Why I read them: A few weeks ago I was on a long-ish drive, and I was thinking the way I do. There's this billboard near my house that had a Spanner ad on it for a while, and in the ad the model was wearing a leopard-spotted skirt. The background was white, with black rosettes with blue in the middle. I was thinking of stealing the colourway for "Leopard print cardi" from Knit.1 Fall 2007. So then I was thinking, it needed a better name. I chose "water leopard". And a story idea was born.
At around the same time, one of my coworkers told a couple of stories about his life when he was a little kid in Vietnam. It blew me away that someone who had been a boat person was now leading a normal middle-class life... I guess I had a failure of imagination and somehow thought that once a boat person, always a boat person. My bad. So the water leopard story had to take place in that sort of place. To get a feel, I got some library books.
Bookmark: Library receipts ("Children of the Dragon" was pretty short and aimed at a younger audience, so I read it in a sitting).
Tastes like chicken: One thing that surprised me was the story of the Spiral Palace, because it made me think of Spiral Castle in "The Book of Three", and so much other Celtic mythology.
Things I liked: Both books had the story of why there are monsoons, and that was especially neat, because I got to read the second one with a certain amount of acculturation to the tale. When that happens, it makes me happy.
There were tragic endings, which I don't associate so much with western/European fairy tales, at least the Disney-fied ones I was brought up with. There were divided loyalties that could not be reconciled, and, as mentioned in the introduction to "the Dragon Prince", rather than good-vs-evil, more of a progression (the Magic Gate, where a swordsman leaves his master all innocent, and doesn't realize as he becomes one of the demons he's fighting against, until he tries to go back to his master).
Not so Much: In "The Dragon Prince" especially, some of the stories seemed to have a jarring structure. The story would start at a moment of tension, and then wander backwards, and then backwards again to explain how everyone had gotten there, and then skip forward. I wonder if Vietnamese has different tenses than English and this was a failure of translation, or if that's a natural story structure for their culture.
I'd love to see some of these stories fleshed out, the way those Terry Windham-driven series did, into novels.
Lesson: Monsoons, more rivers than roads, different trees, different fruit, how to grow rice...