Cover Image: Chengli and the Silk Road Caravan

Chengli and the Silk Road Caravan

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Chengli and the Silk Road is a work of historical fiction set in seventh century China. Chengli is a young teen who can hear a wind that no one else can even feel. While working for a merchant in a city, he begins to feel the urge to learn about his missing father and to follow the wind he hears. He’s given part of a jade pendant that belonged to his father and joins a caravan looking for answers. What sort of adventures will he have during his travels? Will he learn anything about his father?

This was an amazing work of historical fiction for young adults. The author did a fantastic job describing the setting and the atmosphere of the work. It was immersive and brought a great level of depth to the book. Fascinating cultural lore was also included that added depth. For example, fog rolling off the mountains was explained as a demon who pushed the clouds low over the land. Unique cultural views like this were present throughout the work, adding to its immersiveness.

The author also did an excellent job at writing relatable and enjoyable characters. The protagonist and most of the secondary characters were young teens, and the author managed to give them the voices of teens while still making them relatable to older audiences. While this book is geared towards a younger audience, I found it enjoyable as an older reader. The style was simple but not overly so.

The only thing I found to dislike about this work was that there were several errors throughout. While they were not large enough to detract from my enjoyment of the work overall, the book could use another round of editing.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in non-western historical fiction. This work is suitable for young adult readers as well.

I received a complimentary copy of this work through NetGalley. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.
Was this review helpful?
I really liked this book. Easy reading and enriched with culture and history, this book took you right into ancient China. With princesses, master plans, and the search of one’s personal history- you can’t want more. Was happy to read this on NetGalley and also happy to recommend it!
Was this review helpful?
A book suitable for elementary or middle school readers. I did not finish the book, but the tone and characterization was interesting. The conflict was not set early enough in the plot to engage me as an adult reader.
Was this review helpful?
Chengli and the Silk Road Caravan delivers an engaging adventure with a likable hero. It offers a glimpse into the Silk Road and life as a peasant in Imperial China without stressing the historical aspects. We learn that Chengli was orphaned and has worked since he was on his own.  He's learned to care for animals and once he is big enough, he chooses to join a caravan on the Silk Road.  Their group includes a princess and this leads to all sorts of adventures and difficulties for Chengli. Fortunately, he is kindhearted and high spirited and Chengli and the Silk Road Caravan is a delight!
Was this review helpful?
Chengli and the Silk Caravan is a historical fiction filled with detail and information about a time and place little explored in middle grade books. While the story is exciting and is high stakes adventure, the novel has a quiet and slow start. I personally enjoyed slowly being introduced to the characters, setting, and society as there is important information packed into those pages and the the pace of caravan life is often meandering. Stick with the story. The pace builds. Chengli is a hero that readers will love.
Was this review helpful?
The were multiple problems with this novel which is why I can't commend it as a worthy read. The basic story sounded quite engrossing: Chengli Chau is a 13-year-old orphan who lives in Changan, in seventh century China. He feels a call to join a caravan traveling the old silk road across the desert from one city to another where he might discover what happened to his father (which he never really does), and he begins learning the ropes - literally, since one of his duties is making sure packs are tied securely on camels.

During the course of the novel he encounters problems, hardship, thievery, a bandit raid, and a kidnapped Chinese princess. And that was one of the problems with this relatively short (~200 pages) story: there was far too much going on! Naturally, no one wants to read a tedious documentary about an uneventful caravan journey even though, undoubtedly, most of them had little out of the ordinary happen to them from one trip to the next. But on this journey, it was like everything, including the kitchen sink (if they had such a thing back then!) was thrown at this poor boy, and his life on this trip was one long torturous trial. It became tedious to read of these endless miseries with no leavening whatsoever in between.

Naturally an author wants to spice-up a story, but the trip itself would have been adventure enough without all the added drama. It felt like too much - like overkill and as such felt unnatural - not like an organic story. The boy was constantly abused and threatened with having his head cut-off maybe a half-dozen times. It felt unnatural.

The other side of this coin is that the book description promises us that we can "experience the sights, sounds, and smells of this fabled desert route," but we really don't get a whole heck of a lot of that. There was a lot that could have been learned here of history, but all we did learn was of hardship. There was a lot more to discover, but we were not allowed the opportunity: such as of the kinds of things that were transported, the kinds of people who made up the caravan, the joys some must have felt, traveling and pursuing their calling.

But we really got none of that, and really, no smells! Sights, yes, sounds, some, but that was about it. I got no real sense of what it was like to travel and live in the desert. There was little to nothing that conveyed the beauty of the dunes, the heat of the day, the cold of the night, the mirages. There wasn't a word about desert wildlife or the night sky, or of navigating the endless sand. It felt barren and empty, more like a sketch of a story than a real story.

The description told us that Chengli was called to the desert, but once he began the journey we got none of that. His desert bond disappeared and we heard virtually nothing of it after that. He exhibited no calling whatsoever; no joy of the desert or of the sand. We got no feelings that he might have had of the desert wind in his hair or the spices it carried assaulting his nostrils. It fell completely flat because of the endless trials and pains he endured. There really was no joy in this story.

On top of all this, the book was poorly put together, too. There is no chaptering. It's one, long, continuous, 200 page story! One chapter! No illustrations. And so we can jump several days or more from one paragraph to the next which makes the story extremely choppy, and it robs us of any real sense of a long passage of time. As well as all that, we get false promises! We get, for example, at one point, a promise of the giant waterwheels, at an upcoming city, and then those water wheels are never mentioned again. The book was seriously in need of a competent book editor.

This had the potential to be a fun and engaging story for young kids, but for all the reasons I mentioned it was not and I can't commend it as a worthy read. Young kids deserve better than this.
Was this review helpful?
This is another book that sadly I couldn’t get into, but it’s totally an “it’s not you, it’s me” thing. Even though I read some reviews that described it as fast-paced, I didn’t think it was at all. Sure, we could think that because it’s a short book, but it still was slow and very descriptive, which is not bad per se, but it’s not what I’m currently into.
Was this review helpful?
This book was certainly interesting, though it's likely not meant for everyone. It follows servant boy Chengli's quest for his father, and in the process, takes us through the routes of Ancient China's caravans. All Chengli knows is that he was born in the desert, and when his mother fell ill, she came to the great city of Chang'an. All she left behind was a mysterious half jade, and it is with this, Chengli must take his journey. Along the way, he finds himself recruited into a caravan with an insufferable princess, seeing the sights and wonders of Ancient China along the way, threatened to keep silent about thievery, and finally, be the determined savior in a kidnapping attempt. It was an interesting book, but mostly "okay" overall, though I do have to admire how persistent Chengli is throughout it all.
Was this review helpful?
I loved the way you learn about the Silk Road, such an important era in history, in a way that is so friendly and imaginative. You learn about it from the perspective of a kid, and it is so fun and yet so interesting too.
Was this review helpful?
We are big fans of historical fiction in our family. We love using it as a door for learning more about a particular moment in history. In this case, Chengli and the Silk Road Caravan is a fantastic jumping-off point for a unit on the Silk Road and the Tang Dynasty. The story is entertaining and educational and my elementary and middle school-aged children both enjoyed it a lot.
Was this review helpful?
First of all this is so beautifully described, the way the author has woven each and every word into such a beautiful story.
The heart-wrenching way in which Chengli holds on to the pieces of his father's life, is just mesmerizing........
His journey through the desert is fun, and quite enjoyable!
The most memorable part has to be the princess' transformation.
Was this review helpful?
This was an interesting book and I liked the story of how Chengli found out who his father was and his endeavors with the princess. It is a great book for those ages 8-11.
Was this review helpful?
A very entertaining chapter book full of action. Advanced readers, middle graders, and some high schoolers will enjoy this adventurous tale of Chengli’s caravan journey to find his father. I was even captivated by his exploits, good and bad.
Was this review helpful?
This is the first story I have come across about the Silk Road. I found the descriptions of the land and people quite interesting, and there was just enough adventure to keep me reading. The chnages that took place in both Chengli and the princess were quite good, too—it was fun to finally learn, at the end of the book, the truth behind Chengli's past.
I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley, and these are my honest thoughts about it.
Was this review helpful?
This book was a great adventure. I truly enjoyed every part of it. The book was easy to read and was accurate historical fiction. The book is fast-paced and filled with friendship and beautiful scenery.
Was this review helpful?
This was an interesting children’s read. I love diverse books. I liked that this story of Chengli, a young orphan, tell us about a world most of us have never know. The Silk Road, a caravan, camels, nomads, traders, An adventure of finding oneself and the root of family. It is vividly descriptive. You feel like you are right along for this journey. This is a wonderful book for those who want to expand their children’s awareness of other cultures and history. I think it would be fantastic for a classroom read. 
Thank you NetGalley for allowing me to read this book in exchange for my honest opinion
Was this review helpful?
I received the arc copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This is a fantastic read, a great introduction to kids into the world of history and the Silk Road, I highly  recommend it if you like road trips and adventure. 
The story is quite slow at first as it is laying down the setting and the characters, it pick ups it's pace along with the caravan where Changli is riding with,  and then you just can't stop reading  , this is such a ride, it really makes you feel you are in the desert with a caravan. 
I didn't like much the ending because thought I felt the story was realistic enough the sudden compasión from people just didn't quite fit the rest of the book, but I get it's made for children and pre-teens so I understand the reasoning behind the outcome.
Was this review helpful?
I enjoyed the story but I wish it had either been shorter or moved quicker. It touches in some important themes, and exposes younger readers to a time and culture they may be unfamiliar with. Good read overall.
Was this review helpful?
Without a plan, a thirteen-year-old Chengli joins a silk road caravan journey in search of his father's 'legacy'. In the middle of the way, when a princess is in danger, without a plan, he takes on an unknowing journey to save her.

Intended for middle grade readers, this book is a quite a page turner and easy to follow. Set in a silk road rute, this book quite fulfill my curiosity about the rute. Chengli is a likeable character. The progress of the plot is rather slow, but it doesn't lessen the enjoyment of reading. It is also satisfying that, in the end, the main characters get what's right for them.

If you like a short middle grade read with the touch of historical setting, this book is for you.

I voluntarily read and review a copy of this book in accordance with the terms of Netgalley.
Was this review helpful?
This book gets a little boring about 3/4ths of the way through, but it's short enough that I was able to push forward and finish. It's a nice story for younger readers, and even as an adult I enjoyed the overall atmosphere of this book from the very beginning.
Was this review helpful?