Before the soldiers leave, young Yishan arrives at the hut and demands they not take Amah, but the Emperor only laughs. Tossing him aside, he tells Yishan that he can have her back when he brings the Tiger Emperor a Luminous Stone That Lights The Night. As they leave, the soldiers set fire to the little hut Pinmei and Amah lived in.
Pinmei and Yishan decide to go rescue Amah and set out on a quest to find a Luminous Stone That Lights The Night, traveling from their home on the Never-Ending Mountain through deep snows in what seems to be a never ending winter to the City of Bright Moonlight. Along the way they are given much help in exchange for one of Amah's story, which Pinmei knows by heart.
Pinmei and Yishan are not in the City of Bright Moonlight long before they must journey to the Crystal Palace at the bottom of the sea to seek the help of the Sea King and then back to the Capital City to try to get Amah released from the Tiger Emperor's dungeon. Along the way, Pinmei begins to suspect that Yishan is hiding something from her as his demeanor begins to change to a more confident person when dealing with all the obstacles they meet on the quest to rescue Amah. Her suspicions aren't without foundation, providing one of the big surprises at the end of the story.
Besides Pinmei and Yishan's journey, there are parallel chapters of Amah in a dungeon with a fellow prisoner, a stonecutter, as well as the plight of the entrapped Black Tortoise of Winter, both adding to the mystery and enchantment of Pinmei's adventure. At the heart of this cleverly woven tale is the Tiger Emperor's desire for invincibility but also for immortality and he is willing to do anything to achieve that. But why did the Tiger Emperor kidnap Amah, the Storyteller? Why did he ask for a Luminous Stone That Lights The Night? And why can't the Black Tortoise move on so that winter can end? How can they help the Emperor achieve what he wants?
The answers to these questions can be found in the stories that Pinmei and Amah tell and which are strategically interspersed throughout the book (of course, I didn't realize the strategic part on my first reading of When the Sea Turned To Silver). Though rooted in traditional Chinese folktales, Grace Lin has given them her own spin to support the story of Pinmei, Amah, Yishan and the selfish Tiger Emperor.
I was really looking forward to reading When the Sea Turned To Silver and I wasn't disappointed. It is an adventure with lots of twists and turns, where nothing is as it seems and there are a few surprises along the way The tales fit smoothly and relevantly into the framing story, so the reader doesn't experience any disjunction or lose track of Pinmei and Yishan journeys.
When the Sea Turned To Sliver is the third companion in the trilogy that so far includes When the Mountain Meets the Moon and Starry River of the Sky but you don't need to have read these two previous tales to enjoy this third one. Although there are references to the past narratives, this one does stand alone.
I found the writing to be clear and clean, but not quite as lyrical or poetic as Lin's two previous novels. In fact, sometimes I thought Yishan sounded a little colloquial. None of this takes away from the loveliness of the basic story, but I was surprised by it.
This illustration is one of my personal favorites. I love the way Lin frames her illustrations like her stories with what appears to be her version of traditional Chinese designs that fit her story. You can see that Lin really puts a lot of care and thought into what she creates. In this first full color illustration in the story, you can almost feel the bitter cold of the winter that is going on and on, and the isolation in which Pinmei, Amah and Yishan live (Yishan lives alone in a different hut since his Aunty Meiya died).
When the Sea Turned To Silver is a eminently readable, spellbinding tale that is sure to please fans of Grace Lin, young readers who enjoy good fantasy, and everyone who likes to read.
This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was purchased to send to my Kiddo, but I read it first.
Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is a weekly event hosted by Shannon Messenger at Book Ramblings, and Plenty of Shenanigans