Great story, felt like I was there
In the authors own words, I consider myself primarily a fantasy writer and Jin-shei a historical fantasy, but the publisher believes the book has enough mainstream appeal to cross over. So this book has been marketed to readers of mainstream Asian-themed fiction. However, from my perspective, the book is very definitely within the fantasy genre although strongly based on Chinese culture and mythology, the land of Syai is not actually China, not to mention that magic and black sorcery feature strongly in the plot.
The story deals with a group of women who swear the oath of jin-shei or sisterhood, to each other. Their reasons for creating this bond vary from friendship to practicality, to more mercenary motivations. Each woman, as she grows older, becomes an exceptional person an Empress, a healer, a warrior, a religious teacher, a political rebel, an alchemist/sorceress, etc. Often, in stories with this sort of ensemble cast I find it an effort to keep track of whos who in the group, but I had no such troubles here the characters were each very individual and memorable. Their oaths bind them together, even as they go their separate ways in life but plagued by class/social differences and political meddling- especially that of a highly-placed sorcerer these women are not fated to end up as friendly old women chatting together in a happy group
I enjoyed this book, but after reading it, I was surprised that its being marketed as a book about meaning of friendship and loyalty Im not sure if it was the authors intention, but the message I took away from this story is that its always a bad idea to make decisions based on an oath, rather than on ones own better judgement.
Don't read this if you only like happyily-ending books.
If you would rather have a rich, true to life even amid the magical and mystical, then this book is a treasure!
I had more difficulty suspending disbelief with the first part of the book when very young girls/women were accomplishing/facing more adult situations than seemed appropriate than later when the carefully orchestrated pieces of their adult lives begin to crumble.
Much more touching and believable and worth reading than a fairy-tale ending.
A moving tale of friendships between women of all different stations in life.