements who wish to control that power. You'll have a sighting of Li Shi-min even if you go with Han and Flower, watching as hordes of Chinese await the sacrifice of a white horse to please the gods. Can you resist the urge to abandon your new career and follow Li Shi-min? China is at a crossroads in its history, and you are at a similar point in your own. Will you be an agent of peace, or war? Are you destined to shape history, or live and work in the relative anonymity of Loyang? The future is yours to decide.

Chinese Dragons is more culturally detailed than many Choose Your Own Adventure books, but it lacks action. Your goal of uniting with Li Shi-min to fight for Chinese freedom is never fully realized; even if you join the military, an ending is usually reached before you do anything of consequence. Because so little happens, Chinese Dragons isn't an interesting book, though it had potential to be. R. A. Montgomery's writing is decent, and there are a few bits of insight sprinkled throughout the text. At one point you marvel at your own inconsistency as a person: "Sometimes you think that there are several people inside you; one brave, one cowardly; one intelligent, and another who is a fool. You don't seem to be able to control which one it is who takes command of the situation." You're flawed, but so is every young person, doing their best to maximize their virtues and minimize character weaknesses on the journey of life. The events of this book will refine your personal qualities, if you survive. Chinese Dragons could have been a more exciting, meaningful story, but it isn't bad. If I ever want a low-key historical gamebook, I'll come back to this one.

More reviews by KenJenningsJeopardy74

Special Thanks:Thanks to Ken G. for the reissue cover scans and to Dtar for the plot summary.
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Known Editions

Original edition
ChooseCo reissue edition

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