With the expertise she demonstrated in Olivia and Jai and The Veil of Illusion, Ryman lyrically depicts the exotic atmosphere of late 19th-century India and Central Asia, the setting of her third historical novel. The stormy romance between indomitable Emma Wyncliffe and mysterious Damien Granville competes for center stage with the famous Great Game, the colonial intrigues played out between England and Russia for control of the valuable Silk Road, the trade route between the West and China. The pseudonymous Ryman, who grew up in India and still lives there, depicts her homeland with loving care, from the sophisticated conurbation of Delhi to the ancient city of Srinagar and the beautiful landscapes of Kashmir and the Himalayas. She packs a wealth of historical information into a suspenseful story that ties Emma's recently deceased father, an explorer, to an intricate plot involving a secret pass through the Himalayas. Forced to marry Damien to settle her brothers' gambling debts and save her family home, Emma finds herself drawn to her enigmatic husband, whose frequent disappearances allow her to delve clandestinely into his past and unearth the truth about his Russian-born mother. Meanwhile, Colonel Mikhail Borokov of the Russian Imperial Army searches obsessively for the mysterious Yasmina Pass. British military intelligence concocts an outrageous plot to get information on the Yasmina, while Damien pursues a private agenda involving Emma, the Yasmina and his own family secrets. Both her novel's sweep and the tone of her prose are pleasantly Victorian, as Ryman skillfully assembles the disparate elements of her plot and of the subcontinent's landscape. In addition to the well-made story, readers will enjoy spectacularly vivid depictions of India and of such locations in Central Asia as Tibet, present-day Afghanistan and Xinjiang/Sinkiang, during the pivotal late-colonial era. (Aug.) FYI: Rights to Shalimar have been sold in Germany, where Ryman's novels are bestsellers.
Reviewed on: 08/02/1999 Release date: 08/01/1999 Genre: Fiction