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The Secrets of Jin-Shei [Hardcover]

Alma Alexander
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Mar 2004

A sweeping epic set in medieval China; it is the story of a group of women, the Jin-Shei sisterhood, who form a uniquely powerful circle that transcends class and social custom.

They are bound together by a declaration of loyalty that transcends all other vows, even those with the gods, by their own secret language, passed from mother to daughter, by the knowledge that some of them will have to pay the ultimate sacrifice to enable others to fulfil their destiny.

The sisterhood we meet run from the Emperor's sister to the street-beggar, from the trainee warrior in the Emperor's Guard to the apprentice healer, from the artist to the traveller-girl, herself an illegitimate daughter of an emperor and seen as a threat to the throne. And as one of them becomes Dragon Empress, her determination to hold power against the sages of the temple, against the marauding forces from other kingdoms, drags the sisterhood into a dangerous world of court intrigue, plot and counterplot, and brings them into conflict with each other from which only the one who remains true to all the vows she made at the very beginning to the dying Princess Empress can rescue them.

An amazing and unusual book, based on some historical fact, full of drama, adventure and conflict like a Shakespearean history play, it's a novel about kinship and a society of women, of mysticism, jealousy, fate, destiny, all set in the wonderful, swirling background of medieval China.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (1 Mar 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007163738
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007163731
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 15.2 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,117,053 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'The Secrets of Jin-Shei is a completely original – and a completely magical piece of literature' Joanne Harris

About the Author

Alma Alexander was born in New Zealand, grew up in Australia and now lives in the USA.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exotic and magical - complete escapism 14 April 2005
This was such a fantastic read for me. From the very first page, I was hooked; Alexander's prose is poetical and evocative of a magical place and time.
The story follows a group of young girls, all different in age, as they grow up into adulthood. These girls are all from different social classes and positions in their society; medieval China. However, they are also linked - through jin-shei. Jin-shei is a secret society of women, bound to each other not by blood but by loyalty that makes them sisters of the heart. This special bond may mean that they merely share their secrets in life, their passions, and their upsets, just as any close friends do. However, their loyalty may be tested in harder ways and a favour asked in the name of jin-shei cannot be ignored.
As the girls pass into adulthood and they begin to find their place in the world, this bond begins to be tested as one of their number becomes the Dragon Empress. In her new place of power she lusts after complete control of her state. But the loyalties of her jin-shei sisters is really put to the test when she beigns to lust after the impossible; immortality. Suddenly, their seemingly idyllic world is a place of intrigue, treason, gossip and many dangers. Will the jin-shei group survive?
This book is fantastic for those people who enjoy complete new worlds where they can escape into for a while. There are essences of religion and philosophy, magic (dark and good), love and hate, and tragedy. It is a complex book as it follows quite a few characters. However, all the characters seemed very real to me, each one had personalities which had good and weaker sides. I really enjoyed this book, it is magical. . .
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awww! I wish I could read it all over again! 19 Jan 2006
I absolutley loved The Secrets Of Jin-Shei! It was so sweet, and I found myself really attatched to the characters. It's all about a special 'society' that only women in this certain part of medeival China have, called Jin-Shei. They have their own secret language that is passed down from mother to daughter, and must never be shown to men. Also, they have unique bonds to each other, that are more powerful than the Gods.
This AMAZING book is about a circle of girls as they grow into women, tied together by the sacred bond of Jin-Shei. But there are secrets that should never be told, secrets that if brought to light could mean the end of the Jin-Shei circle.
I would recommend this book who loves to read about oriental stuff. Some parts were so sad they had me in tears! Whenever I felt that the story was getting the teeeeensiest bit dull, (and I mean teeeeensiest!) I was reeled back in, just by a single paragraph! I have no critcisms whatsoever about this book, it's deffinatley one of my favourites. Read it now!!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BEAUTIFUL & MAGICAL.. 15 Jun 2005
This is a bit of a complicated read to start with as the plot is based on a number of main Characters. They all come in & fold together perfectly.. sending you into a wold of loyalty, obsession, love, magic, political unrest & the unbreakable bond of sisterhood.. the Jin Shei..
This is a wonderful read, i coulndt put it down & I mourned when it finished..
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magical piece of writing set in medieval China 12 Feb 2007
By Doogie
I have fallen in love with this book...I have just in minute finished it and felt compelled to write a review on it.
I chose this book because I thoroughly enjoyed the book called `Empress Orchard' and this book came up in the recommendations on this site. The recommendations really do work!

This book is slightly different from the other Chinese and Japanese books I have read. It is more mystical which brings a new enjoyment to it.
The story is about 7 girls who are all different in each way but are brought together through the name of `Jin-Shei' sisterhood. At the beginning I found it hard to keep track of the 7 main characters but once they all came together through the sisterhood I found the story compelling and enchanting. There were so many twists and turns for these girls that I didn't want to leave a chapter half read.
A wonderful read and sorry that I finished the book as my lunch time read won't be the same. I will be buying more of Alma Alexander books.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Secrets of Jin-Shei 4 Mar 2004
I had been looking for a good book to read for a while, and was just beginning to despair, when by lucky chance an advanced reader's edition of The Secrets of Jin-Shei fell into my hands. The description on the back was so promising I began to read immediately. The preview left me enchanted. The first chapter got me hooked. By the third chapter, I was completely in awe, and completely caught up in the story. The characters are feministic, individual, intelligent, and complex. Each girl in the jin-shie circle is special, and ads something to the complex weave of the story. The distinctive background of each girl is reflected in her personality. I was surprised to find women in roles that seemed to me as would be traditionally for men in an ancient Chinese Empire. Though the story is exiting and suspenseful, it is graceful and full of heartbreaking beauty, like a poem or an elegant work of art. The end of the story, set years after the beginning, is reflective, looks back on all the characters and the parts they played in the jin-shie. It is wistful in recollection of the sunny days of youth. The setting is at the coming of night, both literally and symbolically. It is a beautiful ending to a beautiful story. I enjoyed reading it immensely, and recommend it to all, especially feminist, fans of epic fantasy, myths, or Tamora Pierce, and all women, young or old.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Wasn't magic for me
This is a story set in a mystical land and unravels the lives of those in the Jin-Shei sisterhood. One of the sisterhood becomes Dragon Empress leading all of the sisterhood to... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Holly74
4.0 out of 5 stars This is NOT set in medieval China.
Despite the product description and other reviews, this is not a historical novel of China. It's a fantasy novel set in a fictional land called Syai, which has a culture similar... Read more
Published on 22 Feb 2010 by S. Hartwell
3.0 out of 5 stars A book that doesn't quite fulfill its promise
This book is beautifully written, with a fascinating setting in an imperial China city and an interesting concept of a female friendship society dedicated to helping each other. Read more
Published on 28 April 2009 by D. lema
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
To be fulfilled a woman must marry and have children. A varied cast of characters but a disappointing moral to the story. Read more
Published on 16 July 2008 by Adriana Paun
4.0 out of 5 stars An epic tale of sisterhood
This is a gripping and magical read! from the start it is apparent that this text isnt going to conform to sociological boundries with varying statuses and personalities which you... Read more
Published on 3 Sep 2007 by Red Azalea Aka Toni
5.0 out of 5 stars Spellbinding
The Secrets Of The Jin-Shei is a truly enchanting read. Alma Alexander's wonderful vivid descriptions bring the story to life. Read more
Published on 14 Jun 2007 by Catface Kupo
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful!
I adored Jin-Shei, and have recommended it to several friends who have also enjoyed it.

It is refreshing to read a book where all the main characters are women- and... Read more
Published on 18 Dec 2006 by claire
5.0 out of 5 stars Trully Magnificent
This story is exactly what it says 'Trully Magical'.

This story takes you on a Journey from a child into old age of a young girl named Tai and her Jin-shei circle. Read more
Published on 21 Nov 2006 by M. Mukhtar
5.0 out of 5 stars The Secrets of Jin-Shei
This book is quite simply amazing. I'm so glad I decided to buy it. The story focuses on a group of young women who are all tied to one another throught the Jin Shei bond. Read more
Published on 25 Sep 2006 by C. Cloke
5.0 out of 5 stars A touching piece of writing which ill always keep in my heart!
Having only recently finished the book I am currently mourning all the jin-shei-bao and regretting having to leave them all behind and venture into the world of alternative books... Read more
Published on 3 Jun 2006 by Vanessa S
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