Li Du was an imperial Chinese librarian. Now he is an exile. In 1780, three years of wandering have brought him to Dayan, the last Chinese town before the Tibetan border. He expects a quiet outpost barely conscious of its place within the empire, but Dayan is teeming with travelers, soldiers, and merchants. The crowds have been drawn by the promise of an unmatched spectacle; an eclipse of the sun, commanded by the Emperor himself. Amid the frenzy, Li Du befriends an elderly Jesuit astronomer. Hours later, the man is murdered in the home of the local magistrate, and Li Du suspects it was no random killing. Everyone has secrets...
Gorgeously written and full of surprises, Elsa Hart delivers a book laced with magical tales, a nefarious murder, and engaging characters all dwelling deep within the historical backdrop of 18th century China. "Jade Dragon Mountain" is a book I thoroughly enjoyed.
Hart brings the history to life with ease. She creates honest characters in an authentic setting. I loved Hamza's stories, was intrigued by Li Du's investigation, and was excited to meet the Emperor.
The best part of this book, however, is the flowing narrative that makes the story feel like a Chinese proverb. Every comparisons read like a gorgeous line of poetry. Every observation was like breathing in the aroma of a perfectly steeped cup of tea. I so much appreciated the strong and lovingly portrayed culture wrapped around the plot line like a soft, snuggly blanket. And its not just the setting, but so many aspects! The clothing and buildings and foliage and parties were all skillfully and artfully painted into exquisite pictures - a feast for the imagination!
I will be honest in that I guessed the murderer, specifically because there was one person who was constantly overlooked during the investigation, but there was more in store for me that came to fruition when I reached the last lines of this tale. There is not just one mystery to solve!
I hope to read more by this author. Perhaps Li Du will return to the Forbidden City. I would relish Hart narrating such a place!
"Descendants of Avalon"
Released via Inklings Publishing
("The Forgotten" volume 2)
Reviewed and awarded the
2016 Indie Editor's Choice
by the Historical Novel Society.
Long listed for the Historical Novel Society 2017 Indie Award.
Goodreads profile at: https://www.goodreads.com/JElse