An earthquake! Could anything be less propitious in the pleasure area, The Pingkang li during the Tang Dynasty of 847 AD.
Well yes! A dead courtesan, Huilan, one of the Four Beauties of the Pingkang li, another body dragged from the river, a nobleman's son playing the fool, and a young servant probably too observant for her own good caught in the middle of happenings beyond her control. Add to that the suspicious new police constable Wu, and things become tense and uncertain. And so the tragedy begins!
Yue-Ying, who was sold as a child to a procurer and forced into prostitution sees her current role as a servant to the beautiful courtesan of The Lotus Palace, Mingyu , also one of the Four Beauties, as a position of safety and freedom. So different from her previous one! She is fully aware of how quickly she could sink back into the morass of that existence.
Yue-Ying's face is stained by a large birthmark that gives her no pretensions to beauty. However, the foolish Bai Huang, reputed to be a wastrel, sees in her quite poise something unusual, something that sets her apart.
The Lotus Palace and the Pingkang li are the backdrop to murder and treachery, to fear and revenge. It's also the setting for a love, like so many others in this quarter, seems doomed to failure.
As Lin says in her forward, 'The Pingkang li, with its dual persona of sensual decadence and refinement became the place for me to explore the many roles that women took on in society, to investigate a murder most foul and to find true love. '
Around every corner is a new surprise. A novel that hums with the life force of its characters and ancient colourful places, bringing to life to the China of old.
A most rewarding read. I had to force myself back to the now!
A NetGalley ARC