The Kite Rider
The story, set in the ancient Chinese Song Dynasty (960 - 1279), concerns a boy named Haoyou Gou. At the beginning of the book, Gou Pei is showing Haoyou around the Chabi, Pei's ship, before he sets off somewhere around the world. Pei showed Haoyou where the anchor was lodged, where the sailors slept, how the ship was steered and where the cargo was kept. But the biggest excitement was yet to come, the captain of Chabi was going to 'test the wind', checking the omens for a prosperous voyage. Suddenly, the Chabi's First Mate took hold of Pei's jacket and pushed him over the edge of an open hatchway. It was no great fall, but Pei had landed awkwardly on top of sacks of rice. Haoyou decided that his mother should know about the fall. As he turned to run, he found his way blocked by the enormous stomachs of the merchants to judge the omens for themselves. The prosperity of the entire voyage depended on how well the 'wind-tester' behaved If it flew badly, they would use a rival ship. To test the wind, the sailors use a huge kite. The kite was being carried along the deck by seven or eight sailors. Attached to the kite was a man. A cloth had been wrapped around his head. As the man twisted, struggling to break free, the cloth slipped down and Haoyou caught a glimpse of the mans face. The man was Gou Pei, Haoyou's father. Haoyou tried to stop them but his voice was a whisper against the chatter of the merchants and the waves of the sea. Haoyou did not know whether to run to his mother or carry on trying to stop the sailors. Haoyou wanted to look away from the terribleness but he couldn't. Haoyou watched his father get pulled and thrashed around in the air. As Pei was pulled down, everyone was staring, to see if Pei was alive or not but Haoyou knew that his father was dead, for he had seen his father go up into the clouds with a soul and come back down without one. After all that, Qing'an, Pei's wife, is being forced, by Haoyou's great-uncle Bo, to marry Di Chou, the very man who sent her husband to death. To save her, Haoyou must follow his father into the sky, ride a kite among the clouds and the spirits of the dead. Haoyou is a kite-maker and knows better than most how to ride the winds and survive. Then, the Jade Circus offers Haoyou a chance to escape from his enemies and travel throughout the Empire, and maybe even perform before the great Kublai Khan himself. Can Haoyou break the ties of duty which bind him? Is the circus master leading Haoyou into even greater danger?
The novel's themes include luck and spirituality.
- "New adventures due for Peter Pan". Associated Press. 2 October 2006.