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In 1925 the international treasure-hunting scene is a man’s world, and no one understands this better than Irene Blum, who is passed over for a coveted museum curatorship because she is a woman. Seeking to restore her reputation, she sets off from Seattle in search of a temple believed to house the lost history of Cambodia’s ancient Khmer civilization. But she soon discove In 1925 the international treasure-hunting scene is a man’s world, and no one understands this better than Irene Blum, who is passed over for a coveted museum curatorship because she is a woman. Seeking to restore her reputation, she sets off from Seattle in search of a temple believed to house the lost history of Cambodia’s ancient Khmer civilization. But she soon discovers that her quest to make the greatest archaeological discovery of the century is also a quest for the secrets of her family's own past. And as she travels through Shanghai's lawless back streets and Saigon’s opium-filled lanes to reach the Cambodian jungle, she does not know who to trust. A drug-addled temple robber, Simone Merlin seems to take pleasure in complicating the expedition, while jaded nightclub owner Marc Rafferty reveals a troublesome childhood mysteriously entwined with Irene’s. Even her own mentor, a notorious collector of stolen art, becomes suspect when Irene uncovers his connection to her companions. Set against a backdrop of colonialism, revolutionary politics and the ruthless art world of the early 1900s, The Map of Lost Memories takes readers on a seductive journey into a forgotten era where nothing is as it seems. As Irene and her fellow adventurers travel into the humidity-soaked jungle, little do they know that what they eventually bring to light will do more than change history … It will ultimately solve the mysteries of their own lives.


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In 1925 the international treasure-hunting scene is a man’s world, and no one understands this better than Irene Blum, who is passed over for a coveted museum curatorship because she is a woman. Seeking to restore her reputation, she sets off from Seattle in search of a temple believed to house the lost history of Cambodia’s ancient Khmer civilization. But she soon discove In 1925 the international treasure-hunting scene is a man’s world, and no one understands this better than Irene Blum, who is passed over for a coveted museum curatorship because she is a woman. Seeking to restore her reputation, she sets off from Seattle in search of a temple believed to house the lost history of Cambodia’s ancient Khmer civilization. But she soon discovers that her quest to make the greatest archaeological discovery of the century is also a quest for the secrets of her family's own past. And as she travels through Shanghai's lawless back streets and Saigon’s opium-filled lanes to reach the Cambodian jungle, she does not know who to trust. A drug-addled temple robber, Simone Merlin seems to take pleasure in complicating the expedition, while jaded nightclub owner Marc Rafferty reveals a troublesome childhood mysteriously entwined with Irene’s. Even her own mentor, a notorious collector of stolen art, becomes suspect when Irene uncovers his connection to her companions. Set against a backdrop of colonialism, revolutionary politics and the ruthless art world of the early 1900s, The Map of Lost Memories takes readers on a seductive journey into a forgotten era where nothing is as it seems. As Irene and her fellow adventurers travel into the humidity-soaked jungle, little do they know that what they eventually bring to light will do more than change history … It will ultimately solve the mysteries of their own lives.

30 review for The Map of Lost Memories

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kim Fay

    Since I can't objectively review my own book --- I love it too much :) --- I'd like to share the "Publishers Weekly" review of it: "Fay’s debut novel is a thrilling mix of adventure and personal discovery set in Southeast Asia in the 1920s. At the behest of her manipulative mentor, Henry Simms, unappreciated 29-year-old Irene Blum quits her job at Seattle’s Brooke Museum and heads to Shanghai to persuade scholar-turned-revolutionary Simone Merlin to join her on a quest to locate 10 ancient Khmer Since I can't objectively review my own book --- I love it too much :) --- I'd like to share the "Publishers Weekly" review of it: "Fay’s debut novel is a thrilling mix of adventure and personal discovery set in Southeast Asia in the 1920s. At the behest of her manipulative mentor, Henry Simms, unappreciated 29-year-old Irene Blum quits her job at Seattle’s Brooke Museum and heads to Shanghai to persuade scholar-turned-revolutionary Simone Merlin to join her on a quest to locate 10 ancient Khmer scrolls, which discovery would allow Irene to open her own museum and finally get credit for her work and expertise. But when the duo find themselves with blood on their hands, they flee Shanghai and escape to the jungle. As they continue their hunt for the scrolls—pursued by authorities and keepers of Cambodia’s cultural assets—they take on additional team members. Soon, each person’s motives come to light, and secrets from the past begin to surface and threaten the mission. Setting the fraught inner terrain of her characters against the dynamic political and physical landscapes of the area, Fay crafts an intricate page-turner that will keep readers breathless and guessing." For those of you who'd like to sample the first chapter, it can be found at www.kimfay.net.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Chrissie

    I am often quiet about a book when I don't quite know where I stand. If I love it or hate it, then I have to tell others what is going on in my head /heart! This one has good things and bad. It is basically an adventure-mystery-intrigue novel with romance thrown in too. I was looking more for interesting tidbits on the Khmer culture (9-15th Century)..... but no, it is not bad. I immediately worry when I find myself with a novel of intrigue, contentious opponents and warring factions. I am sure I I am often quiet about a book when I don't quite know where I stand. If I love it or hate it, then I have to tell others what is going on in my head /heart! This one has good things and bad. It is basically an adventure-mystery-intrigue novel with romance thrown in too. I was looking more for interesting tidbits on the Khmer culture (9-15th Century)..... but no, it is not bad. I immediately worry when I find myself with a novel of intrigue, contentious opponents and warring factions. I am sure I will not understand all the clues, so I get tense. Needless to say, this IS counter-productive. On completion, I had a huge smile on my face: YAY, I understood it. I understood how all the parts came together! So don’t worry if you are like me. The writing is really, very good – descriptive, emotive, tantalizing. The author's aim is clearly to write a suspenseful tale. Pick this book if it is that which you are looking for. There is a bit about the Khmer Empire but really not much. Some people say the action takes too long to really commence; it is in fact in the last five chapters that the real action begins, but I liked how the setting moves from Shanghai to Saigon and finally Cambodia. These places are wonderfully depicted, each with its proper colors, aroma and feel. The tension builds as you learn about the different people. This book did not give me what I thought it would deliver, but it was lots of fun. Narration by Karyn O’Bryant is well done. In the dialog passages you know immediately which character is speaking! This is helpful in an audiobook. I am amazed at how narrators can pull this off. What talent! There is no author’s note at the end, which explains what is fact and what is fiction, but I asked the author. She says, “The scrolls (the characters are looking for 10 copper scrolls) are not real; what was real, especially at the time period of the book, is that the history of the Khmers was considered a great mystery. All of the questions I raise about their disappearance were real questions being explored at the time, and when I reveal any conclusions, those are based on historical facts (or the best that is known about the Khmer). Characters are fictional, except famous Communist people.”

  3. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia

    Indiana Jane I love adventure, lost treasure stories and this one is screaming at high decibel! Irene Blum is the behind the scenes curator at a prestigious art museum throughout until the mid 20’s. This means she does the work, others get credit for it. Her specialty is Asian artifacts particularly those of Cambodia, specifically the Khmer tradition that blossomed between 9,000 AD through 1,500 AD and then mysteriously, and suddenly, disappeared. No one knows why. When she suddenly has the chanc Indiana Jane I love adventure, lost treasure stories and this one is screaming at high decibel! Irene Blum is the behind the scenes curator at a prestigious art museum throughout until the mid 20’s. This means she does the work, others get credit for it. Her specialty is Asian artifacts particularly those of Cambodia, specifically the Khmer tradition that blossomed between 9,000 AD through 1,500 AD and then mysteriously, and suddenly, disappeared. No one knows why. When she suddenly has the chance to prove herself by traveling to Asia to find some defining treasures she’s up for the challenge…and the danger. “The Map of Lost Memories” is partly a love story between a man and a woman but also love between parent and child, and mentor and protégé. In her travels Irene meets some dangerous, some knowledgeable, and some irresistible characters. All of them have essential knowledge for her search. She recruits them to her cause and they head to the jungle. To complicate things these protagonist have their own agendas which don’t always mesh with Irene’s. Fay incorporates politics, history, morality, and art throughout this exciting story. She delves into the Asian world outlook vs. the West, ancient traditions and values vs. those of current times. She explores religion and the need to seek and preserve ancient knowledge and who has the right to it…the ancestors or those who created and preserved it or the entire world. To be specific should the rich West, the ones with the money to protect the treasures abscond with them with the goal of protecting them it and allowing relatively many access to it or should it stay where it evolved? As you can see “The Map of Lost Memories” is an adventure story but it’s much more. The only thing lacking in my opinion is a longer slog through the Cambodian wilderness, to be blunt I wanted more swashbuckling adventure, though the ending was near perfect.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Susan (aka Just My Op)

    First let me say that this book has apparently been loved by many of its early readers, and I can see why. The descriptions of the physical settings are wonderful, some of the metaphors are lovely, the storyline is potentially great, and the characters are not one-sided. They are selfish and altruistic, greedy and idealistic, and altogether human. So, don't let my overall opinion put you off reading this book if you think it sounds like your kind of story. The book didn't work well for me because First let me say that this book has apparently been loved by many of its early readers, and I can see why. The descriptions of the physical settings are wonderful, some of the metaphors are lovely, the storyline is potentially great, and the characters are not one-sided. They are selfish and altruistic, greedy and idealistic, and altogether human. So, don't let my overall opinion put you off reading this book if you think it sounds like your kind of story. The book didn't work well for me because I never got drawn into the story. I never really cared about the characters. I can love characters or hate them, but I have to care about what happens to them, good or bad, and I didn't. I didn't really care if those dang scrolls were ever found. And, although I hate to say it, I found myself bored. The strong points of the novel never outweighed the weak ones for me. So, in the end, a pleasant enough read but not the entertainment that I expected of a novel. Thank you to the publisher for providing an advance readers copy for review.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mitch

    I have almost nothing but praise for The Map of Lost Memories, this is a book I could just tell author Kim Fay poured her heart into. There’s just so much to love and enjoy, the authentic period feel, the complex and interesting characters, a well-woven plot that ties together ancient Khmer history with the complicated politics of the interwar years. It’s hard enough finding historical fiction featuring 1920s East and Southeast Asia, reading one like this, smart, well-researched, is a real treat I have almost nothing but praise for The Map of Lost Memories, this is a book I could just tell author Kim Fay poured her heart into. There’s just so much to love and enjoy, the authentic period feel, the complex and interesting characters, a well-woven plot that ties together ancient Khmer history with the complicated politics of the interwar years. It’s hard enough finding historical fiction featuring 1920s East and Southeast Asia, reading one like this, smart, well-researched, is a real treat. I initially thought this would be an adventure novel - it’s really a character study. Irene Blum, of course, is the former museum assistant, passed over for the curatorship position at a major American museum because of her gender, now looking for redemption by discovering the lost histories of the Khmer on ten copper scrolls. Along the way, helped by her wealthy benefactor the industrialist Henry Simms, she recruits an eclectic cast of characters for her expedition, Simone Merlin, wife of a notorious Communist party organizer, Marc Rafferty, shady Shanghai nightclub owner, and Louis Lafont, French archeologist. Each of the characters has individual and conflicting motives for being on the expedition, wanting the scrolls, and watching them jockeying with each other for pole position, discovering each of their individual motives for wanting the scrolls, seeing those motives change as their characters change, made following Irene’s journey of discovery a thoroughly enjoyable experience. It helps too that Irene and her peers are also uniquely connected in ways that aren’t initially apparent. I liked Irene right away, especially her rightly indignant attitude after being rejected by the museum board, and understood her early obsession with locating the scrolls. Simone too, wow what an interesting character, someone who’s both huge on the Shanghai social scene but also sadly compelling on a personal level and suffering from a bad home life. And the way Irene recruits her makes the story later much more interesting, almost like a conflict between friends with all the connections that are eventually revealed. Really, the only weakness in the cast of characters I think is Marc, I didn’t buy his quickie relationship with Irene and his presence on the expedition felt almost pointless. There’s a big reveal about his relationship with Mr. Simms and hence Irene, but compared to Irene’s and Simone’s storylines, his feels like the forced requisite love interest story just so this book would have romance in it. That’s not a big deal for me though, not when the Fay includes these almost vivid period descriptions of Shanghai, Saigon, and even the Cambodian jungle. Somehow, she gets the atmosphere, partly gritty, partly politically unsettled, an almost foreign mixture of Western and Asian influences, just right. I love that authentic feeling I get with an author does her homework, Fay definitely did her homework here, above and beyond even. But even better, the most impressive atmosphere, it doesn’t overwhelm the story with pages of description, rather it’s a light flavoring that provides the ambience but doesn’t interrupt the flow of the story. And best of all, it’s not all entirely from Irene’s or other colonial’s points of view, I like how Fay includes a local Cambodian woman, Clothilde, as well, and the way she challenges Irene’s motivations and calls her out on her preconceived notions just added another dimension to this already multifaceted book. Actually, beyond Irene’s scenes with Marc which I felt were forced into the story, I really enjoyed The Map of Lost Memories. Somehow, I just think this book would’ve been even better as a two woman adventure, just Irene and Simone. But besides that, everything else, Irene and Simone, their journey, their development, all awesome.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lucy

    I was lured into reading this by the ease of the e-book digital library. Seriously, I think I love this system. As much as I love going to the library, there are times when it is isn’t convenient and I don’t have anything to read! That happened last week, so I got online and found this and downloaded it because it sounded promising. After the first 100 pages, I admit I sped read and skimmed. I had to get out of this book fast. Because, an interesting thing happened. I have a toddler and it just I was lured into reading this by the ease of the e-book digital library. Seriously, I think I love this system. As much as I love going to the library, there are times when it is isn’t convenient and I don’t have anything to read! That happened last week, so I got online and found this and downloaded it because it sounded promising. After the first 100 pages, I admit I sped read and skimmed. I had to get out of this book fast. Because, an interesting thing happened. I have a toddler and it just so happens that Sprout is his favorite channel. For a reason I truly cannot understand, this 2 year-old of mine particularly loves Caillou who I think is the whiniest, most irritating hypothetical 4 year-old that ever existed. Have you seen Caillou? First of all, there are the blurred corners. Like the animators are too lazy to actually finish the drawings. Then, there are the 1990s color scheme. Everything, from the houses to the clothes to the kitchen appliances are blue and red and yellow. I also don’t appreciate how frumpy they make Caillou’s mother. And the dad…oh my word. Does the guy have a real job? Just once, I’d like the show to highlight some real parenting and have either parent say, “I’m too busy to take you to that construction site you find so fascinating” or “I’m just going to tie your shoe for you” because there are teaching moments and then there we-have-to-go-right-now moments and not be at Caillou’s beck and call. Maybe I need to start the grumpy Sprout channel or something. Anyway, I mention Caillou because in addition to all these other annoying things, there is this obnoxious to me narrator who explains to us watchers (I try not to but what can you do when your 2 year-old needs to snuggle? Ack! I am just like Caillou’s parents! (frumpy mother included)) what Caillou is feeling in every situation. Seriously, as if the crease marks around his eyes and bald forehead aren’t enough, we get to hear things like, “Caillou felt frustrated that that cat wouldn’t come to him. He wanted the cat to go on a walk with him,’ in this weird, needs a lozenge voice. This is truly my worst, most snarky side that I try to contain to the realm of sprout cartoons but when I was reading The Map of Lost Memories by Kim Fay, there were sentences…many sentences…that were written in the exact voice of the Caillous narrator. Once the voice was there, every time the author told me how her smart, woman-before-her-time adventurer Irene Blum felt about anything, which was way too often, I visualized everything happening in primary colors with fuzzy edges. Not really but I shouldn’t connect Caillou to a grown-up book. And I did. Which is why I didn’t like this. It’s not terrible but I will forever have a negative association with reading it. Sorry to Kim Fay. If this book doesn’t take off, she might look into getting a job over at Sprout.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Susan Johnson

    This book just couldn't make up it's mind on what kind of book it was. It's billed as an adventure novel but the adventure doesn't begin until halfway through the book. Adventure books tend to move at a rapid pace but that only happened the last 75 pages. Earlier on it just dragged. I began to think the story would never move from Shanghi. It's not really a character study. The leading character is the only one fully developed and the other women are actually fairly done but the male characters This book just couldn't make up it's mind on what kind of book it was. It's billed as an adventure novel but the adventure doesn't begin until halfway through the book. Adventure books tend to move at a rapid pace but that only happened the last 75 pages. Earlier on it just dragged. I began to think the story would never move from Shanghi. It's not really a character study. The leading character is the only one fully developed and the other women are actually fairly done but the male characters are only there as back drops. It's not really a travel book because I learned very little about the Cambodian culture. I really wanted to as I know next to nothing about it but I didn't come out much wiser than when I began. The book is about a young woman who has a passion for Cambodia. She works as a museum curator in Seattle and is passed over for promotion. Since it's the 1920's, it's probably not that surprising. Irene Blum wants to prove how big a mistake the museum board made so she goes on a quest to find a lost temple in Cambodia. Her parents had been there in the past and her guardian, Mr. Simms- a wealthy man, bankrolls her expedition. She flies to Shanghi and gathers an odd bunch of characters to assist her on her journey. How she meets them and gets their support makes up the first half of the book. There are a lot of drugs, parties and double dealing involved in assembling her team. They all want to find the temple but for different reasons. I think this is an average book. There are some good points. The women are interesting. The descriptions on Cambodia are lyrical and descritive. The last 100 pages are very good. The jungle came alive for me and the wonderful finds were really brought to life. The pacing was good. I'd like to think this is the first book of a series. I'd really like to read what happens next. I'd love to read more about the Cambodian culture and what happened to them. I'd like to know if there's a treasure map. I'd like to know if the characters continue to evolve. I hope the story doesn't end with this book. It could be a very good series.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Meenoo

    On the surface, “The Map of Lost Memories” hits all my bookish sweet spots: archaeology, history, an evocative setting, and the political machinations of the museum world. In the 1920s, Irene Blum travels to Cambodia to search for the lost scrolls of the Khmer Empire. Irene has a troubled past and an obsession with Khmer art and history. Not much is known about the Khmer Empire to Westerners at the time (or now, you could argue), especially regarding how and why the empire disappeared. Irene wan On the surface, “The Map of Lost Memories” hits all my bookish sweet spots: archaeology, history, an evocative setting, and the political machinations of the museum world. In the 1920s, Irene Blum travels to Cambodia to search for the lost scrolls of the Khmer Empire. Irene has a troubled past and an obsession with Khmer art and history. Not much is known about the Khmer Empire to Westerners at the time (or now, you could argue), especially regarding how and why the empire disappeared. Irene wants to find the scrolls and gain professional prestige so she can run her own museum focused on Khmer art in the US. It is a fabulous premise and one I was wholeheartedly interested in following. How romantic to think of jungle temples lost in time! The book’s strengths lie in its descriptions of the mood and setting of SE Asia and its willingness to bring the complex issues of French colonialism, empire, and cultural ownership to the mix of issues pervading the book. I actually wanted to read the book on my balcony so I could feel the humid heat of the tropics (lately, this summer’s humidity feels tropical) to make the scenes come additionally alive. I loved the descriptions of the apsaras, temple architecture, and plants in Cambodia and Vietnam. My major quibbles with the book were that I felt it dragged in places. I understand the quest aspect of Irene and Simone’s search, but I felt that some of the scenes could have been cut to keep the plot tighter. I didn’t feel a lot of chemistry between the characters, and there were too many characters and issues that emerged but weren’t satisfactorily resolved. However, I want the kind of life these characters lived (but with less snakes and mosquitoes). The book did stay with me and left me with a lingering melancholy. I was enthralled by Irene’s obsession with the Khmer Empire and longed for an intellectual obsession like that. But some of the revolutionary seeds that Fay plants in the book become all too real in the future history of Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge took their name from the Khmer Empire, and with hindsight, we all know what atrocities they committed to their own people. It’s tragic to know what is in store for the people in Irene and Clothilde's world. It's obvious that the author shares the love of this part of the world with her characters and I am very interested in reading what she writes next.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Terry Ambrose

    I think one reason some readers are disappointed in this book is that they're expecting it to be something it is not. This is a historical novel with elements of mystery. It is not a thriller, ala the Indiana Jones sagas. The novel begins in 1925 Shanghai with Irene Blum finding out she will not get the curator’s position at the Brooke Museum of Oriental Art she has wanted for as long as she can remember. The reason she loses the position is that she is a woman and the world of museum curation an I think one reason some readers are disappointed in this book is that they're expecting it to be something it is not. This is a historical novel with elements of mystery. It is not a thriller, ala the Indiana Jones sagas. The novel begins in 1925 Shanghai with Irene Blum finding out she will not get the curator’s position at the Brooke Museum of Oriental Art she has wanted for as long as she can remember. The reason she loses the position is that she is a woman and the world of museum curation and treasure hunting is a man’s world. When Irene is approached by her long-time mentor about the opportunity to hunt for lost treasure in Cambodia from the Khmer civilization, she jumps at the opportunity. Irene assembles a team of experts to steal ten copper scrolls not seen in more than 700 years. With a plan in place to force the museum’s directors to make her the curator when she returns with the scrolls, Irene quickly discovers her expedition is destined to face challenges every step of the way. Little does Irene realize that her journey will bring her in contact with dangerous individuals from corrupt politicians to back-street opium dens, and locations as diverse as Shanghai’s dark alleys to the wilds of the Cambodian jungle. By the end of her journey, she discovers that what she thought she wanted may not be her real reason for facing the struggle at all. The book is not a typical murder mystery, but had elements strong enough to qualify it for the Edgar nomination. At times, Fay has a tendency to over-explain, which gives the book a literary feel. But, as the story progresses, this becomes a book filled with rich descriptions of diverse characters and dramatic locations. Its historical references are sure to appeal to history buffs or those who are merely curious about this distant part of the world. “The Map of Lost Memories” paints a picture that readers won’t soon forget.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Pamela Barrett

    Wow! just started it and it's awesome....finished and still awesome. This book, The Map of Lost Memories, reads like a favorite classic old movie; think Casablanca, written with such texture that you can feel the suffocating steam rise deep in the Cambodian jungle. It is an adventure, mystery with an undercurrent of romance set in 1925. Irene Blum is a young woman from Seattle Washington, who has been working for the Brooke Museum specializing in exotic oriental artifacts. Irene leaves Seattle t Wow! just started it and it's awesome....finished and still awesome. This book, The Map of Lost Memories, reads like a favorite classic old movie; think Casablanca, written with such texture that you can feel the suffocating steam rise deep in the Cambodian jungle. It is an adventure, mystery with an undercurrent of romance set in 1925. Irene Blum is a young woman from Seattle Washington, who has been working for the Brooke Museum specializing in exotic oriental artifacts. Irene leaves Seattle to find some ancient bronze scrolls that are rumored to hold the history of Cambodia’s Khmer empire. She stops in Singapore to enlist the help of Simone Merlin, a mysterious Temple robber who grew up in the area where the scrolls are supposedly be hidden. Right from the beginning there are problems: betrayals, unclear motives, and a murder and they haven’t even reached the jungle. The cast of characters will keep you guessing as the author skillfully unravels their personal histories. I’m giving this one 5 stars for a story that captivated me from chapter one right up to its satisfying conclusion. I thought about it for days and hope there is a sequel. Advanced readers proof from Amazon Vine program.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Cindy Crawford

    Good book with an interesting blend of history, mystery, character study and adventure. The adventure aspect seems the least developed, making it more of a literary novel than an adventure novel. Set in 1925, this is the story of a group of people searching for the lost scrolls of the Khmer in Cambodia. The main character, Irene, changes and grows throughout the novel, but most of the other characters seem to stay somewhat stagnant, even Simone. It very much felt like the other characters were pr Good book with an interesting blend of history, mystery, character study and adventure. The adventure aspect seems the least developed, making it more of a literary novel than an adventure novel. Set in 1925, this is the story of a group of people searching for the lost scrolls of the Khmer in Cambodia. The main character, Irene, changes and grows throughout the novel, but most of the other characters seem to stay somewhat stagnant, even Simone. It very much felt like the other characters were present to spur on Irene's development. While I didn't find her changes completely justified in the story, I did enjoy reading about what happened to her. This was a well-written book; I might even say a lyrical book. The descriptions depict the languid atmosphere of a setting dense with heat and humidity, and characters often sedated with opium. While there are several acts of violence in the novel, not much time is spent on them. In fact, the way they are written makes them seem almost part of a dreamlike state. Definitely a book worth reading. Might be a good companion novel for Ann Patchett's State of Wonder. Both tell the story of a woman on an adventurous mission where she learns as much about herself as she does the land and people around her.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jaylia3

    Set in 1925, this sophisticated, character-rich adventure begins in the Pacific Northwest, but most of the action takes place in the politically charged city of Shanghai and dense, steamy jungles of Cambodia, home of the ancient Khmer empire. Irene Blum is sure she is going to be put in charge of the Seattle museum she felt owed its success to her resolute, behind the scenes and not always legal acquisitions work, but a man with a degree is chosen in her place. Determined to prove her worth, she Set in 1925, this sophisticated, character-rich adventure begins in the Pacific Northwest, but most of the action takes place in the politically charged city of Shanghai and dense, steamy jungles of Cambodia, home of the ancient Khmer empire. Irene Blum is sure she is going to be put in charge of the Seattle museum she felt owed its success to her resolute, behind the scenes and not always legal acquisitions work, but a man with a degree is chosen in her place. Determined to prove her worth, she sets off for Southeast Asia on a quest to find a set of scrolls believed to chronicle the forgotten history of the Khmer civilization. Irene’s mentor and sponsor Henry Simms is dying and she’s driven to find the scrolls quickly while he can still enjoy the discovery. Guided by him Irene puts together an expedition team, including her enigmatic new lover, a drug addicted revolutionary and a renowned Khmer researcher, but long before they begin the arduous trek into the jungle in search of the forgotten temple said to contain the scrolls, it’s clear the conflicting motivations of the team could lead to violence. While Irene wants to take the scrolls to the United States to set up a new museum she can curate, others want them to be left alone, or kept in Cambodia to be studied there, or sold to finance anti-colonial groups working to overthrow the French. Besides having an exciting story, The Map of Lost Memories is more substantial than some other thrillers I’ve read, exploring the inner motivations of its multi-dimensional characters and immersing the reader in the diverse culture, transitioning politics and exotic landscapes of 1920’s Southeast Asia.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jaffareadstoo

    The forgotten history of Cambodia is the foundation for this beautifully written novel of discovery. In The Map of Lost Memories, the author, Kim Fay presents a unique and exciting search for legendary copper scrolls, which are believed to describe the ancient Khmer civilization. When museum curator, Irene Blum, is given written evidence that the ancient scrolls exist, she enlists the help of adventurer, Simone Merlin, to help her gain access to this forbidden territory. However, Simone is a vol The forgotten history of Cambodia is the foundation for this beautifully written novel of discovery. In The Map of Lost Memories, the author, Kim Fay presents a unique and exciting search for legendary copper scrolls, which are believed to describe the ancient Khmer civilization. When museum curator, Irene Blum, is given written evidence that the ancient scrolls exist, she enlists the help of adventurer, Simone Merlin, to help her gain access to this forbidden territory. However, Simone is a volatile and capricious conspirator, and Irene is never really sure of Simone’s loyalty. What then follows is an adventure story with three distinct sections, Shanghai, Saigon and Cambodia; all are beautifully placed within the narrative, and yet blend together quite seamlessly to produce a detailed and imaginative journey into an ancient and powerful civilization. Combined with the author’s unique ability to describe this part of the world, the story reads more like a travelogue, the sights, sounds, smells and dangers are so vividly described, I felt like I was travelling with them on a journey filled with mistrust and danger. An abundance of rich and varied characters combine to make this a really satisfying read. I read it over the space of several evenings, and found myself drawn into the story so much I didn’t notice the passage of time. I loved it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Brenda Hawley

    1925, female archaeologist looking for lost Khmer scrolls in Cambodia: sounded like something out of Indiana Jones, right? The novel was, however, very disappointing. Some of the positive aspects were the descriptions of 1925 Shanghai and the jungles of cambodia. I learned more about the transitioning from colonialism to the beginning of communism in Indo-China, but the structure of the plot and characterization and lack of interesting suspense left me frustrated. I suppose my biggest complaint 1925, female archaeologist looking for lost Khmer scrolls in Cambodia: sounded like something out of Indiana Jones, right? The novel was, however, very disappointing. Some of the positive aspects were the descriptions of 1925 Shanghai and the jungles of cambodia. I learned more about the transitioning from colonialism to the beginning of communism in Indo-China, but the structure of the plot and characterization and lack of interesting suspense left me frustrated. I suppose my biggest complaint about this debut novel was all of the coincidences which after awhile began to make me shake my head: Mr. Simms just happened to be Mark'son and off again father; Simone and Irene's mothers had been best friends and been on a similar quest to find the scrolls years befor; Irene's father had kept the map to the temple of the scrolls and had nost lost it to the mafia; Irene was the orphaned female who was destined to take the scrolls, etc. They seemed to go on and on. Understandably a first novel might rely on such contrivances, but they really made me lose touch with the story and just want it to end.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    Picture Indiana Jones as a woman and you get a feel for what this book is like. It is so superbly written that I fell in love immediately with not only these characters, but the author as well. There's twists and turns and ups and downs and scandal and romance and excitement. On top of that, throw in some historical facts and an exciting trip through Cambodia and surrounding areas. It's all there. So why only 3 stars then? Well, I think for me anyway, it was a little too smart. I don't like to t Picture Indiana Jones as a woman and you get a feel for what this book is like. It is so superbly written that I fell in love immediately with not only these characters, but the author as well. There's twists and turns and ups and downs and scandal and romance and excitement. On top of that, throw in some historical facts and an exciting trip through Cambodia and surrounding areas. It's all there. So why only 3 stars then? Well, I think for me anyway, it was a little too smart. I don't like to think when I read (some people do so they may love this) and I felt like this was perhaps a little over my head. I like a little more romance in my reads (this one had romance, but it wasn't a heart pulling tingling sort of thing) and I just want to be taken for an adventure. It's not bad, it's just a personal preference. I still loved the book, I would recommend it, and if any of this sounds vaguely intriguing, read it! You will probably enjoy it.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    I was hoping for an Indiana Jones-type archaeological thriller, but, unfortunately, this was kinda dull. I didn't end up liking any of the characters. I realize the book is supposed to be about the main character's growth--you're not supposed to like her that much in the beginning. I just felt like she didn't grow that much. She was a self-centered, thieving, immature whiner at the beginning, and she was pretty much the same at the end. I did think the Khmer history and the perspective on coloni I was hoping for an Indiana Jones-type archaeological thriller, but, unfortunately, this was kinda dull. I didn't end up liking any of the characters. I realize the book is supposed to be about the main character's growth--you're not supposed to like her that much in the beginning. I just felt like she didn't grow that much. She was a self-centered, thieving, immature whiner at the beginning, and she was pretty much the same at the end. I did think the Khmer history and the perspective on colonialism were interesting, but I wanted a novel, not a history text. Actually, a history text might have had fewer self-centered whiners in it. Instead of being excited to get back to the book, it was more like, "oh yeah, I'm reading that book." Off to look for something better.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jaime Boler

    Book Review: The Map of Lost Memories by Kim Fay The Map of Lost Memories by Kim Fay (Ballantine Books; 326 pages; $26). When author and former bookseller Kim Fay was a little girl, she became fascinated with Southeast Asia. Her grandfather played a significant role in her growing obsession. He was a sailor in the Orient in the 1930s and told Fay stories about his life. Together, they would study photographs from that era; Fay was entranced. After graduating from college, Fay traveled to Asia fo Book Review: The Map of Lost Memories by Kim Fay The Map of Lost Memories by Kim Fay (Ballantine Books; 326 pages; $26). When author and former bookseller Kim Fay was a little girl, she became fascinated with Southeast Asia. Her grandfather played a significant role in her growing obsession. He was a sailor in the Orient in the 1930s and told Fay stories about his life. Together, they would study photographs from that era; Fay was entranced. After graduating from college, Fay traveled to Asia for the first time and promptly fell in love. Everything about the region heightened her senses and made her feel alive. Later, she moved to Vietnam and learned of a French couple, Andre and Clara Malraux, who looted a Cambodian temple in the 1920s to raise funds for the Communists. Just like that, Fay had an idea for a story. Thus, The Map of Lost Memories was born. Part adventure (think Indiana Jones, but with a female lead), part quest, part mystery, The Map of Lost Memories is passionate, fast-paced, absorbing, and full of plot twists. The lush, green vegetation of Cambodia and the rhythms, habits, and culture of the country come to life. This reviewer felt like she had been transported into the story herself. Like Fay, Irene Blum grew up on stories of Southeast Asia. Her mother, in fact, was kidnapped in Manila when she was pregnant with Irene. She died when Irene was little. After her death, it was just Irene, her father, and the mysterious Mr. Simms, a wealthy friend of the family. In 1925, Irene is devastated when she is passed over for a job she has dreamt of for a long time: that of curator at the Brooke Museum in Seattle. The museum has been part of Irene for as long as she can remember. Her father worked there as janitor until his recent death. The institution has earned a prestigious reputation in art and archaeological circles, but only because of Irene's hard work and fastidiousness in acquiring priceless artifacts, many of which were illegally obtained. She is passed over, though, in favor of a man, despite all she has done for the museum. Understandably, Irene quits in a fury. Mr. Simms offers Irene the adventure of a lifetime instead. He gives her a rare map that supposedly leads to a set of copper scrolls narrating the history of the ancient Khmer civilization of Cambodia. This history was thought to be lost. Irene cannot resist, especially when she reads the 1825 journal of an American preacher who was part of an expedition that first found the scrolls. Irene sets off on her journey. I can just hear the Indiana Jones music. I can see the map overlaid on the screen showing movie watchers exactly where Dr. Jones was traveling to next. For Irene, the journey will not be easy. Then again, no quest is ever easy. Fay knows just the right obstacles to put in Irene's way. Everyone who comes to Southeast Asia, Irene is told, "has something to hide." What an apt phrase. Irene herself plans on stealing the scrolls and bringing them back to the United States and back to Mr. Simms. Discovering the lost history of the Khmer will finally mean Irene is "someone" in art and archaeological circles. Museums will beg her to be their curators, Irene thinks. Fay paints Irene as calculating and driven, qualities she would be expected to have after being passed over for the coveted curator spot. It quickly becomes apparent that Irene will do anything, anything, to get her hands on those scrolls. Yet, Irene cannot accomplish this gargantuan task on her own. She needs help. Fay introduces two minor, yet very important, characters into the story. The first is a renowned temple robber and Communist, much like the real Clara Malraux, named Simone. The second is Marc, an elusive Shanghai nightclub owner who deals in information. Like Irene, these two also have "something to hide." The Map of Lost Memories is not the typical "Westerner in the Orient" type of story. Most of those tales featured a Western man as the protagonist. Fay gives us a story in which a Western woman travels to the Orient, a strong American female who knows what she wants and is not afraid to go after it. One of the helper characters is also a woman, a female who makes a lot of men quake in their boots. Colonialism is a recurrent theme in The Map of Lost Memories. Simone believes a communist revolution is necessary in Cambodia. Only then, can the Cambodians govern themselves and restore their pride. Of course, in the early 1970s, communism and revolution in the form of the Khmer Rouge hit Cambodia hard. Countless lives were lost. Horrible atrocities were committed. Interestingly, Irene seems to think the Cambodians unworthy of the scrolls, ignorant of their history. Irene, though, cannot be faulted. She is a product of her time, an era when colonialism still flourished in this region. Perhaps Clothilde, Mr. Simms' Cambodian servant, says it best: "Idealists! You're certain you know what's best for the natives. You think there's nothing more romantic than living in a grass shack. Try living in one during monsoon season." Simone, thinking herself above reproach since she was born in Cambodia, too, counters: "This is my country as much as it is yours. I know what the Cambodians want." Clothilde points out that Simone was "born into the privilege of French citizenship." The scrolls contain history. They are an important account of a lost civilization. Irene wants them for her own purposes; Simone wants them for the communists. Don't the Cambodians have the right to own their own history? Irene will have to answer this question for herself. She will have to decide what is most important to her. The Map of Lost Memories is an engrossing debut by a talented novelist. Fay's heart and soul is within these pages. Filled with adventure, danger, and even some romance, The Map of Lost Memories takes readers on a journey of epic proportions. I've never physically been to Cambodia, but, reading Fay's story, I became an armchair traveler to a land very far away.

  18. 5 out of 5

    VickiLee

    This book absolutely thrummed with the possibility of an exciting adventure of two women in the 1920’s who go in search for priceless artifacts from the Khmer civilization (present day Cambodia). Rather than focusing on the insights and journey of the women, the story kept getting muddied with men - good, bad and ne’er-do-wells. The novel does study how women of the time were held back by the social mores of the day, and how they were often reduced to an object owned by the men in their lives bu This book absolutely thrummed with the possibility of an exciting adventure of two women in the 1920’s who go in search for priceless artifacts from the Khmer civilization (present day Cambodia). Rather than focusing on the insights and journey of the women, the story kept getting muddied with men - good, bad and ne’er-do-wells. The novel does study how women of the time were held back by the social mores of the day, and how they were often reduced to an object owned by the men in their lives but this story needed the male characters to be less primary so we could fully experience the journey of two people on a devilishly difficult hunt!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Deborah aka Reading Mom

    I won an advance copy of this book through GoodReads First Reads. My mind is still reeling from all the good things about this novel (or maybe it's from lack of sleep, due to reading it for such long periods of time). It has been awhile since I have been so truly absorbed in a book from cover to cover--and after finishing it, wanting to turn back to page 1 and begin again. The story starts In Seattle with Irene Blum the protagonist, then moves to Shanghai, Saigon, and finally Cambodia as other ch I won an advance copy of this book through GoodReads First Reads. My mind is still reeling from all the good things about this novel (or maybe it's from lack of sleep, due to reading it for such long periods of time). It has been awhile since I have been so truly absorbed in a book from cover to cover--and after finishing it, wanting to turn back to page 1 and begin again. The story starts In Seattle with Irene Blum the protagonist, then moves to Shanghai, Saigon, and finally Cambodia as other characters join her. The story-line involves the world of art, museums, artifacts, and the search for cultural histories during the 1920's. The search is for a heretofore undiscovered written history of the Khmer dynasty of kings, an entire civilization that simply ceased to exit with no solution to the mystery of what could have caused it's disappearance. I found the story moved smoothly and in places with prose and descriptions that bordered on poetic. I felt I was right there with this small group of explorers experiencing the sights, smells, tastes, emotions, ethical dilemmas, and lack of trust of the motives of one another. Some of the characters were very wounded emotionally, and Simone in particular was difficult to like. Very slowly, many secrets that tie the four main characters (Louis, Marc, Irene, and Simone) together are revealed and to their increasing amazement as well as the readers, we find that over a period of many years one person has been planning in the background (in minute detail) for them all to come together in this quest. I highly recommend The Map of Lost Memories. A wonderful first novel...........and room was left for a continuation in another book :-)

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jeannie Mancini

    Irene Blum, a museum assistant in Seattle, has been ousted out of the top curator position she has worked hard all her life to achieve. In shock, and feeling betrayed by her peers, she is soon given an opportunity by a friend of her father's to find a batch of lost copper scrolls that tell the story of the mysterious lost race of Cambodia's Khmer people. The Kmer race was the civilization that built the wonderous archaeogical site of Angkor Wat that lies deep in the eerie jungles of Cambodia. Se Irene Blum, a museum assistant in Seattle, has been ousted out of the top curator position she has worked hard all her life to achieve. In shock, and feeling betrayed by her peers, she is soon given an opportunity by a friend of her father's to find a batch of lost copper scrolls that tell the story of the mysterious lost race of Cambodia's Khmer people. The Kmer race was the civilization that built the wonderous archaeogical site of Angkor Wat that lies deep in the eerie jungles of Cambodia. Setting out to build a team to accompany her, Irene finds that her team members all have separate agendas of their own for why they wish to join her and all have very selfish and devious reasons to covet the final prize. Although I usually enjoy these treasure hunter suspense thrillers, and even though I have interest myself in the lost history of the Khmer people, I found this novel a bit lacking in many ways. Kim Fay's character development offered no depth to any one of the lead players. This reader found that I didn't like or dislike any of the characters at all. The author gave them very little background history, no likeable personalities, and as a group she had them bickering with childish, selfish personas allowing no reader to root for them as they hunt for the hidden scrolls. The plot was lame; standard treasure hunting path with little excitement, thrills, or chills to keep you racing through the pages. In fact, I found myself putting it down for days not caring what really happened. To wrap this review up, the ending was not very enriching and I found it to be very anticlimactic with no surprises. On the whole, it's a so-so read and I feel nothing to write home about.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Heather Fineisen

    If you are someone who goes on vacation and spends all of your time behind the camera viewfinder, this is not the book for you. Reading this is a contemplative journey where you will experience sights and sounds and tastes. If you are in a hurry to see everything you will miss the best of this novel. Fay has written a novel where the adventure serves as the background for the true main character--location, location, location. It is evident that author Kim Fay knows Cambodia and Southeast Asia ver If you are someone who goes on vacation and spends all of your time behind the camera viewfinder, this is not the book for you. Reading this is a contemplative journey where you will experience sights and sounds and tastes. If you are in a hurry to see everything you will miss the best of this novel. Fay has written a novel where the adventure serves as the background for the true main character--location, location, location. It is evident that author Kim Fay knows Cambodia and Southeast Asia very well. Her descriptions of the culture and landscape are captivating and I found myself re-reading many passages, adjusting the greens here, the smell of the streets there, according to her prompts. Her main character, Irene Blum, has been passed over for a deserved promotion and heads off to Cambodia to find some historical scrolls. Her motivation is really to show everyone that she has the chops as a woman in 1925, to do so. And she does have the chops. But this is where the novel became a bit disjointed for me. Lush travelogue or adventure escapade? Fay attempts both and she succeeds with lush travelogue. The adventure scenes are okay but abrupt in the first half, and there is a back story that begs to be told as a prequel as well as an opening for a sequel. By the last part of the novel, the adventure seamlessly flows and meshes with the surroundings. Fay throws in a bit of moral debate regarding the rightful owners of such undiscovered antiquities that is well placed and thought provoking. I look forward to Fay's continued development of what I hope is a series of Ms. Blum's adventures. This review copy was received through Goodreads.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Meg - A Bookish Affair

    I listened to this audiobook and really enjoyed it. This book is a historical fiction that takes place in Southeast Asia in the 1920s. There is a little bit of mystery, a little bit of romance, and a really intriguing premise that kept me listening anxiously to see what happened next. I love reading about the 1920s and I have not read many books about Southeast Asia during this time period so I found the book truly fascinating from that aspect. The way that Fay writes about Shanghai and Cambodia I listened to this audiobook and really enjoyed it. This book is a historical fiction that takes place in Southeast Asia in the 1920s. There is a little bit of mystery, a little bit of romance, and a really intriguing premise that kept me listening anxiously to see what happened next. I love reading about the 1920s and I have not read many books about Southeast Asia during this time period so I found the book truly fascinating from that aspect. The way that Fay writes about Shanghai and Cambodia is truly magical. You really get to feel like what it must have been like to be in that part of the world during that time period; both glamorous and mysterious. Armchair travelers will really enjoy this book. While I got annoyed with Irene in some parts (she really does start out kind of naive), she really grew on me. Throughout the book, she becomes a little bit more mature after acting very immaturely when she is passed over for taking over the Brooks Museum. I love when you get to see a character really change in a book as I think it can be really hard to show real growth but Fay definitely succeeds here. I wish some of that growth would have extended to some of the other characters in the book (especially ones like Simone; she is just sort of terrible throughout the entire book and never seems to learn her lesson). To that degree, I feel while you get a great sense of Irene, you don't really get a good sense of why the other characters are the way that they are. I wanted to know a little bit more about them. Overall, I really liked listening to this book. I really liked the reader of the audiobook. Bottom line: A good pick for historical fiction fans!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Barbara Seidel

    This started slow but picked up momentum as the characters came alive. It tells the story of a woman in the 1920s trying to make a name for herself in the museum artifact field. Her goals take her all over SE Asia where she enlists a cast of lost souls including other women to help her. The descriptions of Cambodia and Vietnam - both places i have traveled to, made me want to go back. What was so compelling about the story was the depiction of women as adventurers at a time when women were not e This started slow but picked up momentum as the characters came alive. It tells the story of a woman in the 1920s trying to make a name for herself in the museum artifact field. Her goals take her all over SE Asia where she enlists a cast of lost souls including other women to help her. The descriptions of Cambodia and Vietnam - both places i have traveled to, made me want to go back. What was so compelling about the story was the depiction of women as adventurers at a time when women were not expected to have these kinds of dreams. The way all the pieces of her puzzle come together was a surprise almost to the very end. Loved the book and the feelings i was left with.

  24. 5 out of 5

    wade

    A very nicely done quest novel set in 1925 primarily in Asia. The main character (Irene) doesn't get the position that she wants and feels she deserves at a Seattle art museum. Spurned she decides to make them sorry by finding long lost copper scrolls that tell the history of the Khmer in Cambodia which a major find if she does it. During her search she links up with a wide variety of interesting cohorts some being more helpful than others. The book is well written and full of exotic settings a A very nicely done quest novel set in 1925 primarily in Asia. The main character (Irene) doesn't get the position that she wants and feels she deserves at a Seattle art museum. Spurned she decides to make them sorry by finding long lost copper scrolls that tell the history of the Khmer in Cambodia which a major find if she does it. During her search she links up with a wide variety of interesting cohorts some being more helpful than others. The book is well written and full of exotic settings and twists and turns as the plot builds. I really enjoyed the book and look forward to Fay's next work.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Anne Slater

    Woman, teed-off because passed over for promotion at British Museum, takes mother's diary and map to Cambodia by way of subterfuge and craft to seek a "lost" temple. On the way she learns a lot about human behavior/emotions, Cambodian history and religion, the place of the temple in modern Cambodian culture, and makes a Big Decision. Set ~1930 Kept my attention the whole way thorough! Woman, teed-off because passed over for promotion at British Museum, takes mother's diary and map to Cambodia by way of subterfuge and craft to seek a "lost" temple. On the way she learns a lot about human behavior/emotions, Cambodian history and religion, the place of the temple in modern Cambodian culture, and makes a Big Decision. Set ~1930 Kept my attention the whole way thorough!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lolita

    love historical fiction and this one filled my thirst for knowledge along with a good story. A hunt for list treasure and temple in Cambodia? I learned all about the Heyday and lost culture of the Canbodians along with personal drama, mystery and romance...

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kristin

    Historical fiction, mystery and travel adventure all rolled into one, with a strong female lead and an unexpected ending. Loved it.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    I am fairly uneducated when it comes to knowledge of cultures, histories and geography of the Orient. I have some vague memories of information from lessons in junior high or high school. Apart from that I'm sad to say that most of what I "know" comes from movies. Still, I'm a fan of the adventure genre and I'm definitely intrigued by areas like Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, China and others. So my interest was piqued by The Map of Lost Memories. The author, Kim Fay, is very knowledgabl I am fairly uneducated when it comes to knowledge of cultures, histories and geography of the Orient. I have some vague memories of information from lessons in junior high or high school. Apart from that I'm sad to say that most of what I "know" comes from movies. Still, I'm a fan of the adventure genre and I'm definitely intrigued by areas like Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, China and others. So my interest was piqued by The Map of Lost Memories. The author, Kim Fay, is very knowledgable about Oriental culture. She's written a number of travel and food guides centered in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Nepal. She lived in Vietnam for many years and travels there frequently. So while I can't speak personally to whether her portrayal of the cities, places and cultures are accurate, I can look to her as being far more knowledgable than I am. And based on the degree of detail she brings to every scene in the book, I am fairly certain she is painting an expertly accurate depiction of the region. The story takes place in the 1920s. There are a few flashback scenes in Seattle but most of the story takes place in Shanghai, Cambodia and the regions between the two. The book follows the adventures of Irene Blum. Until recently, Irene has worked at the Brooke Museum spending countless hours finding, obtaining and cataloging priceless artifacts. While the Museum board recognizes her skill and acknowledges that without her they would not have as many wonderful exhibits, they also live by early 20th century ideals. Irene is passed over for the curator position at the museum either partly or wholly based on her gender. Thanks to a long time wealthy family friend with an equal interest in antiquities, Irene sets out on a treasure hunt deep in the Orient to try and find the lost history of the ancient Khmer civilization. She hopes to use the prize to found her own legitimate reputation and bring herself into the public eye. Naturally things don't go exactly as planned. Many adventures and dangers present themselves and Irene is forced to reevaluate her position many times. As exciting as the overall premise sounds, this isn't a literary equivalent of something like Tomb Raider or Indiana Jones. While there are a number of action scenes, they aren't the breathtaking, edge of your seat kind of thrill rides you might expect from Lara Croft or Indiana Jones. I went into the novel expecting nail biting adventure. More than being about the adventure, I felt that this novel is about people, relationships and culture. This book is a realistic and methodical story outlining the difficulties in traveling halfway around the world to try and uncover a long-hidden secret while trying to stay beneath the radar and red tape of governments, museums and other treasure hunters. In Shanghai and Cambodia, Irene enlists the help of a variety of experts. Each of these experts bring their own professional and personal baggage to the expedition. They each have their own motive for tracking down the Khmer history. They each have personal bias for and against other members of the party. There is plenty of psychological, verbal and sometimes physical infighting between the members of the team. In addition to the core team members, there is also another treasure hunter looking for the Khmer history, leaders of a Communist revolution trying to hinder one member of the team, local government officials intent on keeping their position secure and local indigenous people suspicious of all outsiders and trying to remain safe. There were a few scenes where I felt like the motivations, interactions and behaviors of the characters were a little unrealistic or strained (especially as the crew finally approaches the Khmer temple in the last ~third of the book…the interactions between Simone and Irene felt a little forced). I also felt like the romance was quite rushed all things considered and I wondered if it was added just because "there has to be a romance." But apart from that the characters generally felt real and I enjoyed the way they interacted with one another and with the other aspects of the plot. While I didn't find the sort of adrenaline induced page turning excitement that I expected, I did find myself drawn into the strange (to me) world of the Orient. I was enthralled by the vivid and intricate culture being meticulously presented to me. The plot was interesting and compelling to read. It had just enough adventure and puzzle-treasure-hunting elements to offset the long stretches of psychological or cultural exploration. Towards the end of the book there are a few elements that seem to exist partly as motivation for a possible sequel. I found this both fun and a little cheesy. f you go into this book looking for a Lara Croft or Indiana Jones style adventure, you'll likely be disappointed. If you are interested in the history, research and discovery of "lost cultures", you'll find a wealth of well crafted and very detailed information presented in a compelling way. The author is quite knowledgable about her subject matter and that knowledge comes through credibly and convincingly. She left me wanting to know more about the Khmer and other aspects of Cambodian culture. **** 3.5 out of 5 stars

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    The first adventure book I’ve read in which the focus has been on uncovering character motivation rather than the treasures being chased. Slow to start. Interesting peek into an ancient culture I knew nothing about.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Eugenea Pollock

    Although I enjoyed much of this book, there were several instances that seemed temporally inconsistent—not many, not big—but jarring when they popped up. Hence, my rating.

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