House of Eight Orchids
Thayer’s House of 8 Orchids was engaging straight from the beginning, with swift pacing and very detailed description that made it feel like being there. I was hooked from the start.
Orchids follows the story of John Yellow Hair, and his brother William. At very young ages, they were kidnapped in China, and raised by Eunuch Chang to serve in criminal enterprises. John grows to become one of Chang’s most valued assassins/enforcers, while his brother is a master forger. All that changes when John is forced to choose between loyalty to his brother or loyalty to his kidnapper. John chooses blood over bond and attempts to help his brother escape, after William tries to flee with a young lady sold into slavery, and is subsequently caught and punished.. On the same day John and William flee, Chungking is attacked by the Japanese, creating chaos, and separating the two brothers. William and Lily, the girl he was trying to aid, are captured by another criminal, and sold along the Yangtze. John coerces the help of some unusual people (and a creepy gigantic hound) and sets off to find William, and get revenge, all the while trying to avoid those Chang sends after him.
This is a historical thriller, set in late 1930s China. I cannot vouch for full historical accuracy, but there were things I recognised as being so, and there is certainly a feel of authenticity. The bombing aftermath brought the feeling of numbed terror alive. This part was my favourite, in terms of vivid description. Another thing that stuck out to me was Madame Tuon and her feet. I do know foot-binding was a custom once practised in China. I cannot at all imagine having my feet bound like that, and needing the assistance of others to walk. I’m now interested in learning more of this odd, archaic custom, how it evolved, and better yet, *why*.
If you enjoy a good thriller, especially of the historic variety, be sure to check out House of 8 Orchids by James Thayer. This book will keep you reading till the midnight hours!
Thomas & Mercer