In the valley of Sorrows, a monk is brutally murdered for a worthless manuscript, and the abbot of the humble monastery calls upon Master Li and Number Ten Ox to investigate the seemingly senseless killing The most likely suspect is the infamous Laughing Prince, founder of the valley, whose murderous frenzies have made him a legend But even Master Li must concede that the prince has a pretty good alibi he s been dead for than seven hundred yearsUndaunted, Master Li and Number Ten Ox begin their search for the Laughing Prince Together they roam a mystical countryside populated by demons, ghosts, murderers, and mad kings to the very gates of heaven itself and what they find there is even stranger still


10 thoughts on “The Story of the Stone

  1. carol. carol. says:

    In a review of Hell Is Empty, I noted a story told by Virgil White Buffalo, that ended with Walt Longmire asking,And the moral of the story is He raised an eyebrow, and it was as if the dent in his forehead was looking to dig deeper What is it with you white people and morals Maybe it s just a story about what happened And that is the essence of Master Li stories They are old myths, storytelling at the knee of a master the advanced version of What Happened that Time on the Mountain M In a review of Hell Is Empty, I noted a story told by Virgil White Buffalo, that ended with Walt Longmire asking,And the moral of the story is He raised an eyebrow, and it was as if the dent in his forehead was looking to dig deeper What is it with you white people and morals Maybe it s just a story about what happened And that is the essence of Master Li stories They are old myths, storytelling at the knee of a master the advanced version of What Happened that Time on the Mountain Morals may be enforced, lessons learned, principles illustrated, but those are all secondary or even tertiary goals First and foremost is the work of a story to entertain But how can I tell The Story of the Stone I wailed In the first place I don t understand where it begins and in the second place I m not sure it has an ending and in the third place, even if I understood the ending it wouldn t do me any good because I don t understand the beginning in the first place He gazed at me in silence Then he said, My boy, stay away from sentences like that They tend to produce pimples and permanent facial tics I may be in the minority, but I found The Story of the Stone even better than its predecessor, Bridge of Birds A Novel of an Ancient China That Never Was While Bridge was a rollicking adventure through the countryside, Stone is a mystery, one that needs to be solved the old, old, old fashioned way by doing all of it yourself, including the autopsies My boy, we re going to perform the most delightful autopsy in history and dream journeys through the Hells.It begins in their home, with Number Ten Ox worrying about Master Li, He never spoke to me about it, but he was old, old almost beyond belief, and I think he was afraid he d drop dead before something interesting turned up The something interesting turns out to be the abbot of a monastery in the Valley of Sorrows who brings a mystery A monk has been murdered and a forgery of an an ancient stolen manuscript found in his hands Even worse, the Laughing Prince, who has been dead for seven hundred and fifty years, seems to be responsible Master Li is certain there is a rational explanation, so he and Ox set off for the Valley, just in time for the Feast of the Hungry Ghosts and a re appearance of the horror Solving the mystery of the murdered monk will mean learning about the Laughing Prince, meeting Prince Liu Pao, his current living descendent, discovering the Laughing tomb, visiting the capital city and the Captain of Prostitutes, and journeying to a barbarian kingdom find a talented song master That s not all, mind you, but I don t want to give the impression that solving the mystery means any less of a scope of adventure than Bridge, just that the adventures arefocused One Eyed Wong and his beloved wife, Fat Fu, have worked very hard to earn the reputation of running the worse wineshop in all of China The notoriety gives them a clientele that is the envy of the empire Characters are delightful, from Master Li and his slight flaw, to the eternally innocent Ox, to two new companions, Moon Boy and Grief of Dawn Moon Boy has the ability to seduce anyone he meets male or female providing the opportunity for a nudge nudge wink wink that adds some silly fun to the story In the wrong hands, this kind of characterization could edge into simple caricature, but Hughbart does a perfect job of rounding out each character, respecting their eccentricities, and providing justifications for their traits If it was a coincidental collapse of a tunnel and the release of old acids, as I suggested to the prince, it s the kind of coincidence that deserves priests, prayers, and an elaborate theology The writing is clever, with bits of humor scattered through, partly due to the word play and partly moments of sheer fun there s a scheme to obtain tracings of sacred stones that s laugh out loud There s awe at the mysteries of the universe Surprisingly, there are some horror elements, which I should have expected since the Laughing Prince has been dead for seven hundred and fifty years Li Kao, you wouldn t do that, would you he said pleadingly He s only a boy And a delightful one, so I m told, Master Li said warmly A trifle wild, perhaps, but that s the way of the young, the toad said You have to allow for a little excess in boyish ambition Youth will be served, Master Li said sententiously Sometimes after having been stuffed with truffles and basted in bean curd sauce, he added.These stories may not work for everyone, but I think they should work well for people that love the art of storytelling, that grew up on mythology and fairy tales, and have the patience for apparent detours that develop into the path of solution I m reminded of Valente s The Orphan Tales, Goldberg s The Princess Bride, Williams Inspector Chen series, and just about every myth I ve ever read This is an excellent group of books, and I ll be looking to find them in hardcover for my collection.My blog post has a link to the Monty Python sketch referencedhttps clsiewert.wordpress.com 2015


  2. Heidi The Reader Heidi The Reader says:

    Ox, he said, the writing of your memoirs is doing wonders for your calligraphy, but I must question the content Why do you choose the rare cases in which matters run melodramatically amok I heroically refrained from saying, They always do Master Li and Number Ten Ox are at it again.There s an unexplained murder, puzzling fragment of a poorly finished forgery, and nature herself is leaving clues behind with whole swathes of plants dying in a strange patternI wasn t sure that any autopsyOx, he said, the writing of your memoirs is doing wonders for your calligraphy, but I must question the content Why do you choose the rare cases in which matters run melodramatically amok I heroically refrained from saying, They always do Master Li and Number Ten Ox are at it again.There s an unexplained murder, puzzling fragment of a poorly finished forgery, and nature herself is leaving clues behind with whole swathes of plants dying in a strange patternI wasn t sure that any autopsy could be delightful, but I didn t care The old fire had returned to Master Li s eyes, and I felt like a warhorse who was being called back into battle In the course of solving the mystery, Li and Ox encounter ghosts, hidden torture chambers, and make a journey down to the depths of hell It is one of the finest homages to Dante s Inferno that I ve ever had the pleasure to readOx, what do you smell in the air he asked Wet earth, pine needles, pork fat, donkey manure, and perfume from Mother Ho s House of Joy, I said Wrong You smell destiny, Master Li said happily.And, as usual, readers get to enjoy the sometimes hilarious, and always entertaining, interplay between a brilliant scholar and his surprisingly strong sidekick.Recommended for readers who enjoy a blend of fantasy, mystery and historical fiction


  3. Anoop Pai B Anoop Pai B says:

    Ah Another adventure down with the eccentric Master Li, a genuis but with a slight flaw in his character and his former client now accomplice Number Ten Ox,as they set forth to solve a murder that seems to have been committed by a prince who has been dead for over seven hundred years What seems like a supernatural story, which could be laughing ridiculously at the intellect of the reader for believing the premise, ends up being nothing short of a Conan Doyle masterpiece or a Agatha Christie gem Ah Another adventure down with the eccentric Master Li, a genuis but with a slight flaw in his character and his former client now accomplice Number Ten Ox,as they set forth to solve a murder that seems to have been committed by a prince who has been dead for over seven hundred years What seems like a supernatural story, which could be laughing ridiculously at the intellect of the reader for believing the premise, ends up being nothing short of a Conan Doyle masterpiece or a Agatha Christie gem Barry Hughart, no doubt, is a brilliant writer who knows how to glue together a story using the right ingredients to create a tale, so engrossing that you wish for it to be true I did Its just too sad that he didn t get the necessary support that would have otherwise garnered him a reputation muchglorious than what it is now.But I must admit, Story of the Stone is not as refreshingly awesome as Bridge of Birds, the predecessor to this one While that had a host of marvellous characters and loads of ancient tales, this book isto the point like an answer in a examination


  4. Shanon Shanon says:

    I hate to do this, I really do I loved Bridge of Birds A Novel of an Ancient China That Never Was but I just can t get into this one I m reading an ebook and am 72% done and just don t care what happens I ve been trying to finish this book for a month now and just can t force myself to sit down and read I ve learned that I need character growth and development instead of just a story I was hoping to learnabout Number 10 Ox Master Li in this book but while they are the main character I hate to do this, I really do I loved Bridge of Birds A Novel of an Ancient China That Never Was but I just can t get into this one I m reading an ebook and am 72% done and just don t care what happens I ve been trying to finish this book for a month now and just can t force myself to sit down and read I ve learned that I need character growth and development instead of just a story I was hoping to learnabout Number 10 Ox Master Li in this book but while they are the main characters you learn nothingabout them, their relationship, their past NOTHING It s a story for a stories sake and I guess I ve learned the difference in character driven plot driven novels I like character driven.There is so much mythology and history without the story behind it that I did t understand the significance of events until it is spelled out in it s entirety later on Even then it holds no significance TO ME For example SLIGHT SPOILERS but I m really not sure how much of a spoiler since I didn t finish Grief of Dawn hallucenates about a trip to the market Master Li questions her about it and getsanddetails but the reader has NO IDEA why It wasn t until much later in the book that Master Li explains that her hallucenated trip to the market couldn t have taken place any sooner than 700 years ago and that she was accurate enough in her descriptions of the people and time that she must have lived a life back then and is having memories from her previous life surface An annoying aspect of this revelation is that in the explination THE ENTIRE conversation hallucenation is repeated word for word It wasn t much after two completely repeated converstations that I had to put the book down


  5. Jamie Jamie says:

    This is a wonderfully rich, imaginative fantasy mystery adventure told as a sort of epic fairy tale in ancient China The setting is magical, and the plot quite compelling and filled with all kinds of mystical nooks and crannies, however this didn t stack up quite as well for me as the author s previously published Bridge of Birds The story is quite dialogue heavy, and it just felt kind of flat and lacking in any real nuance or depth to me, as did much of the humor I enjoyed Bridge of Birds mo This is a wonderfully rich, imaginative fantasy mystery adventure told as a sort of epic fairy tale in ancient China The setting is magical, and the plot quite compelling and filled with all kinds of mystical nooks and crannies, however this didn t stack up quite as well for me as the author s previously published Bridge of Birds The story is quite dialogue heavy, and it just felt kind of flat and lacking in any real nuance or depth to me, as did much of the humor I enjoyed Bridge of Birds , and by comparison it feltpolished


  6. Athena Athena says:

    Following the inky trail begun in Bridge of Birds Hughart has given us the second of three absolutely glorious books books so good he stopped writing The Chronicles after finishing the third, having accomplished what he set out to do.Poignant, outright bawdy, delicate, ferocious, tearful, confusing, terrifying and triumphant, The Story of the Stone is a helluva read, and the Hell reference is literal the Hell of Chinese culture is a fascinating place and we get to meet it here I never knew th Following the inky trail begun in Bridge of Birds Hughart has given us the second of three absolutely glorious books books so good he stopped writing The Chronicles after finishing the third, having accomplished what he set out to do.Poignant, outright bawdy, delicate, ferocious, tearful, confusing, terrifying and triumphant, The Story of the Stone is a helluva read, and the Hell reference is literal the Hell of Chinese culture is a fascinating place and we get to meet it here I never knew the Great Wheel of Transformations assigns some souls to be demons and their demon ness is simply another manifestation of the great cycle of reincarnations and nothing at all Mephistofelian Quite comforting, given all the modern paranormal takes on things demonic.Hughart s writing seems as effortless as a leaf in a stream, moving us from rollicking peasant feasts in one paragraph The dancing started, which meant the fights would start shortly and I was very disappointed when Master Li decided to slip away and walk through the hills in the moonlight to the transcendent grace of little girls in the very next Little girls have large maternal instincts, and they take the Feast of Hungry Ghosts very seriously, and they were making their rounds with small lanterns made from candles inside rolled lotus and sage leaves I could feel ghosts all around us, moving toward the warmth of the sweet singing voices You are not alone, the girls sang, you are not forgotten, we care and understand, our own lives are but a candle flame from yours Hughart casually drops divinely beautiful prose throughout this enormously complicated, sometimes underground maze of a plot he s created from legend and fairy tale and hard telling what else I have the feeling he s remembered everything he s ever read, and he s clearly read quite a lot I never expected the tale of Gilgamesh to make an appearance but the Ancient Hunter is quietly, epically present Stone has some terrifically funny outright bawdiness and also one of the most poignant prayers I ve ever encountered Goddess, the world of men is a world of incomprehension Our senses are woefully limited Our brains are but tiny candles flickering in an infinity of darkness Our only wisdom is to admit that we cannot understand, and since we cannot understand we must do the best we can with faith, which is our only talent The greatest act of faith we are capable of is that of loving anotherthan we love ourselves, and occasionally we can be quite good at it I read this the day after puerile psychopaths, pretending to one another that they were holy men, ambush murdered 130 unsuspecting, unarmed, innocent human beings in Paris on 13 Nov 2015 I found Hughart s writing, ostensibly about ancient Chinese culture, to be agonizingly applicable to modern times and cultures as well Show me a quest for personal immortality and I ll show you a path through a slaughterhouse, and the incense of personal divinity is the stench of other people s corpses The wisdom of Master Li is timeless and universal


  7. Melissa McShane Melissa McShane says:

    Darker in tone and content than Bridge of Birds, The Story of the Stone links two mysteries, both about evil, where it comes from and how it can be overcome The title and the legend of the stone the book is centered on come from the classic 18th century novel Dream of the Red Chamber, continuing Hughart s tradition of drawing on actual Chinese history and mythology However, the actual plot is all Hughart s invention, which means it has insane zombie princes, secret identities, a trip to Hell, Darker in tone and content than Bridge of Birds, The Story of the Stone links two mysteries, both about evil, where it comes from and how it can be overcome The title and the legend of the stone the book is centered on come from the classic 18th century novel Dream of the Red Chamber, continuing Hughart s tradition of drawing on actual Chinese history and mythology However, the actual plot is all Hughart s invention, which means it has insane zombie princes, secret identities, a trip to Hell, and a lusty, gorgeous young man who can and does seduce anyone he meets, male or female Li Kao is in perfect form here Ox is his usual honest and innocent self and their new companions Grief of Dawn and Moon Boy the aforementioned lusty young man make excellent additions to the team At certain points, I like this better than Bridge of Birds blasphemy , particularly the journey through Hell, and Li Kao s method of getting a forbidden copy of a nearly sacred writing is hilarious One minor problem is that Ox s own record shows that this takes place almost ten years after their first adventure, and yet Ox isn t anymature than he was as a teen However, this doesn t spoil my enjoyment of an excellent book


  8. Carl Nelson Carl Nelson says:

    Barry Hughart s great trick is to make me think I m reading a convoluted story based on an intricate plot and lovably irredeemable characters, and in the last few pages I realize I m reading a poignant, beautiful myth that relates both the best and worst of human nature Hughart relies on good natured humor to great effect The Story of the Stone has many humorous elements but is never slapstick Master Li and Number Ten Ox continue to delight, with witty banter and a good deal of heart.While Barry Hughart s great trick is to make me think I m reading a convoluted story based on an intricate plot and lovably irredeemable characters, and in the last few pages I realize I m reading a poignant, beautiful myth that relates both the best and worst of human nature Hughart relies on good natured humor to great effect The Story of the Stone has many humorous elements but is never slapstick Master Li and Number Ten Ox continue to delight, with witty banter and a good deal of heart.While I like Bridge of Birds better, largely due to its splendid rogues gallery of characters, that s a bit like saying that I like the Enzo Ferrari a little better than the 458 Italia both are a damn sight better than most other things out there.I m also a bit mystified by the number of reviewers who have painstakingly cataloged Hughart s historical inaccuracies it s rather silly to expect historical accuracy from Hughart s ancient China that never was


  9. Alex Sarll Alex Sarll says:

    Imagine Holmes and Watson, except instead of just being cerebral and brusque, Holmes is a tiny old man who actively delights in being a drunken, cantankerous bastard And Watson, rather than simply being a bit handy, is essentially a tank in human form, who when speed is necessary will literally carry the brains of the operation though for all that he s clearly the brawn, he s still considerably better at learning and applying his master s methods than Doyle s version ever was Oh, and their c Imagine Holmes and Watson, except instead of just being cerebral and brusque, Holmes is a tiny old man who actively delights in being a drunken, cantankerous bastard And Watson, rather than simply being a bit handy, is essentially a tank in human form, who when speed is necessary will literally carry the brains of the operation though for all that he s clearly the brawn, he s still considerably better at learning and applying his master s methods than Doyle s version ever was Oh, and their cases don t just skirt the uncanny, but will sometimes see them literally pursuing a hunch through the various levels of Hell That s Master Li and Number Ten Ox Their creator, Barry Hughart, died last month, unremarked even by Ansible until a whole month later, but then he hadn t published in nearly three decades, pissed off by publishers and convinced that in any case his work might not justify the seven volumes he d initially planned The first book won a couple of fantasy awards, which was probably the high water mark of his reputation this is the second, with oneafter it But back then he felt fantasy wasn t quite the right market for him, and now, though the historical whimsical mode with uncanny interruptions might bewidely accepted, there s probably less of an appetite for books about an ancient China that never was written by a white guy from Peoria It should be noted, though, that this imagined China isn t some lazy grab bag of stuff that seems vaguely relevant, like when Hollywood tries to do mediaeval Europe ah, Ironclad it s a modern version of a classical form of Chinese novel, which was an underground Taoist form designed to fight back against Confucians Confucians liked to castrate people who fought the establishment Without mentioning names, the Taoists could use real emperors and real power structure in a fantasy form In other words, he knew his stuff, for whatever that s worth, rather than engaging in cheap exoticism Indeed, when it comes to murder mysteries set around a monastery and an impossible, deadly manuscript, I d take this over The Name of the Rose any day Though that s only the initial setting, because to solve the first puzzle Master Li needs to call in a favour, which in turn leads to a side quest, which then presents its own challenges, and so on exactly the sort of plot structure which can often become infuriating, but here carried off with such elan to the carefully orchestrated chaos that one could gladly have twice as many digressions Or at least, that was my response, but I like that sort of audacious high wire act in a plot, just as I like the deeply arch humour where many of the jokes are left largely implicit, while being able to see that it was never likely to win a mass audience Indeed, even the jokes which would once have been the crowd pleasers are likely less so now, not least the ones regarding a supporting character who, while exceptionally talented in other fields, is also an insatiable and incorrigible pederast But just when you think that might be getting a bit too retrogressive, suddenly all the main players are happily contemplating the prospect of a polyandrous relationship, which I imagine would have been equally Whuh to its original readers Not a book I can recommend without reservations, then definitely one I thoroughly enjoyed but, as Master Li always says when introducing himself, there is a slight flaw in my character


  10. Susan Susan says:

    Master Li is happily drinking wine in the worst wine shop in China, but when the abbot of a monastery appears with a scrap of forged well, it has to be forged, doesn t it manuscript, he and Number Ten Ox, his apprentice, are off on their journeys Only a very junior prostitute can control the master of sound that they need, so she comes along with them It seems that the Laughing Prince has oncebeen terrorizing the valley he used to rule that s before he died seven centuries ago and w Master Li is happily drinking wine in the worst wine shop in China, but when the abbot of a monastery appears with a scrap of forged well, it has to be forged, doesn t it manuscript, he and Number Ten Ox, his apprentice, are off on their journeys Only a very junior prostitute can control the master of sound that they need, so she comes along with them It seems that the Laughing Prince has oncebeen terrorizing the valley he used to rule that s before he died seven centuries ago and while he laughs, everyone else trembles in fear and horror Li and Ten Ox must go deep into hell looking for clues, but even that will not stop them