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on 9 September 2014
As I write this review, there are another seven reviews on this book all giving better marks than I, but I can only speak as I find. This is not in any sense a detective novel - it is a tale of seeking out pieces of a long-lost document from a long-dead Chinese Emperor in order to find and sack his hidden tomb.
First, some quibbles:
1) The setting is 1920's China and the heroine originally Spanish domiciled in Paris, but some of the language is 21st Century American - "Get!" (as in "Get moving" or "Get outta here!"), "Gotten", "fit" (for "fitted" or "fitted to") & "You likely think about Death a lot" (supposedly from an nonagenarian Chinese nun) are just some examples. I don't mind modern dialogue where appropriate, but this is lazy and detracts from the work's effectiveness.
2) The chapters are interminably long, thousands of (Kindle) pages long in some instances and I found this annoying and tiring. Why???!! The whole book is contained in six chapters, so, if you're one of those who thinks "I'll just read to the end of this chapter", be warned!
3) The denouement is, literally, incredible - having lavished a lot of time and effort on narrating a reasonable but not particularly suspenseful "Tomb Raider" tale, the author gives her reader an utterly implausible scenario to finish it off in the penultimate chapter.
4) (*** Spoiler Alert ***) If you like happy endings, this is the book for you, all tied up with bows, ribbons and la sprinkling of stardust!
5) The characters, particularly the heroine/narrator, are inconsistent and not believable - we are supposed to believe that a conservative, presumably middle-aged female artist living a sedentary middle-class existence in 1920's Paris is transformed overnight into an "Indiana Jones"-type adventurer able to survive extreme weather, privations and long marches.
The initial premise of the story is a good one - it's just not particularly well done. The few action sequences are very poor, lacking any tension or credibility and are over instantly. The dialogue between the characters is pedestrian and the whole thing's just tedious - the best bit of the whole book is within the Emperor's tomb, which is well-described, but, again, lacks any real tension - there is no real sense that the "team" are in any jeopardy.
There is a wealth of detail in this book about Chinese history, tradition and culture (possibly too much) which displays an impressive amount of knowledge and research on the part of the author but it starts to read more like a lecture - the historical detail is not woven into the fabric of the story with sufficient skill.
Sorry - the overall result is just poor.
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on 27 November 2014
This very long book was well worth reading. The story begins in Southern France in the 1930s. Elvira's husband, who was working in China, has died, and so Elvira must go out and settle his affairs and sell the house he had bought there. Elvira takes her niece with her. On reaching the house in China, Elvira finds that her husband has left her nothing but debts due to his gambling, drinking and opium smoking. However, all is not lost. After visiting a monastery to seek solace and advice, the two women set out, with a monk to guide them, to find the tomb of the last emperor. There is a chance that she will find some of her husbands stolen riches there.
The author's ability to describe the Chinese terrain,it's people and the covert activities of the opium sellers is commendable. I am so glad that I read this book.
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on 19 October 2014
This was an interesting book from the point of view of the setting and content; set in China in the early part of the Twentieth Century, it's clearly extremely well researched and the author knows their stuff when if comes to Chinese history, myth and culture.
The plot is somewhat predictable but gallons along easily enough, feeling very much like an Indiana Jones movie. However, the characters left me cold; I never really cared about the outcome of events and the main character and narrator, Elvira, was particularly irksome; instead of being charmingly quirky, she was self-obsessed and neurotic. Despite the obvious journey of enlightenment she went on, she merely switched from anxious and precious to smug and narcissistic. It would have been so much better written from the third person with less of Elvira's voice throughout.
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on 19 October 2013
The lady who wrote this store did do a lot of research even down to what is not to found in the ordinary libraries. The fact that it is a Spanish out cast of the family is the main persons, which we only can guess is closely to the heart of the author
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on 24 March 2015
Enjoyed this book for bringing alive China's history in an easy to read and accessible way. Thought the story could have been bought to life much more if some chapters were written as seen through the eyes of the other characters as well. The political intrigue and drama would have played well in the background rather than just suddenly being sprung upon the reader and quickly dismissed. I understand the period setting but was still was not over comfortable with the grave robbing by the main character's and it made them slightly harder to emphasize with at the end, but this more a problem with looking at things in a different way nowadays rather than an issue with the book. I would recommend it as a great read to anyone interested in learning the history and culture of a country. It was certainly well researched, just a bit lacking in ambition, it could have been so much more.
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on 21 March 2014
This is yet another of this authors strange reads that you can't put down. Again you need to concentrate but I find eventually I'm with these characters and trying to sort clues out with them. Such detail. It's amazing
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on 10 December 2013
The book has been well researched.I learnt a lot about China,but the book was slightly spoiled by the lengthy chapter at the end of the book which seemed to be written for screenplay
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on 4 December 2013
rather like a "wordy" Dan Brown . search for a myth - The setting in China was different.and somewhat intruiging but needed too much explanation for this Western reader.
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on 4 November 2013
This is a great adventure story, set in a time that adds great drama with a wonderful backdrop, could almost be a travel book from 2000 years ago.
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on 15 March 2013
I am fascinated by ancient China, so this book goes along with what I like. And I appreciate the writer's style.
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