In April, I read Jade Mountain Dragon by Hart and was impressed with Hart's ability to place the reader in the world of Li Du, former royal librarian and current exile traveling the border of China and Tibet.
When I started The White Mirror, the introductory prologue threw me a little, and I still don't feel that it served a genuine purpose. However, when the story moved to Li Du and his adventure, I immediately fell right into the story.
After Li Du's service to the Kangxi Emperor, he is no longer a forced exile, but he has chosen to remain a wandering scholar rather than return to the Imperial library. And he has his reasons.
He is traveling with the trade caravan he met in the last book. The caravan heads to Lhasa, but has taken a different route than usual with the intention of stopping at a certain manor. As they approach the bridge that leads to the manor, it appears that a monk is sitting on the bridge meditating in the snow. However, as the caravan moves to the bridge, it becomes evident that the monk is dead, prayer beads dangling from his fingers. His open robes reveal a symbol painted on his stomach, and he clutches a knife that pierces his belly.
The group (including Hamza, my favorite character) is welcomed at the manor, where the snow forces them to delay their journey. Did the monk commit suicide or was he murdered? Who are some of the other travelers forced to take sanctuary at the manor to wait out the storm? What intrigues connect Tibet and China? A lot of secrets remain to be uncovered, and Li Du begins a thoughtful investigation into the monk's death.
As in Jade Mountain Dragon, Elsa Hart creates a rich and beautiful landscape. Her ability to create images made this mystery feel almost as if I were viewing the various figures in the mountainous region as each moved about his or her own purpose.
This is an excellent series with wonderful atmosphere, intelligent content, and beautiful writing. Highly recommended.
Read in July. Blog post scheduled for Aug. 8, 2016
NetGalley/St. Martin's Press
Historic Mystery. Sept. 6, 2016. Print length: 320 pages.