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Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart Review

Title: Bridge of Birds

Author: Barry Hughart

First published April 1, 1984

278 pages, Paperback

ISBN: 9780345321381 (ISBN10: 0345321383)

Rating: 4.28


In a village plagued by a mysterious illness, Number Ten Ox sought out a wiseman to save the children. He found Master Li Kao, a scholar with a character flaw.

Together, they embarked on a journey to find the Great Root of Power, the only cure for the illness. This quest led them to many unforgettable characters, incredible adventures, and strange coincidences that were not really coincidences.

They also found themselves tangled in an ancient crime that still disturbed the serenity of the heavens. This is a charming, witty, and wise tale that will linger in your mind long after you have read it.

The author claims that it is a novel of an ancient China that never existed, but it should have!

About the Author

Hughart attended Phillips Academy (Andover) for his education before moving on to Columbia University where he earned his bachelor’s degree in 1956. After graduating from Columbia, he joined the United States Air Force and served from 1956 to 1960.

During his time in the military, he became fascinated with China, which sparked his interest in creating a series set in “an Ancient China that never was.” Even after his military service, Hughart remained connected to China by working with TechTop, a military surplus company based in Asia, from 1960 to 1965. Following this, from 1965 to 1970, he managed the Lenox Hill Book Shop in New York City.

Until his passing in 2019 at the age of 85, Hughart resided in Tucson, Arizona.

Editoral Review

Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart: A Delightfully Captivating Adventure

Barry Hughart’s Bridge of Birds is a unique and engaging work of historical fiction. Combining elements of Chinese mythology, mystery, and comedy, Hughart has created a beautifully crafted and well-written novel that will appeal to readers of all ages.

Set in ancient China, the story follows the adventurous exploits of Number Ten Ox, a simple farmer, and his wise-cracking companion, Master Li, a slightly older man with a reputation for solving unusual problems. Together, the unlikely duo sets out on a mission to find a cure for a plague that has struck the children of their village.

Along the way, they encounter a cast of colorful characters, including a bevy of beautiful women, a drunken poet, and a dragon princess. The strength of Bridge of Birds lies in Hughart’s exceptional storytelling skills.

The novel is imbued with rich and vivid descriptions of its setting, characters, and events. The humor is clever and whimsical, with a definite wink-and-nod quality that is sure to make readers smile.

Despite its light-hearted tone, the book tackles profound themes throughout its narrative, such as the nature of good and evil, the power of myth, and the role of destiny in shaping individual lives. The incorporation of Chinese mythology and culture is particularly well-done, adding a level of depth and authenticity to the story.

Perhaps the only flaw of Bridge of Birds is that the pacing can be uneven at times. The book builds up slowly in the beginning, with a lot of exposition and background information provided before the plot really begins to unfold.

However, this is a minor quibble in the grand scheme of things, as the characters and story are engaging enough to keep readers interested throughout. Overall, Bridge of Birds is an enchanting and captivating book that will delight fans of both historical fiction and fantasy.

It receives a rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars from this reviewer, with the half-star docked only for the pacing issue. For anyone in search of a heartwarming and fun adventure, this book comes highly recommended.