I have completed reading the 5th book that I bought using Baucar 1 Malaysia (“Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them” by J.K. Rowling) during my Europe backpack tour and also the 6th book penned by my Penang Free School senior, Winston Lim entitled “Billy and The Cloud Fife”. Review for the former would have to wait – I am opting to write for the latter now.
Winston Lim is my super senior from my alma mater, Penang Free School! Argh, I have so many successful people in the alumni!! This also one of the reasons why I feel like I need to grab chances to improve my life and potential. I used to be a ‘play-safe-in-the-cocoon’ person. But now in my 30s, I am ready to take the world! Haha! Late bloomer, I know!
My first impression when I read “Billy and The Cloud Fife” was that this is an oriental version of Harry Potter – a reluctant mortal named Billy Lin who suddenly discovered the secret of magic in his family. Then, the protagonist was introduced to the magical world namely Wulin and soon befriended two junior goblins who were obviously more well-versed about magic than him – a stocky Ox goblin named Spikehorn and the seductive know-it-all Flower, the Snake Princess. Nevertheless as the plot started to unravel, I guess first impression does not always depict the correct picture.
Started to read this on the train from Amsterdam to Brussels. While sipping coffee on the train, such an intellectual European escapade. LOL! (,”)
I personally think that Chinese, particularly the Malaysian Chinese should be proud of this book as the book centers upon the cultures, legends and traditions. Winston embroidered the elements of Wuxia (Chinese martial arts) into the plot as well as the rich Chinese customs (addressing the elders in accordance to their ranks such as “Niang-Niang”, “Pai-Mu”; the love of food; the demure curtsy of a lady; etc). As a reader, you can’t help being bedazzled with the description of Snake Queen, Lady Pai as this ethereal most beautiful creature with her irresistible ‘Snake Glamour’. I guess the best description that fits this novel is that “Billy and The Cloud Fife” is more or less like Harry Potter meets Kungfu Panda! Haha! Nevertheless, it wouldn’t be fair to say that this novel is eclipsed by its Western benchmarks. This novel has its own strength and uniqueness.
One the most decent illustrations of Snake Queen I could find in the Internet! Haha! Snake is a sexy creature. It slithers its scaly and smooth skin, encircling the hard strong pole. Ooops! Haha! What an innuendo!
Basically, this novel chronicles around a mixed-parentage boy named Billy Lin in Penang Island, Malaysia who accidentally found a unique fife in his uncle’s cabinet (Curiosity Cabinet). Apparently, it is a ‘Curio’ and regarded as one of the most precious instrument in the magical world of Wulin. On top of that, Billy also found out that his whole family is actually the custodian of the Curiosity Cabinet and is highly respected in Wulin. Dramas and adventures unfolded when a Lizard Prince named Jasperback tried to kill Billy as he assumed he was the more worthy person to inherit the fife instead of Billy.
The ox prince. Sturdy and brawny and stocky, huh? (,”)
I feel that it is brilliant that Winston incorporated the wuxia element (Kungfu; The Inner Energy a.k.a. The Chi) in this novel because that could serve as a magnet to the wider spectrum of market as Chinese is universally-known for the Kungfu! With a few Hollywood movies released centralized on this martial art such as “Kungfu Panda” & “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, I believe that it is not impossible that one day, this novel could be adapted into silver screen! In addition, I also notice that perhaps by moulding Billy’s trait as this mixed-parentage boy, the character will exude some appeal to the western readers because we know that there are always this unspoken taboo when Asian products (films, songs, literature, etc) try to penetrate the western market. It is always expected that whether the protagonists are to be Western or the whole films are to be told from Western point of view! Nevertheless, that is not such a big deal.
I can’t help but imagining the curtsy displayed by Zhang Ziyi in “House of Flying Dagger” while I am reading description of Lady Pai’s grace while demonstrating her martial art skills!
On whole, I don’t think it is fair to compare this novel to Harry Potter. I am sure if some of Harry Potter fans read this, they will instantaneously make that inevitable comparison :-
- Snake Glamour = Veela’s Charm;
- Flower, the know-it-all Snake Princess = Hermione Granger;
- The protagonist’s trio group (Billy, Flower, Spikehorn) = Harry, Hermione, Ron
- Goblins, Fairies of Wulin = Elves, Gnomes of Diagon Alley, Hogwarts
; but I believe those are coincidence. As this is the first book of the trilogy, we are yet to know the identity of Scorpion Mask, the person who allegedly concocted the plan to kill Billy on the first place. I look forward for Billy’s adventures with Flower and Spikehorn!
OK, I admit I feigned this pose and asked Kakak to take photo of this! Haha! In the train; from Rome to Venice.