Sally906's Reviews > The Secrets of Jin-shei

The Secrets of Jin-shei by Alma Alexander
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Mar 12, 11

bookshelves: general-fiction
Read in November, 2007

I have to say up front that I read this hard on the heels of ‘Snow Flower and the Secret Fan’ so maybe this is why the book didn’t cut it for me – It just didn’t measure up to the high expectations I had.
For me there were too many main characters to try and remember – each of the women could have had their own story told in another book. I felt that the author just spread herself too thin trying to give depth to all the characters – and in the end did each of them less justice than they deserved.

The book is set in a mythical Chinese empire and follows the friendships and loyalty between eight young women–sisters of the heart. Sisters of the heart, or jin-ashu, is where young women swear undying loyalty to each other. No matter what their station is in life, laundrymaid or the Imperial heir, the oath of sisterhood more binding than even an order from the emperor. the eight women reshape the empire. One of the women becomes the ruler of the empire – and she starts to lust after the secret of immortality – her quest tests the loyalties of the remaining seven women – they should as sworn sisters support her – but what will they gain in their support – and what will they lose if they don’t?

There are eight different ending in a sense – as each woman has to make her own path in life, their choices as they face the various challenges mean that some choose paths that bring them to a predictable end. There is only one ending for the empire, one resolution for the book as a whole.

I really wish the book had been about 200 pages shorter – and maybe split up into a series of books – so each of the wonderful women could have had more of their story told.
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