The Secrets of Jin-Shei

Written by Alma Alexander
Review by Viviane Crystal

“Mine was the time of love and fire, of pain, of loss, of joy, of grief, of greed and arrogance and dreams and betrayals …of the bond of jin-shei, the sisterhood of woman which shaped the world I was born into.” So speaks Kito-Tai in the year 28 of the Star Emperor in a mythical Chinese kingdom. These familiar themes are no less satisfying because of the fascinating way Alexander weaves them through the lives of eight dynamic characters. Females rule this empire according to prescribed rules and rituals. However, the secret bond uniting those who ask “jin-shei” of another special person means a mystical, life-changing future for eight previously ordinary women. So we meet Tai, noticed by the future Empress; Antian, but bound by a dying vow to take care of one who will succeed the throne; Liudan, who in turn desperately needs love and immortality to preserve what was previously denied. A Chinese healer, Yuet, and Liudan use jin-shei to protect the positions they would have lost but for their ingenious conspiracy. Khailin has one dream, to pursue the world of alchemy and associated knowledge, and Nhia possesses the mystical wisdom and access to the written material to fulfill Khailin’s aspirations. However, neither realizes how deeply they will need each other once that fulfillment begins and is put into practice. A warrior, Qiaan, and orphan, Xaforn, bond to protect family secrets and future plans. When their best laid plans go awry, it is the integrity of jin-shei that saves each of them from looming disaster. Although historically disconnected from any particular period of Chinese history, elements of this story reveal the protective, secretive world of royalty and common folk that one might imagine in any century of ancient China. The Secrets of Jin-Shei is an intriguing and fascinating read.