It is with a sense of shock that the realization comes over one that the horrors of the Boxer Rebellion are authentic history within this century. The Empress Dowager held China in stranglehold. The Forbidden City was a city within a city, with all extremes of incredible luxury and incredible sordidness. There she held virtual prisoner the dethroned Emperor, feared because he sought relief and reform for his country. The Empress Dowager lived a double role, pretending friendship for the Westerners while plotting their ejection, and secretly encouraging the fanatical Boxers to this end. It is an extraordinary picture and Borune has handled it with fascinating vividness, and thrown into sharp contrast the portrait of the Legation Quarter and the stodgy, naive Westerners, unwilling to face truth -- except for the lustful, blood-thirsty Russian Prince, and a handful of others. With this doubling as stage set, he has told a story of Lady Sweet Virtue, high born Manchu maiden, seized and forcibly made a Second Wife of the Emperor; and of Wen Chin, interpreter, friend of the Americans, who dared anything to be near her; of Randall Lockhart and his rivalry with Prince Igor for the hand of the English Evelyn. Plenty of action and drama, and though the story is a bit contrived, the background provides its own reward. This is Bourne's fifth historical novel. The others have had as setting Haiti, Mexico, Panama.