BLACK FLAME, a novel from Tibet


Black Flame – a novel by Gerelchimeg Blackcrane (trans. by Anna Holmwood). Reviewed by Susan Elworthy for

As an owner and fancier of many lines of various backgrounds of Tibetan Mastiff (European, Chinese, Tibetan from Yushu), this has been a most refreshing book on the adventurous life of a Tibetan Mastiff. There is no wonder that the author, Gerelchimeg Blackcrane, won the National Children’s Literature Award in China for this enjoyable work.

The story tells the life of Kelsang, a black Tibetan Mastiff from the Tibetan plateau, his various owners and adventures in the cities of China and then to Mongolia. This is not a political work, but a truthful look at the way of life for this Tibetan Mastiff as seen through the author’s eyes and experiences. If you are a Westerner, this is important to keep remembering as one reads as the novel is written through the eyes of a different culture. Notably, is the prevalence of men and boys in the story, with the only real female mentioned a female German Shepherd that Kelsang falls in love with.

The book’s author is a master at capturing the natural way of life that is being lost every day in urban society. There is no doubt whatsoever that the author has personally known and lived among Tibetan Mastiffs in many environments. At times, it seems (through a Westerner’s eye) as though the author has taken liberties in the amount of fighting Kelsang gets in to (predictably almost every chapter) or people he threatens or shreds clothes off of, but I think without this element of predictability it would have made for a dull story, and everyone always wants the good guy (in this case Kelsang) to win.
I suspect that those who have travelled to Tibet or Mongolia and have ever had the pleasure to know a true Tibetan Mastiff will undoubtedly be able to relate to this story with delight and fond memories. Perhaps to Westerners, it will just be a good adventurous read. Either way, I loved the book and would recommend it to anyone who appreciates a good work  even more those who love Tibetan Mastiffs.

Anna Holmwood from London, England did an astonishing job of translating this book in what could have easily been a very poor read of ‘Chinglish’ and difficult to read. Instead, I didn’t find a single blemish among her work (which one will find even in English written books that didn’t go through translation). Kudos on a fine masterpiece.

Black Flame is available in hardback, and as an e-book. It is published by Groundwood Books of Toronto, Canada (in association with Anansi Books), You can order it online directly from Also available online from Amazon.

Susan Elworthy (the book reviewer) can be contacted at, and on the web at

About LiteraryDogs

I write and read about dogs, and admire dogs in print; ergo 'LiteraryDogs'. If you have some or all of these same sentiments, let's share our reading/writing knowledge and canine literary insights. My own writings are about Tibetan mastiffs, but I'm flexible and enjoy all dogs.
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1 Response to BLACK FLAME, a novel from Tibet

  1. M says:

    Dear Sirs,

    your site is great.

    If you have a chance read (and review) the following book:
    Hideo Furukawa: Belka, Why Don’t You Bark?
    (or just Belka)
    The book -originally from Japan- was just published in Italian (May 2013), the first English edition -if I’m not mistaken- is from late 2012.

    Yours sincerely


    P.S: Try to read this book (translated from Cjhinese by Helen Wang (2012, original Chinese 2010)) too:
    Shen Shixi Jackal and Wolf
    it’a superb work for children, educational and very interesting.

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