Compestine, Ying Chang and Vinson. Secrets of the Terra-Cotta Soldier.
7 January 2014, Amulet Books
E ARC from Netgalley.
Ming's father is the local director of antiquities in Red Star for the Maoist government in the 1970s, but the department may soon be closed down. While his father is in the city dealing with this, Ming has villagers show up at his door with a "treasure", demanding payment. Used to their tactics, Ming issues a receipt but keeps the broken soldier figurine. To his surprise, the head starts to talk to him, telling him he is a soldier named Shi in Emperor Qin's army. Ming manages to restore the figurine, so Shi is able to walk around and help Ming when the local government demands the figure back, and the two discover a plot to take artifacts from the Emperor Qin's tomb and then blow it up, blaming Ming's father, who is looked down upon by the Communist villagers since he is an intellectual. Shi tells Min his story of fighting with the emperor's army and the events that led to both the building of the tomb and also Shi's death. Will Ming be able to hold off the villagers from pillaging the tomb until his father returns to assess the treasure?
Strengths: Chang Compestine brings her own experiences growing up in Communist China to make this a compelling tale of politics AND archaeology. Her Revolution is Not a Dinner Party was brilliant, but this has the added attractive of action and adventure. Ming's struggles are well-portrayed, and the accompanying illustrations of the terra cotta figurines, as well as of other facets of life in China at the time, add a lot to the story. I will definitely be purchasing a copy of this, especially since Shi's story has so much description of war in it.
Weaknesses: I was a bit leery of the fantasy element at first, since a straight historical novel about this time would be great, but Chang Compestine's writing is so good that this technique actually worked. We got to hear about the time of the Great Wall being built from Shi, an eye witness, and I was completely willing to suspend all disbelief. As is usual, the pictures loaded VERY slowly on the E ARC version, which is frustrating.