Meet Atisa. He’s a young boy with a cool toy — a time machine. The device is actually a balloon that he uses to fly through history and to foreign lands. Atisa is supposed to join his mother, an explorer, adventurist and archaeologist, in seventh century Central Asia. But a sudden meeting with Danyi, a Chinese warrior, forces him to change his plans. His mission now is to warn and help Hiuen Tsang, the famous Buddhist monk, traveller and scholar. If you want to know more about this historical figure, look him up on the Internet or in an encyclopaedia.
And in case you haven’t heard of Atisa, he was an 11th century Buddhist teacher who was responsible for the spread of Buddhism in Tibet and parts of India. So that’s another person from history.
Back in our book, Hiuen Tsang is travelling all over India to locate and study old Buddhist texts, which he also wants to take back to China. Of course, Atisa’s time machine comes in handy here. The boy accompanies the monk and his assistants as they visit different monasteries and kingdoms. He takes it upon himself to protect Hiuen Tsang, and often finds himself dealing with pirates, snakes and untrustworthy people.
There are several assassination attempts on the monk that are foiled in time, thanks to Atisa’s “sound catcher”. He uses this device the most even though his balloon comes equipped with other useful gadgets like a lantern — that can warn him about the air temperature — and a telescope.
The book is fast-paced and has constant thrills, so there is never a dull moment. If Hiuen Tsang seems safe for a couple of pages, the reader can be sure that some excitement will crop up soon after. Poor Atisa has no time to relax. He even has to postpone his trip to visit his mother because he finds himself constantly watching out for Hiuen Tsang’s safety.
The best part of the narrative is that it’s a mix of fact and fiction. The author seems to be fond of history and has done her research well. There are locations and characters — apart from Hiuen Tsang and Atisa — that you may have studied about in school.
The author has spared no detail in describing things — you would be able to visualise the characters and actions readily. Still, there are some black-and-white illustrations that add to the description of interesting moments.
The book will certainly take you on an exciting journey back in time. So get ready to hop into Atisa’s balloon!