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The Secrets of Jin-shei

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A sweeping epic set in medieval China; it is the story of a group of women, the Jin-Shei sisterhood, who form a uniquely powerful circle that transcends class and social custom. They are bound together by a declaration of loyalty that transcends all other vows, even those with the gods, by their own secret language, passed from mother to daughter, by the knowledge that some A sweeping epic set in medieval China; it is the story of a group of women, the Jin-Shei sisterhood, who form a uniquely powerful circle that transcends class and social custom. They are bound together by a declaration of loyalty that transcends all other vows, even those with the gods, by their own secret language, passed from mother to daughter, by the knowledge that some of them will have to pay the ultimate sacrifice to enable others to fulfil their destiny. The sisterhood we meet run from the Emperor's sister to the street-beggar, from the trainee warrior in the Emperor's Guard to the apprentice healer, from the artist to the traveller-girl, herself an illegitimate daughter of an emperor and seen as a threat to the throne. And as one of them becomes Dragon Empress, her determination to hold power against the sages of the temple, against the marauding forces from other kingdoms, drags the sisterhood into a dangerous world of court intrigue, plot and counterplot, and brings them into conflict with each other from which only the one who remains true to all the vows she made at the very beginning to the dying Princess Empress can rescue them. An amazing and unusual book, based on some historical fact, full of drama, adventure and conflict like a Shakespearean history play, it's a novel about kinship and a society of women, of mysticism, jealousy, fate, destiny, all set in the wonderful, swirling background of medieval China.


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A sweeping epic set in medieval China; it is the story of a group of women, the Jin-Shei sisterhood, who form a uniquely powerful circle that transcends class and social custom. They are bound together by a declaration of loyalty that transcends all other vows, even those with the gods, by their own secret language, passed from mother to daughter, by the knowledge that some A sweeping epic set in medieval China; it is the story of a group of women, the Jin-Shei sisterhood, who form a uniquely powerful circle that transcends class and social custom. They are bound together by a declaration of loyalty that transcends all other vows, even those with the gods, by their own secret language, passed from mother to daughter, by the knowledge that some of them will have to pay the ultimate sacrifice to enable others to fulfil their destiny. The sisterhood we meet run from the Emperor's sister to the street-beggar, from the trainee warrior in the Emperor's Guard to the apprentice healer, from the artist to the traveller-girl, herself an illegitimate daughter of an emperor and seen as a threat to the throne. And as one of them becomes Dragon Empress, her determination to hold power against the sages of the temple, against the marauding forces from other kingdoms, drags the sisterhood into a dangerous world of court intrigue, plot and counterplot, and brings them into conflict with each other from which only the one who remains true to all the vows she made at the very beginning to the dying Princess Empress can rescue them. An amazing and unusual book, based on some historical fact, full of drama, adventure and conflict like a Shakespearean history play, it's a novel about kinship and a society of women, of mysticism, jealousy, fate, destiny, all set in the wonderful, swirling background of medieval China.

30 review for The Secrets of Jin-shei

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    This is a wonderful novel about ten girls growing up in an alternate China. They are from different stations in life, from lowly orphan to Imperial heir, but each one is connected through the bond of Jin-Shei, an oath of sisterhood more binding than anything. Even an order from the emperor can be refused, but a request made in the name of Jin-Shei can not. Over the course of their lives, these ten girls and their Jin-Shei bonds will reshape the empire. At its heart, The Secrets of Jin-Shei is abo This is a wonderful novel about ten girls growing up in an alternate China. They are from different stations in life, from lowly orphan to Imperial heir, but each one is connected through the bond of Jin-Shei, an oath of sisterhood more binding than anything. Even an order from the emperor can be refused, but a request made in the name of Jin-Shei can not. Over the course of their lives, these ten girls and their Jin-Shei bonds will reshape the empire. At its heart, The Secrets of Jin-Shei is about the relationships between these Jin-Shei sisters. The conflicts and fears, the betrayals and redemptions. While the plot is engaging, it's not an action-oriented novel. The beginning chapters felt almost leisurely as we were introduced to Tai and her companions. The magical element doesn't appear until about halfway through the book. If you're looking for explosions by page three, this may not be the book for you. For myself, I was hooked. There's an epic feel to the story, which spans an entire generation. (Or more, if you include the final chapter.) I cared about the characters, who were all too human. While some of the women choose darker paths, Alexander keeps them believable. Even as you grieve for the inevitable consequences, you understand why they made their choices. The resolution isn't entirely happy, but it feels true, which is far more important. While The Secrets of Jin-Shei may not appeal to everyone, it's a magical, masterful novel, one of the few I'll probably come back and re-read.

  2. 5 out of 5

    AJ LeBlanc

    I hated this book so much. I hated it with the power that only comes from being disappointed and wanting to not hate it. It had potential. It had moments where I thought “Yes! You can do it! You can do it! You… aww fuck.” Basic story line: Mythical Chinese kingdom. Eight Chinese girls. Once upon a time. The girls enter the pact of Jin-Shei. This is a sisterhood oath. It is explained to be sacred and binding, but also supporting because it’s done in love, trust and respect. At least that’s how the fir I hated this book so much. I hated it with the power that only comes from being disappointed and wanting to not hate it. It had potential. It had moments where I thought “Yes! You can do it! You can do it! You… aww fuck.” Basic story line: Mythical Chinese kingdom. Eight Chinese girls. Once upon a time. The girls enter the pact of Jin-Shei. This is a sisterhood oath. It is explained to be sacred and binding, but also supporting because it’s done in love, trust and respect. At least that’s how the first one goes. Later it’s sort of “Hey. You wanna do the whole Jin-Shei thing? And be sisters? Cool.” I think I actually put the book down and did a confused head shake. The first one was all formality and seriousness. Later on it was… not. The eight girls become a Venn diagram of Jin-Shei. They have distinct personalities and roles to play in the future of the empire. The writing spiral out of control and breaks my heart all over the place. Alexander introduces a plot point, for example a half sister that could lay claim to the throne. I start to think that this is going to be an interesting twist and I’m looking forward to how it’ll play out and what the characters will do and then I turn the page and it’s all “Wow. I thought there was a sister. Then I read this diary and there is a sister! I know who she is so I’m going to go get her and now we’re on the next part of the plot.” WTF??? This happened time and time again. ”Something is wrong. This is what I think is wrong. Yes, I was correct. It is wrong.” So much telling instead of showing. One of the more infuriating things (and there were a lot) was the passage of time. Parts were meant to meander and move slowly. But at other points Alexander would begin to build an intensity. You could feel things being pushed toward a conflict. You’d turn the page. ”A year later…” WTF? What do you mean a year later? What in the hell happened? Then there’d be a few sentences to get you caught up, you’d find out that there were some more questions that were answered by a quick walk down a hall somewhere and now it was time for something else. So so frustrating. I’m wondering if this book was cobbled together from a bunch of short stories about different characters and wasn’t supposed to be one book or if it was supposed to be several long books that ended up being chopped up into one. What really pissed me off was that parts of it were really good. There were moments where the story and plot and setting were original and well written and I’d get sucked in, only to be let down in a few pages. Even the ending had me split. Parts of it had me in tears because I’d watched (and been told) about these girls growing up and now tragedy was all over the place. But then one character behaved in a way that made zero sense from anything that she had done previously. She was crucial to the book; her actions drove almost the entire plot. But the book needed to end, so instead of saying A, she said B. A few sentences were tossed in there to show why she had this amazing change of heart that went against everything she had made herself to be, but the important thing is The End. Ugh. I wish the book flat out sucked because then I would have tossed it. I kept holding out hope that Alexander would get her shit together long enough to have a really solid section. But it never happened.

  3. 4 out of 5

    ☼♄Jülie 

    I remember I loved this book! Though it is some years since I read it, it has been passed around the family and recently returned to me.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Evelina | AvalinahsBooks

    I read this one a while ago, years and years – and yet, I still remember it quite often. I can't guarantee about the representation of Asian characters in this book because of the same reason, but if you take it with a grain of salt, I am sure you will enjoy it. It focuses on a sisterhood of sorts of women from all levels of society – rich as well as poor, of humble descent as well as nobility. It spans a long time and has a lot of fantasy elements, cause while it starts out in ancient China I read this one a while ago, years and years – and yet, I still remember it quite often. I can't guarantee about the representation of Asian characters in this book because of the same reason, but if you take it with a grain of salt, I am sure you will enjoy it. It focuses on a sisterhood of sorts of women from all levels of society – rich as well as poor, of humble descent as well as nobility. It spans a long time and has a lot of fantasy elements, cause while it starts out in ancient China, it ends up in pretty much fantasy territory. What I liked in this book was the amount of detail, intricacy, other-cultureness (...that a word..?) and, of course, the bonds between the souls of the women. I know I couldn't pry my nose from inside of that hefty book before I was done! Another interesting detail was that it was this book that introduced me to the fact that women had their own writing system in ancient China (as they were not allowed to study to read 'men's writings'.) This book appears in the list of Books To Go With Cocoa And A Warm Blanket. Check out the others! Read Post On My Blog | My Bookstagram | Bookish Twitter

  5. 4 out of 5

    Elyzabeth Gorman

    Love, love, loved this book. I think the publisher is doing it a disservice, though, by its presentation. I thought it was going to be an East Asian domestic drama, about the hidden lives of imperial women. Instead, it turned out to be a sprawling epic that includes fighting and the supernatural. It's about women, yes, in a mythical East Asian country, but it's a fantastical adventure and should be enjoyed as such. Love, love, loved this book. I think the publisher is doing it a disservice, though, by its presentation. I thought it was going to be an East Asian domestic drama, about the hidden lives of imperial women. Instead, it turned out to be a sprawling epic that includes fighting and the supernatural. It's about women, yes, in a mythical East Asian country, but it's a fantastical adventure and should be enjoyed as such.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sophie (RedheadReading)

    4.5 - This will probably rise on a reread 😅

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lisabet Sarai

    This book follows the intertwining lives of half a dozen women, bound together by the sacred bond of jinshei-bo, a relationship of kinship that goes far beyond blood ties. Tai, the prepubescent daughter of a Court seamstress, catches the eye of the young Empress in waiting, Antian, and despite the difference in their stations, they become close. Then Antian is killed in a catastrophic (and wonderfully described) earthquake. With her last breath, she urges Tai to "take care of her sisters". At fi This book follows the intertwining lives of half a dozen women, bound together by the sacred bond of jinshei-bo, a relationship of kinship that goes far beyond blood ties. Tai, the prepubescent daughter of a Court seamstress, catches the eye of the young Empress in waiting, Antian, and despite the difference in their stations, they become close. Then Antian is killed in a catastrophic (and wonderfully described) earthquake. With her last breath, she urges Tai to "take care of her sisters". At first Tai believes this means only the proud and prickly Luidan, daughter of a concubine but after Antian's death, heir to the throne. However, Tai discovers that the rash and yet vulnerable new Dragon Empress is not the only sister Antian left behind. Ms. Alexander creates a vivid fantasy world in which women have their own writing and their own powers. For the sake of brevity I haven't listed the other characters, but each member of Tai's jinshei circle has unique talents as well as personal burdens. The book offers sorcery and court intrique, celebration and mourning, love and death. The Secrets of Jin-Shei is not a particularly deep book, but the story and the characters kept me turning the pages. I was sorry when it was over.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lucy

    I think I ordered this book on the recommendation of someone on Goodreads, and I am glad I did. It's a wonderful story about female friendship in an almost medieval China. The setting was beautifully and richly drawn and I especially liked the handling of the Daoist-like religion which is central to many of the storylines of the book. The characters were varied, with strong personalities and motivations, and almost al of them were flawed in interesting ways. Perhaps the best was the empress, Liu I think I ordered this book on the recommendation of someone on Goodreads, and I am glad I did. It's a wonderful story about female friendship in an almost medieval China. The setting was beautifully and richly drawn and I especially liked the handling of the Daoist-like religion which is central to many of the storylines of the book. The characters were varied, with strong personalities and motivations, and almost al of them were flawed in interesting ways. Perhaps the best was the empress, Liudan. I didn't *like* her but it was probably the most accurate portrayal of a powerful woman monarch I have ever read.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Richard Nell

    Overall/Tl;dr An impressive book about sisterhood in a China-but-not-China fantasy setting. The first 20% of the book was really very good (I love sisterhood/brotherhood stuff), but I didn't end up enjoying it as much I expected. There's a bit of fantasy, good alternative-history world-building, and lots of characters to read about, but the plot...just didn't work for me. Setting/World-building Alternate-China with different names and with a sort of low-fantasy magic. 'Jin-Shei' means sister of the Overall/Tl;dr An impressive book about sisterhood in a China-but-not-China fantasy setting. The first 20% of the book was really very good (I love sisterhood/brotherhood stuff), but I didn't end up enjoying it as much I expected. There's a bit of fantasy, good alternative-history world-building, and lots of characters to read about, but the plot...just didn't work for me. Setting/World-building Alternate-China with different names and with a sort of low-fantasy magic. 'Jin-Shei' means sister of the heart, essentially an oath of loyalty women can decide to take with one another, and is relevant because the 8(?) characters all have a tangled web of them. The religion and particularly the main city where most of the story takes place was well done and came alive for me. But I felt a bit under-informed about the politics. Plot Right. So this is where the book fell down in my opinion, and I feel I need to explain why, but it will contain spoilers. (view spoiler)[The most succinct way I can think of to describe the plot is 'several women become sisters, then get old and/or die in fantasy China'. That's it. Nothing actually changes. Which maybe is some kind of statement or theme, but I couldn't quite understand exactly why I was reading about these characters. The 'villain' if we can call him that is utterly mysterious and ultimately irrelevant. The *real* villain seems to me to be one of the main characters - the Dragon Empress. It's like a spoiled child rules the nation, and the whole cast of characters is there to prop her up. Except I didn't want them to. And more importantly she seemed to have no rivals or political intrigue or conflict to prevent her from doing anything she wanted. (hide spoiler)] /endrant Characters There's a lot of them. Had there been a test at the end I suspect I would have maybe failed. Having said that, the characters were mostly very interesting. It's understating the case to say this is a character driven novel. The characters are the point. If that appeals to you then I think you'll quite enjoy the book. Writing Mostly very good with a few spots of excellence. The writing is a big help to this book and certainly carried me forward. Final thoughts I like interesting characters but ultimately I need a good plot to enjoy myself, so I'm not quite the right audience for this. A tough review and a tough read. I wanted to like this book more than I did, but with great writing, a unique setting, and many (many) interesting characters, this will certainly appeal (and already has) to a wide variety of readers.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bill Swears

    Sisters of the Soul: The Secrets of Jin-shei Alma Hromick-Deckert has written at least fifteen books, substantial short fiction, lived and worked on four continents, and been a witness to worldwide change along the way. According to one of her web-sites, she was born in 1963 on the shores of the Danube in a country that no longer exists, received several degrees in South Africa, but then found it prudent to leave that land rather than be swept aside by militant forces for cultural change, and eve Sisters of the Soul: The Secrets of Jin-shei Alma Hromick-Deckert has written at least fifteen books, substantial short fiction, lived and worked on four continents, and been a witness to worldwide change along the way. According to one of her web-sites, she was born in 1963 on the shores of the Danube in a country that no longer exists, received several degrees in South Africa, but then found it prudent to leave that land rather than be swept aside by militant forces for cultural change, and eventually settled in Bellingham, Washington. The Secrets of Jin-shei, published in 2004 under the name Alma Alexander, is her first American novel, published by Harper Collins as mainstream fiction. Unsurprisingly, considering her own history, Jin-shei examines the lives of a group of nine women who never quite feel as though they belong, and who share, unevenly, a vow that will shape their entire lives. Jin-shei is interesting and beautiful from several perspectives. Although it has a focus character, Tai, it is truly an ensemble cast. Tai's most critical actions occur at the beginning and end of the tale, while the body is given more to the activities of each of her Jin-shei sisters. The novel is presented largely in a multiple third person point of view. The writing style trends toward the American speculative fiction standard of "transparent" prose, yet has moments of truly beautiful language, and other moments of truly breathtaking beauty. It has a large cast of major characters, is set in Syai, an ancient Chinese kingdom that never existed and in which magic is real. Alexander begins Jin-shei with an epigraph - prefacing material from the Imperial poet Kato-Tai, in the year 28 of the Star Emperor. The selection frames the entire narrative and reveals that Tai outlived or lost all of her eight sisters of Jin-shei: All women in Syai are given the gift of the secret vow, the promise that is everlasting, the bond that does not break. I shared my own life with a healer, an alchemist, a sage, a soldier, a gypsy, a rebel leader, a loving ghost, and an Empress who dreamed of immortality and nearly destroyed us all. Each of the seven major parts of the book begins with a small epigraph quoting a fictional court poet from various Imperial reigns. The epigraphs, if put together, form one poem, which illustrates the ages of a woman, and become the framing notion for each part. The parts are named after notional stages of life within The Way. According to the text, the stages of life are: Liu, Lan, Xat, Qai, Ryu, Pau and Atu, which correspond poetically to the ages of a woman. An amazing amount of thought and heart went into creating this book, and I loved it. I've read it several times, and even wrote a paper about it in graduate school. Now that I'm writing this shore review, I'll probably have to go back and reread it again. I'll laugh again, and almost certainly cry again. Some book just hit you that way.

  11. 5 out of 5

    V

    I'd give this novel a 4.5. It challenged me in a different sense than any other ‘difficult read’ has – the task of differentiating ten protagonists really tested my short and long term memory banks. This initial need to absorb would likely explain why the first volume was so comparatively inert to the rest of the novel. The atmosphere had been built to be peaceful, curious and idealistic – it was set in the Summer Palace – so even the first disruption proved to be a big shock. The drama had sign I'd give this novel a 4.5. It challenged me in a different sense than any other ‘difficult read’ has – the task of differentiating ten protagonists really tested my short and long term memory banks. This initial need to absorb would likely explain why the first volume was so comparatively inert to the rest of the novel. The atmosphere had been built to be peaceful, curious and idealistic – it was set in the Summer Palace – so even the first disruption proved to be a big shock. The drama had significantly accelerated by the third segment. The ability to create and sustain such different paces within a novel is an admirable skill. Apart from the often unpredictable action, what also engaged me was the wisdom that was littered throughout. Yes, it was contextual; often too imaginative and faith-bound for my personal taste – but overall thought-provoking and, at times, reassuring. I should also mention that I often forgot that I was reading from the perspectives of ancient Chinese girls/women, despite the constant drawing on contextual differences. Though I was experiencing life through an alternate universe, I could still immerse myself into the mind of each character. Extracts: "There are moths outside, ready to die for a light they crave but which is denied to them, shielded from them [...] Sometimes, in the midst of all I have been given, I watch the moths in us all. Everybody has a light which they think they cannot live without." "It is Pau-kala. The branch is still bare. The old tree's leaves will never return - they are a memory and a song. But there is a sapling, there is a sapling right beside that old tree, and it's trembling with promise. There will be a spring again." A truly underrated read.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I liked this book, but also didn’t. There were A LOT of characters…something like 10 main characters is a wee bit too many. Certainly a few could be cut. The remaining 7 or so characters were great and I enjoyed their growth and relationships between each other. What I didn’t like was the hocus-pocus ghost crap. It wasn’t necessary! It was a great story of friendship and being bound to tradition and a culture. I could have also done without the last chapter. I read the book, I don’t need a refre I liked this book, but also didn’t. There were A LOT of characters…something like 10 main characters is a wee bit too many. Certainly a few could be cut. The remaining 7 or so characters were great and I enjoyed their growth and relationships between each other. What I didn’t like was the hocus-pocus ghost crap. It wasn’t necessary! It was a great story of friendship and being bound to tradition and a culture. I could have also done without the last chapter. I read the book, I don’t need a refresher as to what happened earlier. I was actually paying attention. Also? I don’t need to know what happened to every single character to the very end. Cut the last chapter and the ghostie mystical stuff, and it would be the appropriate length, as it is too long with them in. Even with these faults, it was pretty much an enjoyable book that did suck me in and kept me turning the pages.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Marie Horning

    "Jin-shei means 'sister of the heart.' It means that two women who are not bound by ties of blood choose to help and protect one another out in the world." This book is about deeply loyal friendships in medieval China that transcend social class, occupation and age. It's a girl power kind of cast ranging from an Empress to a healer to a seamstress/poet, a guardswoman, and a scholar/alchemist. There are also elements of sorcery and immortality, and the book turns kind of dark towards the end. The "Jin-shei means 'sister of the heart.' It means that two women who are not bound by ties of blood choose to help and protect one another out in the world." This book is about deeply loyal friendships in medieval China that transcend social class, occupation and age. It's a girl power kind of cast ranging from an Empress to a healer to a seamstress/poet, a guardswoman, and a scholar/alchemist. There are also elements of sorcery and immortality, and the book turns kind of dark towards the end. There is a beautiful, foreboding poem before it all goes awry: Leaves have always fallen from autumn branches. But never before has it filled me with so much nameless fear. Why am I so terribly afraid that the leaves will not return when the spring comes?

  14. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    Blood has nothing to do with family as this story of "secret sisters" is unveiled. The writing of this book is magical and it does take you back in time to China. This story is of non-blood sisters who will protect and follow each other to the ends of the earth. Its amazing as you read this story, of how you can relate different "sisters" to your own group of friends. Reading this book, I was attaching the characters with friends in my own circle I draw streagth from. You will not be disappointed w Blood has nothing to do with family as this story of "secret sisters" is unveiled. The writing of this book is magical and it does take you back in time to China. This story is of non-blood sisters who will protect and follow each other to the ends of the earth. Its amazing as you read this story, of how you can relate different "sisters" to your own group of friends. Reading this book, I was attaching the characters with friends in my own circle I draw streagth from. You will not be disappointed with this book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Monique

    Incredible!! I absolutely loved this! I loved how it was all about women and a secret language of friendship and sisterhood. I loved how each person had their own set of strengths and weaknesses and how each sister kind of filled in the blanks. The only thing I didn't really like was how little plot there actually was, as the whole "immortality" thing was over too quickly. I also wasn't fond of how most of the sisters died, and horribly. But otherwise, it was a really wonderful story about love, Incredible!! I absolutely loved this! I loved how it was all about women and a secret language of friendship and sisterhood. I loved how each person had their own set of strengths and weaknesses and how each sister kind of filled in the blanks. The only thing I didn't really like was how little plot there actually was, as the whole "immortality" thing was over too quickly. I also wasn't fond of how most of the sisters died, and horribly. But otherwise, it was a really wonderful story about love, friendship and the power of a woman.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lora Dudding

    I loved all the strong women characters in this book. Although there were 10 main characters, they were all so different that they were easy to keep apart. I was not expecting the storyline to detour into sorcery and ghost roads, but it was very entertaining. My few complaints are that the stories of Khailin ,Tammary, and Luidan were not really wrapped up except to say they were dead. But then again, that could have added another 100 pages to already long novel.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Pamela

    The lives of sisters This story takes many surprising turns, and through them, the reader becomes acquainted with a culture, a city, a dynasty. The writer takes you on the journey through the memory of one of a group of women. A group by virtue of their choice to honor a chosen bond of "Jin-shei" —a sisterhood with its own written language, passed down through ages. The characters are diverse, and yet each honors the bond, the promise. A worthy read by a knowledgeable author. The lives of sisters This story takes many surprising turns, and through them, the reader becomes acquainted with a culture, a city, a dynasty. The writer takes you on the journey through the memory of one of a group of women. A group by virtue of their choice to honor a chosen bond of "Jin-shei" —a sisterhood with its own written language, passed down through ages. The characters are diverse, and yet each honors the bond, the promise. A worthy read by a knowledgeable author.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    It can be hard to keep an ensemble cast of characters distinct from one another, and yet Alma Alexander manages to do so in this book. The strength of this story is its characters moreso than the plot. I do wonder if perhaps the central conceit of jin-shei was occasionally overused as a McGuffin to drive the plot forward rather than have it unfold a bit more organically. In some places she could have showed more than told, but overall an engaging read.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Caren

    I really enjoyed this book. I didn't have any expectations when I started it, so I was pleasantly surprised by the intricate weaving of all the storylines. I found myself captivated to find out what would happen next with each of the characters. My only recommendation is to read the pronunciation key at the end of the book first- I was way off on some of the names! I really enjoyed this book. I didn't have any expectations when I started it, so I was pleasantly surprised by the intricate weaving of all the storylines. I found myself captivated to find out what would happen next with each of the characters. My only recommendation is to read the pronunciation key at the end of the book first- I was way off on some of the names!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    The story of a group of Chinese girls who come together through their pledge of jin-shei, a sisterhood that binds them for life. They range from an Imperial heir to an orphan who joins the guard, a healer to a sage, a poet to a wanderer. I enjoyed the first part of the story much better than the second as it got long winded and slow in parts.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Connie

    I love the strong female characters in this novel about pledged sisterhood. From various walks of life, they become sisters of the heart, pledging fealty to one another. Through good and bad, they struggle for self-realization and end up saving an Empire.

  22. 4 out of 5

    laura adams

    The Secrets of Jin-shei is like looking at a tapestry. Very vivid and intricate watching the friendships weave together. It is a very enjoyable and thought provoking read. I highly recommend this to who has a best friend you call sister, even if you don't it will inspire you. The Secrets of Jin-shei is like looking at a tapestry. Very vivid and intricate watching the friendships weave together. It is a very enjoyable and thought provoking read. I highly recommend this to who has a best friend you call sister, even if you don't it will inspire you.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Anne-gaelle

    amazing story on true friendship and where it can take you.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Shannon Mcgarrity

    An enjoyable read, it keeps you interested. I like the storylines and the settings.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jenna Thomas-mckie

    My only complaint - it ended too quickly!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Vicky

    One of my absolute all time favorites!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jo

    When I picked this book up knowing very little about it but assuming it was about a period of time in China’s history, I was initially disappointed to find that although there are many similarities, the book is actually set in a fictional world –Syai – that is simply based on China and that this book would be classed as somewhat fantastical. As I don’t tend to read fantasy, I wasn’t sure how I would therefore get on with the novel but the world Alma Alexander has built, has so many similarities When I picked this book up knowing very little about it but assuming it was about a period of time in China’s history, I was initially disappointed to find that although there are many similarities, the book is actually set in a fictional world –Syai – that is simply based on China and that this book would be classed as somewhat fantastical. As I don’t tend to read fantasy, I wasn’t sure how I would therefore get on with the novel but the world Alma Alexander has built, has so many similarities to Chinese culture and belief systems that I could easily forget it wasn’t strictly historical. The concept of Jin-Shei, which is a bond between women that goes beyond blood, is actually based on a Chinese concept of Jiebai Zhimei as Alexander explains in her historical note and I know she did a great deal of research for the book that revolved around real Chinese history. The world that Alexander has created is beautifully described, and each of the elements of the society are illustrated by a young woman each of whom are gradually introduced into the story and form a group of Jin-shei sisters. Some of these women are royalty, some far more low born but the jin-shei bond goes beyond such class layers such as the bond between the Little Empress Antian and Tai, the daughter of the court seamstress. Each of the seven women has a distinct talent and place in the book, Yuet is the healer, Xaforn the fighter, Nhia the sage, Tammary the wild outsider, Qiaan the carer and organizer and so on. The novel follows these girls into women hood and through love, happiness, success and sadness. Much of the action and intrigue centers on the Empress, the kingdom and the lineage of the throne and I assumed that this is where it would stay. There is a powerful character introduced, however, who poses a great threat and touches the lives of several of the girls to their detriment. When this storyline was expanded it seemed as though Alexander had taken on too much, that court intrigue and drama and long hidden secrets would have been enough to maintain the story, however, this plot thread comes full circle and in the end succeeded. Men do feature in the novel but primarily as partners or villains, this is very much a female centric novel with strong, compassionate and intelligent women. There are some clichés and flowery language in the book and a few times I cringed at some of the romantic dialogue but I think this says more about me as a reader and my dislike of romance in books. Overall I found the writing fluent and quite lyrical, events happened towards the end of the book that I wasn’t expecting and I think I was close to shedding a tear at one point; this was an easy, inventive and enjoyable read.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    This was a well written and interesting novel set in a fantasy empire similar to historical China. It tells the stories of a group of young women who have chosen each other as sisters of the heart, jin-shei. It tells of political intrigue and a battle on both physical and spiritual planes. It took me a while to get into this story because a large number of the beginning chapters were introducing the main characters, and there were a lot of them, one by one in their own voice, but eventually, the This was a well written and interesting novel set in a fantasy empire similar to historical China. It tells the stories of a group of young women who have chosen each other as sisters of the heart, jin-shei. It tells of political intrigue and a battle on both physical and spiritual planes. It took me a while to get into this story because a large number of the beginning chapters were introducing the main characters, and there were a lot of them, one by one in their own voice, but eventually, the various threads of the plot began to intertwine, and I became attached to these women and their lives. There were a lot of sad occurrences as the novel drew to a close, which I disliked, but even so, I still found the ending to be reasonably satisfying. Overall, I really enjoyed reading this novel.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Linda kenney

    A must read for lovers of Chinese historical fiction! Thoroughly researched and rich in details of ancient Chinese culture...religion,family,a secret sisterhood among women that transcended class and rank. An exploration of deep friendship and loyalty. The characters were well drawn and complex. Loved tis novel!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Althea Ann

    In the author's 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 feat In the author's 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 who's 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 it's being marketed as a book about "meaning of friendship and loyalty" – I'm not sure if it was the author's intention, but the message I took away from this story is that it's always a bad idea to make decisions based on an oath, rather than on one's own better judgement.

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