From ancient times, in folklore, the owl has been noted in various ways. For most of us we have learned that the owl is wise, although the facts may not support that assumption...
But only Edward C. Paterson tells us the tale of a unique, powerful and deadly symbol--The Jade Owl!
In fact, the first book begins an epic series that is bound to be of interest to lovers of historical fiction, those who study the Chinese culture... as well as those who enjoy fantasy/scifi centered on cultural issues... My own interest started when I was working on campus and attended a student Chinese cultural dance program... I loved the traditional dress for women in particular, as well as, since then, the architectural beauty of their buildings. So much so, that I went on to use oriental decor for my bedroom for many years...and now have it spread throughout my cabin and into my garden landscape.
While never digging into much
actual history, I found Patterson's first novel, epic, at just under 600 pages, a wonderful learning experience, quite intriguing and delightful... A fantasy based upon folklore regarding owls, with a strong scifi horror emphasis... I loved it! It's added to my personal favorites for 2018!
"The old grandmother?" Rowden asked.
"Ao-ling--the matriarch." Nick must have expected Rowden to react, maybe a jaw drop, but Rowden just looked across Simone with the pale glance of a man suffering from too much motion over too many potholes. "You've never heard of her? Nick asked.
"No. But she must be important to be honored in the pronoun mystical."
Nick laughed. His bright smile reckoned him like his old self...
Nick approached the old woman. He bowed.
"Xiao Ao-ling, you have called and I have come. My friends are here, This is my partner, Simon and..."
"Please Nicholas Battle," Ao-ling said. Her hand raised like a leaf in a breeze. "I know who you take to your bed." She smiled at simon, a dim smile filled with many broken teeth, but teeth as white as ice, evidence of the many years they drew rice and noodles past the sums. "I also know the pupils of your father. I know of this Professor Gray. I am glad you have an escort of friends and lovers in this world of mistrust and shadows, but I called you because you have found it, and keep it safe, from Win-t'o's clutches. That gladdens me."
She flexed her shoulders, sighing with a hollow wind that washed the room with her ancient breath. "Bird and Box will be joined again. John Battle's son shall do it. He shall. Hao. Hen hao.
Nick kissed Ao-ling's hand as it stretched above the cane. Rowden, fully taken by her regal demeanor, fell in line to do the same, but it was not expected. She stopped the ceremonial, waving her hands to either side of the ke-ting.
"Please all. Sit. Be comfortable." She touched Audrey's hand. "Ao-ti, call for tea and some sesame cake. I do appreciate the filial piety, but be comfortable all. Sit.
Rowden found a floor cushion, while Simone and Nick tucked into the love seat. Ao-ling adjusted her petite bottom on her throne. She regarded Rowden, her deeply lined face, a billboard to five score in years at least, reflected more events than a history book.
"So, Professor Gray," she said. "I have heard your name on John Battle's lips many times. He hoped one day you would enjoin his work."
Rowden balanced himself on the cushion. "I'm afraid I disappointed him," he said. "I sometimes wish I had pursued his work."
"You pursue it now." It was a pronouncement Rowden hadn't considered. "The Jade Owl is his work. It is found and now to be restored. It will reveal her greatest secret."
I took about a week to read this book--there was so much to follow and absorb, that I didn't want to miss anything. While Professor Rowden Gray would be considered the main character, he was not intended to be the hero, per se. Professor Gray had gone for an important curator interview which seemed to be fairly secure. He had resigned his teaching job and packed up... Only to be told that the position had not been funded and there was no job!
Professor Gray had once sat at the feet of John Battle, known to be a great expert in Chinese history. Not so coincidentally, it seemed, the Professor had stumbled into meeting a young man, Nick, when he was still highly agitated on what had been done to him--he didn't really want to go back to teaching, but he did need to have some type of position.
Rowden later learned that Nick was one of the sons of John Battle... In fact, most of the intrigue evolves out of the seeming coincidences that came one after the other...The "treasure hunt" effect of, say, The Da Vinci Code, et.al., where clues are found...is replaced with what seems to be previously ordained. People have been waiting for the Owl to be found, both villains who want it for their own purposes, and those knowing the power must be restrained in only one way. Readers travel along with the small group who have been selected to fulfill the destiny of, specifically, Nick, John Battle's son...and take the owl to be once again joined with the Empress... I'll not go into that thread of the story. because it is so entwined. not to reveal the primary focus.
A minor topic includes the lives of those gay men who both travel with the group and meet along the way. It is a heartwarming tale that allows readers to intimately see and empathize with the bias still faced by many with a different sexual orientation. Simon/Simone is an adorable character that I found fascinating in her/his reactions to traveling with his partner, Nick.
Rowden has two different types of encounters with women, as a result of being who he was and where he was in particular. All of the characters, in fact, add a special flair to what is definitely not an adventure story. The cultural implications of the desires, long-dead empress, have long been felt as her power continues to live after her death...or is she dead?
The scenes when the Owl is "more than" a statue are thrilling in their creativity as well as placed within the various cultural buildings that are explored as they travel on their journey. I checked a few of the site locations named and found they were fictional, so I have not spent too much time on specific locations--let's just say that I thoroughly enjoyed how each step was guided from one point to another...
She kissed him on the cheek. He hugged her and took a larger liberty beneath her nose, which she apparently did not discourage as she let his lips repose there twice. "Will you be okay?" she asked.
Rowden smiled. "I'm in freaking John Battle Memorial Hall, standing beside the Joy of Finches. Now, that's a restorative."
...A wave of sadness engulfed him despite his restoration declaration. He returned his attention to the Joy of Finches, his eyes studying the contour of every beak, eye, and swirl. How he wished he could don latex and explore each contour of his lovely object with his scientific hand. It beckoned him, a power within, calling from an ancient, withered Imperial heart. As he stared, his imagination played a game. A outline of that haunting bird--a deep velveteen green wavering in a fluorescent glow. He blinked. It was gone...
Rowden abruptly turned, but there was no one. Nothing. Just the lingering scene of lavender. He cocked his head, looking for reflections in the black marble floor.
...He took another longing glance at the Joy of Finches--the Empress Wu's great treasure. "You all lose!" he muttered. He turned away wondering why he could think of nothing now but the aroma of lavender...
...Suddenly, the Jade Owl hooted.
"Holy shit." Rowden gazed at the emerald glow. He thought he saw wing movement. Ears twitching. He also felt a tremor in the floor, a foot massage vibration, or some amusement part fun house effect. He held Nick's shoulder. The display case rumbled.
"Earthquake?" He winced. It would just be his luck to travel to California in time for the Big One.
"No. It's the Box," Nick said. Nick's face blossomed. No terror here...
"The bird was stolen, but now is returned to its place in the Wind Cave guarding our great ancestor's tomb, watched over by the spirits and the winds of Huai-ya. Such a journey do I tell sourced from Ch'en Po-yen's notebooks--the journey of the tiger in the dragon garden, Ch-un-ch'eng's madness, the Bell echoer, Mao Sheng's bane."
--from The Diary of The Jade Owl--Xiao Ch'eng
The book is long...take your time and sink into the past when a famed Empress wanted only one thing...to never die... Highly recommended!
Author Edward C. Patterson has been writing novels, short fiction, poetry and drama his entire life, always seeking the emotional core of any story he tells. He has currently 38 published books. He is known for spinning magical and fantasy yarns grounded in history and favors epic tales revealed in books series. His flagship works are The Jade Owl Legacy Series, The Southern Swallow Series, The Farn Trilogy and the Nick Firestone Mysteries.
In many of Patterson's novels, he combines an imaginative touch with his life long devotion to China and its history, having earned an MA in Chinese History from Brooklyn College with further postgraduate work at Columbia University. This background is the cornerstone for The Jade Owl Legacy, The Southern Swallow Series and Master Wu's Bride, works drawing on Sung and Ming Dynasty History and Culture. History has played a major part in the coming of age tale Little Vin at Dreamland.
Patterson's military experience is reflected in such works as Surviving an American Gulag, The Road to Grafenwoehr and Pacific Crimson - Forget Me Not. His gay life-way and work in diversity is reflected in his novellas No Irish Need Apply, Cutting the Cheese, Bobby's Trace and Mother Asphodel; and in larger works - Turning Idolater and Look Away Silence.
A native of Brooklyn, NY, Patterson has spent over five decades as a soldier in the corporate world gaining insight into the human condition. He won the Year 2000 New Jersey Minority Achiever Award for his work in corporate diversity and is a proud U S Army Veteran of the Vietnam Era. Blending world travel experiences with a passion for story telling, Patterson's adventures continue as he works to permeate his reader's souls from an indelible wellspring.
His novel No Irish Need Apply was named Book of the Month for June 2009 by Booz Allen Hamilton's Diversity Reading Organization. His Novel The Jade Owl was a finalist for The 2009 Rainbow Awards.
He is the proud founder of Operation eBook Drop which, in its heyday, distributed over a million eBooks to deployed Armed Forces members from over 2,000 independent authors. He has guest blogged extensively and has appeared on the Bobby Ozuna - Soul of Humanity Show. He is also proud of his Cherokee heritage, knows seven languages (including Cherokee) and is a contributing member of the ACLU.
"The little voice from between the lines can become a lion's roar, one listener at a time."