Some lived, some lived in our imaginations.....

 Ti Jen-chieh (Magistrate Dee)

Magistrate Dee the sleuth and rational Confucianist of IRON EMPRESS is far, far from home, and though he is deep in the sweltering tropics, he still feels the chill of the sight of twenty-five severed heads atop iron spikes in the capital city of Loyang. True to his devotion to justice, clarity and compassion, he has traveled hundreds of miles from home to pursue them, putting aside his own clammy fear. He will don identities he never dreamed of, and travel to destinations wrought from delirium. All of it is done at terrible risk: Which would he prefer--his own head atop a spike, or a virulent case of the plague? If the Empress had her way, it would be both.

 

Abu Zeed

Physician, scientist, intrepid traveler, fearless adventurer and roguish irreverent prankster, this ferocious  little Persian is a man in whose good graces you definitely want to stay. Driven by a sheer thirst for knowledge, Zeed, like Dee, yearns to make landfall on the island of Hainan. But for him, the draw is disease--the countless lush, exotic, freakish varieties that thrive in the tropics and which attract him like rare orchids. Contemptuous of ignorance and superstition, devoted to rational thought, experimentation and empirical observation, he’s Dee’s fast friend  from the moment they meet. What sort of friend? The sort who would dare to interfere, using 7th-century biological weaponry, with Hsueh Huai-i and his murderous mission for the Empress Wu. Yes, you definitely want him on your side…

 

Madame Djamal

Years before, Magistrate Dee had a brush with death, when, distracted by a wooden carving of a Hindu love-goddess, he failed to hear the creak of a floorboard behind him. Now it is as if that wooden carving has come to life in the form of Madame Djamal, another Persian and a close friend of Abu Zeed. But she is scarcely made of wood: Beautiful, brilliant, literate, and versed in the art of eroticism, Dee is seduced, in every sense of the word. Slick with the sweat of heat and passion, he worries vaguely, though, about that floorboard: She admires and emulates the faraway Empress Wu, despite, unlike Dee, having never met her. She simply knows no better, Dee tells himself. Or does she? 

 

Hsueh Huai-i

Let it not be said that the tall Tibetan monk-magician does not earn his keep, nor that he is a coward. As Dee himself once reflected, it takes a brave man to lie down with the Empress in her bed. And what sort of prowess--political, sexual, necromantic--did it take to become indispensible to her? Or even, dare it be thought, to master her, and to rise to an ultimate position of his own as head of the Empress' state-sanctioned White Horse sect, where cruelty is mercy and mercy is cruelty? Such work can be tiring, though, even for a man such as Hsueh. An undercover mission to Canton, at the Empress' behest, with orders to bring back a certain very famous head, seems to him to be  a refreshing idyll and a reminder of simpler days.....

 

 Wu Tse-tien

Her annoying husband, Emperor Kaotsung, is dead. Gorged on blood and victory after the recent brutal quelling of an attempted uprising by a group of effete, useless scholars, and with her mother and her Tibetan monk-magician lover, Hsueh Huai-i, at her side, she's the Iron Empress, the uncontested ruler of the Empire. But it's not enough, not enough at all. Why should she be satisfied with the title "Empress," with all its implied limitations and deficiencies? There is one last obstacle she must overcome: her femaleness. It's a simple matter, says Hsueh, with a wave of his hand. Like all magic, it's no more than a question of directing attention to where you want it....

 

Madame Yang

Who is the one person in the world to whom the Empress Wu defers? Certainly never her late husband, Kaotsung, nor even the monk-magician Hsueh Huai-i, except, perhaps, in play of a highly specific sort. And who is the only other woman in the world with whom the Empress willingly shares Hsueh-Huai-i? But you will never find the mother of Wu--her lookalike, and a mere fourteen years older than the daughter--participating in uncouth games or undignified horseplay. She is far too focused on the business at hand. To call Madame Yang the "power behind the throne" would be a misnomer; she is, in fact, the Shadow Empress.

 

 

 

Latest comments

27.01 | 21:01

Never too late to join this party!! DECEPTION is actually my fave. After you've read it, you'll be primed for SHORE OF PEARLS.

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27.01 | 20:51

Many thanks--had been searching for awhile, without success (obviously). A bit late to the party but greatly enjoyed Court of the Lion & just ordered Deception!

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27.01 | 15:19

Hi, Jeremy--So far, e-book only. There are old French and German translations in hard copy, but I wouldn't recommend them! Sorry!!

E.C.

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27.01 | 15:04

Was Shore of Pearls only released as an e-book? Looking for a hardcopy, but striking out.

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