Thirteen Orphans: Breaking the Wall by Jane Lindskold

On summer vacation from college, Brenda Morris travels with her father Geharis to California to meet one of his old friends, Albert Yu.  Albert is missing when they arrive though and despite evidence of a struggle, her father calls Pearl, another friend, rather than the police.  Geharis and Auntie Pearl then begin to share details of an astonishing tale.  Their ancestors are from The Lands Born from Smoke and Sacrifice; decades ago an emperor and his 12 advisors were exiled and most of their descendants have now made their way to the U.S.  Each of the original 13 was a powerful magician and  embedded some of  his/her magic in specially-made mahjong sets.  As the generations have passed, some have taken more care to share the knowledge with their heirs than others.  Brenda and the other young heirs must catch on quickly though:  rivals from The Lands Born from Smoke and Sacrifice have come looking for them.

Intriguing premise:  it kept me reading even when I became somewhat bored with the lengthy explanations of the Chinese zodiac, the game of mahjong, the history of TLBfSaS etc.  Explanations were necessary but a lot of the information seemed repetitious and dry:  rather than being pulled into the story, I was always aware that I was reading a story.   With the exceptions of Flying Claw, Righteous Drum and Nissa, I also didn’t connect with any of the characters.  For the most part, I think this lack of connection with the others was due to the fact that I felt I was told more about them than I was shown.  I found Brenda more annoying than most, mainly because her crush seemed juvenile for her age/circumstances but also because other characters frequently commented on how clever she was.  I’m a smart girl—I don’t need to be told if a character is clever or not (and yes, I have a bit of an obstinate streak).  *Incidentally, I didn’t think she deserved accolades for her observations regarding the current state of TLBfSaS; I came to the same conclusions sooner than she did and I’m still foggy on the whole thing myself.

Will I read the next book in the series?  I’m undecided.  I’m curious to see how this plays out; the premise is intriguing.  I’m just not sure that I’m up to slogging through more of everything I didn’t like in order to find out what happens.

*As I don’t know the first thing about Mahjong, I found the photos in this article helpful.

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