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Precious Dragon
Liz Williams
Night Shade Books, 248 pages

Precious Dragon
Liz Williams
Liz Williams has spent most of her life in academic philosophy. She did a doctorate in epistemology of science at Cambridge. Today, she works in the field of educational consultancy, bringing students from Central Asia to study in Britain.

Liz Williams Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Snake Agent
SF Site Review: The Poison Master
SF Site Review: Empire of Bones
SF Site Interview: Liz Williams
SF Site Review: The Ghost Sister

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rich Horton

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Liz Williams's series of fantasy/SF/detective novels about Inspector Chen of the Singapore Three police force and his colleague Zhu Irzh, a demon from Hell, continues with Precious Dragon. These have been consistently entertaining novels, with some enjoyable play with various (though mostly Chinese) fantasy elements, a bit of slight futuristic speculation, a bit of romance (each protagonist has a love interest from the other side, so to speak), always based on a crime story -- though these in the end don't really end up that central to the main stories.

The crime in this case involves a young chorus boy who makes money on the side as a rent boy. Someone who hires him has a nastier desire -- they send him magically to hell. This attracts the attention Chen and Irzh, but at first they can't do much -- missing rent boys, alas, are only too common. But Chen and Irzh have another assignment -- they are sent to Hell on a bureaucratic tour of sorts, complete with a companion: a warrior woman of Heaven. Meanwhile a Mrs. Pa has just married off her dead daughter to another family's dead son -- and when the happy couple have a child, they send him to Mrs. Pa to raise. (Earth being a much better place than Hell for a young child.) Finally, a long sleeping dragon has awoken far in the North, and she realizes she is being summoned to a meeting of all the dragons. It seems Heaven needs its dragons for what seems to be an upcoming war with Hell.

Once in Hell, Chen and Irzh soon gather that there is something unusual brewing between the Ministry of War and the Ministry of Lust. This might be personally important to Zhu Irzh, as his estranged mother has a new boyfriend -- the Minister of War himself. And Irzh comes into possession of an important family heirloom. Back on Earth Mrs. Pa's grandson has a name -- Precious Dragon -- and is proving very precocious. And the chorus boy has befriended Mrs. Pa's daughter -- but both of them are in big trouble. All these threads are set to intertwine in a plot which will indeed involve a potentially disastrous war between Heaven and Hell -- with Earth not in any position to benefit.

These novels are a great deal of plain fun. They involve pretty significant events -- events which are not trivialized. There is a solid bit of fantastical imagination on display. But they are also quite funny. And both Chen and Irzh are, at bottom, fairly modest and decent sorts in their ways (Irzh's way involving being a demon, to be sure). Their characters inform the morals of the novels -- amidst Heaven-shaking and Hell-shaking events it is their basic decency that seems most important somehow.

Copyright © 2007 Rich Horton

Rich Horton is an eclectic reader in and out of the SF and fantasy genres. He's been reading SF since before the Golden Age (that is, since before he was 13). Born in Naperville, IL, he lives and works (as a Software Engineer for the proverbial Major Aerospace Company) in St. Louis area and is a regular contributor to Tangent. Stop by his website at http://www.sff.net/people/richard.horton.


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