cover image Imperial Lady: A Fantasy of Han China

Imperial Lady: A Fantasy of Han China

Andre Norton. Tor Books, $17.95 (293pp) ISBN 978-0-312-93128-5

Master storyteller Norton has teamed up with Shwartz ( Silkroads and Shadows ) to produce an eerie and delightful tale about a girl who goes from outcast at the court of the Han emperor to queen of a barbarian horde in the steppes of central Asia. Accompanied by her maid Willow, a shapechanger of the fox people, Silver Snow, daughter of a disgraced general, is dispatched to court as a potential new concubine for the emperor. Because she is too poor to bribe him, however, the chief eunuch depicts her as uncivilized and ugly and she is banished to the Cold Palace without ever meeting the emperor. When members of the Hsiung-nu migrant horde come seeking peace and a Han princess as bride for their shan-yu (leader) Khujanga, Silver Snow is chosen as a subtle insult. The intelligent and active girl sees an opportunity to bring her father back to favor and restore her family. Becoming bride in name only to the elderly Khujanga, she gains the love and respect of the horsemen and her husband, but also provokes the enmity of the shaman Strong Tongue, first wife of the shan-yu and mother of his vicious son. Norton and Shwartz bring a little-known time vividly to life, creating a believable heroine in an era when women were considered chattels or playthings. (Aug.)