Versatile in his choice of background, shifting readily from Europe to America, and now, in this novel, to ancient China, the land of Kublai Khan. The period is the second generation after the conquest by Ghenghis Khan. His grandson, Kublai Khan, is not satisfied with the broad reaches of empire; he wants to conquer the sea as well, and the island kingdom of Japan. He is not satisfied with the riches of his palace in Cambalu (ancient Peking), but builds another palace in Zanzadu. He adds continually to his ""jewels""-his concubines-by seeking out the beauties of Cathay. This is the story of one such beauty, daughter of the scholar, beloved of one of his students, Wang Fu. She herself, selfish, ambitious, wants only the luxury of the palace, and leaves in the vermilion litter for the capital. On the way, the caravan is joined by a Persian; the two young people are immediately attracted-and she goes secretly to him at night. Then comes the dreaded bandit, Raw Iron, who burns and kills- but eventually allows Jade Star to proceed, carrying his message to the Khan. The Khan has her brought to him, deliver the message, and- without benefit of the year of training- takes her to his bed. The Empress, the other concubines grow to hate her. And she eventually seeks the Empress life through the spells of an old nun, is found out, and the Emperor is forced to give her as third wife, to a newly rich merchant whose gold he covets. This story- two dimensional in its emotional values- is memorable for the skillful recreation of old Cathay, its strange mixture of a rich culture and ancient superstitions.