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Though she has won two short story prizes, Asensi is better known for her novels, including El salón ámbar (“The Amber Room”; Planeta, 1999), which has been translated into several languages, and the best sellers Iacobus (Planeta, 2000) and El último Catón [Planeta, 2001; (The Last Cato ; Rayo, 2006)]. In this latest novel, Asensi once again uses her best-selling formula to deliver a masterpiece. Elvira is a 40-year-old Spaniard who must travel from France to Shanghai to arrange her husband’s funeral. With niece Fernanda, a servant boy, a Taoist monk/bodyguard, and others, she embarks on a journey through the history of China. They go to Xian, the empire’s old capital city, looking for a mythical treasure that could save them all from poverty and China from its enemies. The pace of the novel is quick, with passages regarding Chinese history and Taoist philosophy to the point and very enjoyable. Asensi’s style is fluid and her writing well researched; all historical references are footnoted. This novel successfully combines reality and history, making this an amazing story of East and West. Recommended for public libraries and bookstores.
—Ruth Sanchez Imizcoz