Jay Li should be in Chicago, finishing high school and working at his family's restaurant. Instead, as a born member of the Yellow Dragon Clan-part human, part dragon, like his grandmother-he is on a quest even he does not understand. His journey takes him to Santo del Vado Viejo in the Arizona desert, a town overrun by gangs, haunted by members of other animal clans, perfumed by delicious food, and set to the beat of Malo Malo, a barrio rock band whose female lead guitarist captures Jay's heart. He must face a series of dangerous, otherworldly-and very human-challenges to become the man, and dragon, he is meant to be. This is Charles de Lint at his best!
Set in the American Southwest, de Lint's latest successfully blends Chinese and Mexican legends. Jay Li seems like a normal kid from Chicago, but he has a painful secret. At age 11 the image of a dragon suddenly appeared on his back and his grandmother Paupau, the family matriarch ("She's kind of like Marlon Brando in The Godfather"), revealed to him that they were both dragons. Now, however, he has dropped out of school and, with Paupau's encouragement, taken a bus across the country to the town of Santo del Vado Viejo. There he is pursued by gang members who work for the mysterious and possibly supernatural gang lord, El Tigre; Jay must make peace with the local otherworldly beings, master his powers, and defeat El Tigre. Although this contemporary fantasy is a bit talky (perhaps exacerbated by the journal Jay begins partway into the novel, through which he occasionally adds his first-person perspective on events), de Lint (Dingo) is a dependable performer, and this multicultural fusion of a gritty, modern setting with mythological elements should find fans. Ages 12 up.
Wonderful twists and turns. Leaves you hungry for more. But yet still satisfied. I have yet to read a mediocre book from de Lint. He really draws you into the world he is writing about. I hope his muse is active for many more years!
Fascinating Even Without the Dragons
Fast paced, engrossing and well written, The Painted Boy contains the perfect ingredients to make it a best seller. Charles de Lint weaves a world of shape shifters and magic without over complicating explanations or leaving a reader feeling lost. Jay Li, dragon in training, exemplifies what it's like to try to find your place in the world-even without a cryptic Chinese grandmother- be it ordinary or magical. The characters are memorable, endearing and relatable from rock goddess, Anna, to barrio sweet heart Rosalie. Nothing is as it seems in The Painted Boy and the plot twists keep the reader on their toes. I loved how Charles de Lint proved through the actions of his characters that you don't have to be a mighty dragon to be a hero- but it does help ;P. The best teen book I've read all year!