Tomb of Truth by Courtney Anz
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (364 Pages)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 2.5 stars
Review by: Myrtle
“It can grant life to someone in great need, Or power to someone of great greed. I trust you to protect it.” If your “crazy” grandfather left behind a gorgeous treasure with that kind of warning, how far would you go to protect it? Would you abandon your family? Forever? Exciting for all ages, “Tomb of Truth” is the first in an adventure fantasy series by Courtney Anz. Full of ancient myths that come alive in our modern day, readers will speed around the world with Marina and her side-kick brilliant younger sister Iris, as they unlock the secrets to their family’s unusual past.
There is no greater faith in a grandfather’s legacy than a granddaughter with unending belief, even when Grandfather’s stories are so fantastical, one can’t help but wonder if his dragons could possibly be real!
Marina is in middle school. She is smart. She is adept at the art of fencing. And she’s just learned that her parents are making her miss the National Fencing Tournament for a trip to China … a country that banned her grandfather after accusing him of crimes in his search for the secret to Emperor Qin’s dynasty.
When the story begins, we meet Marina and her seven-year-old neighbor Jake, who has difficult medical issues. We learn a lot about Jake and we feel Marina’s compassion and friendship toward him. Soon, we meet Marina’s younger sister, Iris, who is a technological whiz. With Iris’s “spyphone,” we are quickly involved in the girl’s eavesdropping escapade on their parent’s private conversation where they overhear their mother and father’s plan to whisk them away to China for their mother’s new job.
Before leaving for China, Marina steals a valuable artifact from her grandfather’s secret stash left to her mother, and then takes his journal without permission after giving the Bestiary to neighbor Jake.
We know the main character Marina is in middle school, but no other description of her is given in the entire first chapter. We do not know her actual age, her hair color, her eye color, or her clothing. We know more about Jake, her seven-year-old neighbor than we do about Marina. In Chapter Two, Marina’s younger sister, Iris, is described, but other than to tell us Marina has “auburn hair” and is “skinny,” readers are not told anything else about her appearance. Without description, it made it difficult for me to connect with Marina.
The adventure includes Chinese customs, culture, and most importantly, stories of the great Terracotta Warriors, which is what drew me into the story in the first place. The Terracotta Warriors were discovered decades ago when workers digging a well outside the city of Xi’an, China, struck upon one of the greatest archaeological discoveries ever made: thousands of life-size clay soldiers poised for battle. Unfortunately, the story took off on a tangent of China’s teenage culture, Chinese poverty and gangs, and corrupt Chinese officials rather than focusing on the amazing opportunity to tell the story of this incredible historical discovery.
This story suffered from the “telling vs. showing” syndrome. At one point, the sights, sounds, and smells of Shanghai were described to the reader even before Marina and her family ever landed in the city. And when descriptions were provided, “Soon, the plane plummeted back down into soupy smog” the wording made the actual event confusing, unless the plane dropped straight down at a high rate of speed. “Plummeted” might not have been the best word choice. This happened throughout the book. This book had many errors overall which would have been easily correctable prior to publication with a proofreader and an editor. The misuse of homonyms, among other errors, was greatly disappointing: taught instead of taut, through instead of threw, etc., and also light instead of lit, and out instead of our. There were also many poorly worded sentences, such as, “Their mother threw up his hands.” At one point the main character, Marina, was referred to as Marian. I spent at least a minute trying to figure out who “Marian” was in the story.
However, I finished this book because of its grand historical scheme. The Terracotta Warriors are worthy of introduction into the middle grade or young adult genre. And I believe the factual data given in this story deserves recognition, even if the story itself did not give justice to its magnificence.
Oh, and the dragon? Yes, the story has given it life. Perhaps making it more worthy than the Terracotta Warriors themselves.
If you have an interest in China, or the Terracotta Army, this story is unique enough to warrant attention.