by Mingmei Yip
Plot Summary:In this mesmerizing new novel, Mingmei Yip draws readers deeper into the exotic world of 1930s Shanghai first explored in Skeleton Women, and into the lives of the unforgettable Camilla, Shadow, and Rainbow Chang.
When Shadow, a gifted, ambitious magician, competed with the beautiful Camilla for the affections of organized crime leader Master Lung, she almost lost everything. Hiding out in Hong Kong, performing in a run-down circus, Shadow has no idea that Camilla, too, is on the run with her lover, Jinying--Lung's son.
Yet while Camilla and Shadow were once enemies, now their only hope of freedom lies in joining forces to eliminate the ruthless Big Brother Wang. Despite the danger, Shadow, Camilla, and Jinying return to Shanghai. Camilla also has her own secret agenda--she has heard a rumor that her son is alive. And in a city teeming with spies and rivals--including the vengeful Rainbow Chang--each battles for a future in a country on the verge of monumental change.
Review:I reviewed the first book in this two book series, Skeleton Women, last year and the savvy, deceptive and cynical main character, Camilla was definitely the reason I enjoyed the book so much. With her ending from the previous book, there were a few things left unresolved, and I was so glad to read her continuing story in The Nine Fold Heaven. While Camilla still has to practice the deceptions she was trained in as a skeleton woman, she has been changed by what happened in the previous book and is now trying to put her life back together. As she plans things mostly on the fly, her cleverness and resourcefulness shines through and I continue to admire her as a character.
The prose and the description of the setting lends an authenticity to the story that made it feel like a real history to me. I was intrigued by the comparisons between Chinese culture and American culture (although this was in the 30s) and there are both positives and negatives to both in my opinion. The clashes between opposing viewpoints in politics and religion gave more dimension to the characters and created a thought-provoking larger conflict than just what Camilla was going through. But the most important thing, especially in historical fiction, is for the setting to feel realistic and I felt like the streets of Thirties Hong Kong and Shanghai were brought to life in this book.
The romance between Camilla and Jinying continued to feel a little bland and stilted for me, though I admit Gao had me more in his corner! The relationship between Camilla and Shadow is very intriguing, and I liked the way it played out in the story. They are rivals and friends, and their relationship was necessarily complicated. There were multiple plot threads in this story; some that didn't seem to fit, but ended up fitting in the end which made this a very interesting and immersive read.
While I enjoyed reading Skeleton Women and The Nine Fold Heaven together, The Nine Fold Heaven does read very well on it's own. Even if historical fiction or the time period is not for you, if you like wry and astute main characters you should really enjoy this novel!
I received this book from the publisher or author for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review.