Lynne Reid Banks, Author . HarperCollins $15.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-06-623782-4

Tinged with Buddhist notions of karma and reincarnation, Banks's (The Indian in the Cupboard) riveting tale of reprisal and redemption centers on a Chinese slave girl and her fierce, embittered master, the Scottish laird Bruce MacLennan. After a feud with a neighboring warlord results in the bloody deaths of his cherished wife and children, MacLennan sets in motion his plans for a huge fortress, complete with dungeon, and then decamps to the fabled land of China in search of adventure. Working as a hired fighter, MacLennan encounters young Mudan (Peony) and, on impulse, buys her as his tea slave. The child's presence begins to reawaken feelings of tenderness in MacLennan, which he does his best to squelch. In another, more conventional novel, this softening might be the start of the warrior's re-entry into the world of the loving; here, it is simply the beginning of a heart-wrenching struggle between compassion and vengeance. For her part, Peony takes scraps of happiness where she can, gleaning wisdom and courage from the teachings of the Buddhist soldier with whom MacLennan travels; some years later, when she accompanies MacLennan back to Scotland, she finds something like familial love in her friendship with a kind stable boy. As the novel moves toward its conclusion, it conveys a powerful message about the terrible price of unswerving revenge. A poignant epilogue offers a spark of hope, especially welcome after all the sorrow that precedes it. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 10/28/2002
Release date: 10/01/2002
Genre: Children's
Library Binding - 279 pages - 978-0-06-623783-1
Acrobat Ebook Reader - 978-0-06-054223-8
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