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Customer Review

on 24 September 2009
In medieval Scotland Bruce McLennan has risen up through the ranks from his humble beginnings as a fisherman's son, to become a powerful landowner with tenants at his disposal. Characters around him hint at the likeable man he used to be, but a tragic event changed him into a hard, brutal and at times cruel man. He believes himself devoid of the ability to feel affection for another human being ever again.

Hatred and a deisre for revenge drive McLennan off on a wild journey across to the other side of the world, following the Silk Road to China, whilst his tenants carry out his orders to build a strong and impressive castle fortress, with a terrifying dungeon for captives.

China is a dangerous place and this immediately appeals to the reckless McLennan. Ruled by the warring Mongols, skirmishes are a daily occurence. McLennan falls in with a band of private army soldiers and becomes renowned for his prowess on the battlefield. Along the way he buys himself a very young slave girl, Peony, to make and pour his tea and attend to his wounds and other needs. When he sees she has trouble walking and his comrades explain to him the practice of binding the feet of some girls to stunt their growth and make them attractive as ornaments to men, McLennan's heart is perhaps softened a notch or two... but this is something he hates to acknowledge even to himself. He also hates that something about her reminds him of what he has lost and cannot regain...

Peony proves pivotal to McLennan as he travels with the band of soldiers, and he decides to take his slave girl with him on the perilous journey back to Scotland. He begins to think of her as his lucky talisman, but when a bloody battle doesn't quite go according to plan his cruelty takes a new twist. Perhaps there is no redemption for the brutal McLennan...

I promise there are no plot spoilers in my review and there are plenty more twists and turns in the tale. The background is necessary to describe how dark and powerful this novel is. Love and hate are powerful themes. A compelling story, I can recommend it for readers aged 11+, though possibly for mature slightly younger readers as well.
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