An unfathomably wealthy Chinese warlord angles himself into a position of national power in this addictive, multiperspective page-turner set in late 1930s China.
Set during the reign of Chiang Kai-shek, the narrative follows the fictional General Han, who amasses his wealth as the key player in the British-Chinese opium trade. Unsatisfied by money, Han aims to overthrow Chiang and restore an imperial government, for which he would serve as prime minister. Many things need to fall into place for this to plan to work, but, unfortunately for Han, they don’t: He finds himself missing an entire crate of gold; his chief of staff and intended heir, Jong Lin, begins to pull away from his command; and his efforts to purchase a nuclear weapon seem fraught with doubt. Of the many things Zeng (One Enchanted Evening, 2011, etc.) does especially well, managing the multiple storylines at play in the novel is perhaps her most impressive feat, particularly since there are plenty of characters to follow. Fortunately, Zeng not only differentiates them but shows how they fit into the larger narrative of the Japanese invasion and sociopolitical strife within China. While the canvas for the novel is huge, the personal narratives remain at the forefront. Though dialogue could have used a bit of trimming, Zeng has a natural sense of when to shift scenes and how to control the various mysteries within the narrative that point to an epic finish, which doesn’t disappoint: A massive wedding between Han and Yunna Li—the daughter of a professor at Nanking University—is interrupted by Jong, who’s also in love with Yunna and may perhaps be the only man able to stop Han’s plan.
An epic, sweeping narrative full of intrigue, action and romance.