In a quantum leap from recent China politics (Till Morning Comes, 1982), veteran novelist Hah Suyin now conjures up a magical picaresque entertainment, set in mid-18th-century France, Thailand (""Ayuthia""), and China: a grand collage of scenic exotica, court rituals and ruinations, narrow escapes and horrid ends--with some tantalizing byways into the bizarre crafting of animated figures and ""androids."" The tale begins in Calvinist Lausanne, where twin siblings grow up with special gifts: Bea is something of a psychic; her brother Colin shows a talent for making ""automata""--mechanical figures then much in demand as miraculous toys. Orphaned in a witch hunt, Bea and Colin become reluctant wards of a noble uncle, whose title Colin will inherit. They escape, however. And, with the help of a Jewish scholar/banker, they travel to China--where Colin is to repair and build automata for the Mandarins. But: the ruling Manchus are closing trade: foreign merchants, mechanics, and engineers are dwindling in number; eventually Bea and Colin's patron is accused of treason; Bea's trip to Peking to avert catastrophe ends in failure. So the twosome must again take flight--to the exquisite city/kingdom of Ayuthia, ruled by a weak, capricious emperor. Colin falls in love there--with an exquisite girl who's snatched away by a sinister court magician to be sacrificed. (Colin's construction of an animated goddess averts this.) Bea, now wed to a Prince, also finds passion--amid a dreadful invasion from Burma. And finally, while Bea returns to Lausanne with only an automaton to love, Colin settles down to domestic life--after a career of scholarly excitement, a lost love, and a parade of his automated soldiers. The author, lovingly dwelling on fabulous visions of old cities and some beguiling historical oddities, seems to have enjoyed herself immensely. So will the reader.