Historical fiction is not usually my first choice of genre, and I'll admit that when I realised that The Gilded Fan was set in the 1600s, and in China, I was pretty dubious as to whether I would enjoy it. I really shouldn't have worried, the writing is so accessible, not in the least bit dry and old-fashioned - it's a really fast moving and exciting story.
Beginning in 1641 in China, the reader is introduced to Midori Kumashiro, the daughter of a Japanese warlord and his English wife. Midori's parents are both now dead and the new Shogun has declared that all residents of foreign extract must leave or die. Midori hates the thought of leaving her homeland, the place where she had a happy and loving life, but realises that she has no alternative. Her step-brother risks his own life to enable her to get a passage to Amsterdam on a cargo ship.
Nico Noordholt is the captain of the ship and the last thing he wants or needs is a solitary female passenger on board his ship, amongst his crew for months on end. Despite this, Midori shows courage and cunning when dealing with him and before Nico knows it, he has a passenger.
The story then follows Nico and Midori's journey to Europe, but not before Midori has to fight for her life after being captured by the Shogun's forces. The journey takes many months and Midori faces many dangers throughout.
The clash of different cultures is highlighted when Midori reaches England, and finds that her family are Puritans - they wear no bright colours, own nothing that could be considered pretty and live a very simple and quite frugal life. Midori has been brought up with beautiful silks, servants and good food. She is a trained warrier and has a mind of her own. Her internal struggle to be accepted by her new family whilst remaining loyal to the memory of her parents often causes her a lot of pain and grief.
I have been very impressed by The Gilded Fan, the historical detail is stunning, and Courteney has a real skill in transporting the reader back. Her characters are colourful and realistic, often troubled and flawed, but realistic and honest.
I'd like to thank Choc Lit for sending this copy of The Gilded Fan for review, and I will most certainly be on the lookout for more from Christina Courteney.