Rita Wong and the Jade Mask is a curious story. It has this whimsical feel that has whispers from a wide range of modern MG influences, of Pages & Co, Podkin and Stubbs and Dragon Detective meets with portal magic, tumbling into a strange magical world like The Midnight Hour trilogy.
It’s very different from most MG I’ve read, and offers older tweens and young teens a glimpse into post-modern literature from the safety of MG.
Rita Wong has relocated back to England after years in Hong Kong, now in a dreary wintery Morecambe, when a cafe waitress gifts her a green ring with curious symbols she begins an adventure as she follows an anthropomorphic down on his luck dragon detective into an alternate realm Neon City.
We follow a series of strange occurrences that leads Lester and Rita to investigate and form a strong relationship and get, almost, to the centre of the problem.
The city’s tropical weather system was cruel to visitors and not forgiving to its citizens. It certainly took some getting used to, as did the labyrinth of streets.
The plot unravels in these short little tableaus. Dreamlike stream of consciousness style of writing, at first disorienting then hypnotic with abstract moments of zen-like ‘flow’ and quiet stillness of mindful observation.
These series of seemingly separate vignettes converge upon an intertwined plot and would appeal to those who think their children would enjoy old film-noir movies, or the sightly more modern interpretations through Tarantino in Pulp Fiction and his work with Rodriguez and Frank Miller in Sin City (both of course not appropriate for children!!), but if you thought that the storytelling style with overlaying plots, thematic repeats & iconography would click, then this is a great primer for later enjoyment of modern literary fiction and noir crime thrillers.
He followed a dark blue path at the rear of the club. It led him through a crimson orchard. The apples there were covered with a sheen from the night’s chill.
The tale is steeped in Mark’s experience of the Far East, with references to red throughout, lucky 8, and events happening in Korea, Singapore along with names and artefacts, we have a fully realised world with the experience of one foot in the rich past of heritage and a foot in the futuristic ‘Neon’ urban world.
Whilst it may be a curious experience at first, it’s a shift of change and perspective for readers wanting something different; we like Rita are confused then charmed by this world beyond the mundane, and the short snappy chapters keep the pace throughout to keep you thinking, one more chapter.
Please take the time to check out the other stops on the tour.
Rita Wong and the Jade Mask- Mark Jones with illustrations by Seamus Jennings is published by Everything With Words