The saga of the pilgrimage to the Western Heavens continues. Out is the long setup for the fellowship, and in is the actual adventure, which you can imagine is quite long. Xuanzang, Monkey, Pig and Sand journey across mysterious lands and empires, meeting many people, spirits and demons as they inch closer to their goal: the sacred sutras if Buddhism.

Along the path to the Western Heavens, the fellowship meets many evil demons, spirits and people who impede their progress. The most common way they impede progress is by hatching a plan to capture Xuanzang to eat because the evil doers believe that they will attain immortality by consuming his flesh. Well, whatever floats your boat man. I certainly wouldn’t want to eat a monk who’s escorted by heavily armed mystical creatures!

Anyway, each situation where the fellowship meet up with the evil hidden along the route to the west are dealt with in segments of two to three chapters. The encounters of evil are relentless in their regularity in the story structure, but spread themselves out over actual time it takes for the pilgrimage to be completed. Each situation involves Xuanzang getting captured, and in some cases, other members of the pilgrimage as well. It is then up to the members of the fellowship still free (Monkey, usually) to rescue the situation.

Monkey is, by a wide margin, the main character of the story. He’s smart, straight forward, tenacious and funny, and deals with threats in every way he can imagine. As the story progresses, we do see that the gluttonous, slovenly Pig and Monkey have a friendly rivalry between them for favour with their master due to their opposing natures. This leads to interesting outcomes when they’re in danger. However, no matter what happens, they always work hard and do their best for the cause. Even Friar Sand, the quiet, reasonable one gets in on the act when required.

Journey to the West is immensely entertaining, and it’s a bonus that little in the story is left to the imagination. The author has done all of that for you with his wild and vivid imagery of the characters in action in both poem and prose. It’s actually quite a good style to read, because you it breaks up the narrative into little digestible snippets while also giving you all the detail and wonder of the story.


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