Although The Gilded Fan is the sequel to The Scarlet Kimono, it can also be read as a stand-alone so don’t let that put you off picking up this wonderful read!
The Gilded Fan begins with a prologue. It is 1640 and Midori is at her mother, Hannah’s funeral. On the procession to the temple, the reader becomes aware of the death a year ago of Midori’s father and how Hannah’s love for him was so strong that she couldn’t live without him. We also meet Midori’s half-brother, Ichiro.
We’re then on the island Dejima (across the water from Nagasaki) at the Dutch Trading Post for the East Indian Company. There is a small bridge that connects Dejima and Nagasaki but is guarded. The Captain of the Zwarte Zwaan is unwell but still meets with the Japanese to negotiate for cargo. When he dies from the fever Nico, first mate, becomes Captain.
Midori needs to flee Japan as the Shogun is cleansing Japan of ‘foreigners’. With her maternal English heritage, she is put into this category. Bluffing her way onto Dejima, she wants to pay for her passage to England. Before she meets Nico she makes her first enemy. I loved this scene! The customs of her upbringing and her personality really shine through. Such a strength of character! From this point I knew I would thoroughly enjoy being a part of wherever the story was going to take me.
Against his better judgement, Nico accepts Midori as a passenger but before they set sail, a member of Ichiro’s household has betrayed them. Midori spends some time in a dungeon …
The sea journey is exciting and dangerous. Alongside the sparring of our two leads, their attraction grows. Batavia is the stop-off that causes conflict for Midori and Amsterdam, Nico’s home, is where she feels at home.
Before they reach Plymouth, Nico finds out something that will cause rejection when they reach land…
The historical period of The Gilded Fan is very interesting, from the Shogun in Japan and Japenese customs to the Civil War with the Royalists and Parliamentarians in England. With Midori’s mixed-race heritage she feels as if she doesn’t belong anywhere. The beliefs she was brought up to revere are never truly buried in Puritan Plymouth.
The writing is such that you feel yourself a part of the story. Considering we’re on the Zwarte Zwaan for a time, you might think there would be times when you’re imagination isn’t quite so fired but the things that happen give this an exciting feel. In Batavia I experienced the terror alongside Midori, in the market I enjoyed wandering around and bargaining and in Plymouth I could smell the stench of the streets and hear the boom of the cannons.
Our two leads are very strong characters, which leads to some very emotional sparring sessions. I enjoyed the sparks Midori and Nico made :)
I did wonder where the plot would take us once we reached England … when we find out the connection to England it weaves together all the strands of the plot, giving us more conflict between the two leads and intrigue within Midori’s family (as well as the politics/Civil War).
The Gilded Fan is more than a story of love. History, politics, religion, family and time spent on a trading ship and in three countries held me enthralled. I thought about the story during the day and couldn’t wait to carry on reading.
I did have a personal interest in this story … I can’t end my review without sharing that my 5 x great grandfather, Richard Govey, spent time as a first mate on the East Indiaman ‘Grosvenor’ (1766) and his nephew was buried in the Honourable East India Co burial ground in Poplar in 1846. In 1878, an ancestors marriage announcement in The Times notes her name and nickname … Henriette (Chinkie) Govey. Not PC these days!
I would like to thank the publishers, Choc Lit, for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.