Unbound by John Shors

‘Maybe there’s a balance to life, to fate.’

1548, the Middle Kingdom of China is ruled by the Ming dynasty, who replaced the Yuan (Mongol) dynasty in 1368.  The Mongols continue to threaten, and while the Great Wall provides protection, it needs constant maintenance.

In this novel, Mr Shors has recreated a version of the legendary Chinese love story of Meng Jingnu and her beloved Fan Xiliang.  Fan leaves, for a period of three months, to work on the Great Wall.  But he does not return, and after he is missing for twelve months, Meng sets off to find him.  Meng has unbound feet, extremely unusual for any woman of rank during this period.  It is only because of her unbound feet that Meng, disguised as a man, can consider undertaking this journey.

Meanwhile, at the Great Wall, Fan works alongside a young Mongol captive, Bataar.  General Yat-Sen holds their lives in his hands.

The story shifts between Meng’s journey to the wall and Fan’s life on it.  There are other stories as well: the concubine Yehonala, Bataar’s father Chuluun and Meng’s co traveller Ping.

Meng’s journey is eventful.  Fan’s existence at the Great Wall is fraught with danger.  Meng’s letters to him have been intercepted by Yat-Sen whose greed and jealousy lead him to destroy what he cannot possess.

And the ending?  I finished the novel satisfied.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

4 thoughts on “Unbound by John Shors

  1. This is the kind of historical fiction I like, where I learn a history that I know nothing about.
    I was disappointed to see that the Victorian History Society (Assoc?) has awarded a mentorship to someone doing historical fiction about the Jacobean era in England. It might turn out to be a really good book, of course, but wouldn’t you think a historical society would be encouraging entries from people writing historical fiction about our own country and our own region, not yet another one set in ‘the mother country’ which has already been done to death by their own authors. Surely we don’t need more of it from our authors as well, when there is a dearth of historical fiction deriving from our region?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree, Lisa. We need more historical fiction set in our region to enable us to understand the region better. I read a lot of historical fiction, and while I love reading about Scotland and the Stuarts (in particular), I try to read more fiction set in Asia. And also, more fiction about and by our Indigenous people. Fiction often leads me to non-fiction although in the case of China I have been immersing myself in Chinese history (where I can) since 1972.


  3. I’ve come late to reading anything about China: I think the first book I ever read was Wild Swans, and that of course was ex-pat lit, not written from within China.
    Is this one a series?


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