A grand tale of intrigue in nineteenth-century China, where imperial rule is crumbling as the Opium Wars and Taiping Rebellion rage, from the author of Manchu.
Loyalty is put to cruel test in Shanghai, where Jewish merchant Saul Haleevie and his longtime Chinese partner, Aisek Lee, have weathered hardship and distrust to build a thriving business. When Aisek is falsely accused of “abomination” for causing his mother’s suicide, their world is shattered. Now, Saul must save his friend no matter the cost, navigating a brutal and corrupt penal system that could bring about his own ruin as well.
Meanwhile, the quest for true love governs the fate of Saul’s wayward daughter, Fronah. Consorting with the Westerners now thronging Shanghai but truly comfortable only in her Jewish-Asiatic identity, she ends up destroying one man and confounding another.
Love and deception also entwine in the imperial palace, where the “Virtuous Concubine” Yehenala contrives to bear the opium-eating, syphilitic Hsien Feng emperor’s only son, thus laying the foundation for her elevation to the pinnacle of command in China as the formidable empress dowager. She wins the power battle, but it is beyond her to win the war, for by then China faces not just the collapse of another imperial dynasty, but the end of the millennial imperial system of rule, threatening the lives and loves of all.
This compelling saga of nineteenth-century China is filled with “intricate shuttlecock diplomacy, ceremonial/battle action, family saga/romance—all polished to an entertaining high gloss” (Kirkus Reviews).