REVIEW: Silver Pheasant: Kaifeng Chronicles, Book Four by Robert Campbell
In Beijing, Li Bing continues his quest to enter the imperial civil service.
Dear Mr. Campbell,
Well, that’s a rather uninspired blurb that barely covers a third of what goes on in this book. It’s an important third but still, much more happens in this story than that. Threads that have been carefully added to the tapestry of the Li family’s life continue to be woven in. Past characters, good and bad, are brought back and their actions seem set to collide with bureaucratic official Li Gong, his household, and his son Li Bing.
Bing has now arrived in the capital to take the even more intensive second round of examinations that will determine his future. The ceremony involved in this is intensive and impressive and when the results are announced, things get even more fraught and anxiety inducing for Bing. He has a chance for a great future but has now left the world of full time scholastic study and entered that of politics. Men will be watching him and following his actions – some, but not all, with good intentions.
Meanwhile his pregnant wife Xiaoyun is carrying the potential heir to the Li dynasty. Her in-laws treat her well but she is aware of their hopes and expectations of a son. Her interactions with her grandfather-in-law continue to be sweet and delightful but worry clouds are forming about his health. Her “older sister” who accompanied her to her new household has had a tough life but there might be a potential change in her future as well. And in the drought stricken western provinces to which Bing has been assigned, shady men see opportunities for profit among those desperate to secure the means of survival.
I enjoyed diving even deeper into the intrigues surrounding the Li family, seeing their relationships and interactions among themselves and with others, and how they move and are viewed by powerful men in the Empire. I hope that Bing will finally have a chance to stop in Kaifeng and learn about his maternal grandfather’s ancestors as he assumes his new and challenging duties. B