Monday, July 8, 2013

The Ming Storytellers by Laura Rahme

In the 15th century at the dawn of the Ming Dynasty, three women’s paths cross: an imperial concub ine, a Persian traveler and a mysterious storyteller. Out of their journey, a tale is born, The Ming Storytellers.

Within the Imperial city, concubine Min Li has only ever sought to please, even if that means pleasing Emperor Zhu Di. Then Min Li unearths a terrible secret. Driven to despair, she seeks help from her lover, Admiral Zheng He. This sparks a chain of events and Min Li’s fate is sealed before she knows who her enemy is.

Laura Rahme weaves history, fantasy and literary tradition together in a daring method. The history is self-evident, but Rahme uses elements of The Arabian Nights, as well. Then the tale is frequently told from a third person narrator who speaks in a historically accurate fashion. This lends the book a factual feeling as if it had been taken from the annals o f the time. For example:

While it is true that Min Li had escaped the pain of foot binding, she would later encounter pain of an entirely different sort. Because there exists many a torment in the path of human existence and those of the mind are often of the worse kind. But forgive your humble servant, honored reader. We are glimpsing ahead and we should perhaps begin from the beginning.

The historical research was impeccable and thoroughly grounds the reader in 15th century China. If you want to know what living as a Chinese concubine in the 15th century was like, Ms. Rahme has given you a rare window.

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