‘She crossed over to the shelf where her father kept the dragon vase. He had placed it there when they first arrived in Venice. She took it down carefully, feeling it cool and comforting under her shaking fingers.’
Venice 1441: Maria and her brother Daniele arrive in the birthplace of their father, Niccolo dei Conti. An Italian merchant who has travelled far and wide, Niccolo has brought spices from India, lengths of silk and damask from the lands east of India and porcelain; a vase of pure white, its surface decorated with a cobalt blue dragon, the Chinese symbol of good fortune.
Maria settles in her new home, watching the magnificent and bustling city come to life each morning from her bedroom window. But while her father is away travelling, she soon finds herself and Daniele in terrible danger. She must protect her brother at whatever cost, and shemust guard the delicate vase.
London 2015: Single mother Miranda is struggling to make ends meet and build a new life for her and daughter Georgie. When Miranda meets the charming but mysterious Charles, she is intrigued. Could he be her second chance at love? And why is he so fascinated by the old vase sitting on her hall table…
Debbie Rix's second book, 'Daughters of the Silk Road' takes historical fiction fanatics like me on a spellbinding, epic journey spanning centuries, across countries, continents and vast perilous oceans, following the history of a special family heirloom - a precious Ming vase.
"Family tradition has it that the vase brings good fortune to its custodian."
The story starts in the present day. Miranda has just inherited a box of old knick-knacks from her great-aunt. Among the items is an old porcelain vase with a blue dragon painted on which she puts to good use as a flower holder. She is simply oblivious of all the people, all the lives that have been touched by this vase through its long history...
The author then takes us back in time to the 15th century where we meet Italian merchant and explorer Niccolo dei Conti and his family travelling back from 'the land of Further India' (as China was known back then), to his hometown of Venice. He is bringing back a precious cargo of spices, porcelains and silks. He is also delivering gifts donated by the Chinese Emperor to the Doge of Venice, among which is a precious porcelain vase decorated (according to Chinese tradition) with the most powerful of all symbols - the dragon.
And from here starts the long history of the vase, as it is handed down through generations of mercantile families, from mother to daughter, witnessing births, deaths, love, passions, heartaches, jealousy, betrayals and tragedies.
It is obvious that extensive research was required in order to write this book. In fact I think this story will mostly appeal to those loving tales with a great deal of historical facts in them. The author uses many historical characters that have really existed, together with others that are purely fictional.
The past is vividly brought back to life in great detail and in full colour, from the food they ate to the clothes they wore. I could clearly imagine the fish market bustling with life or the merchants bartering and arguing over the cost of goods. Locations and homes are also vividly described. Having been to Venice myself it was as though I was back in the famous Piazza San Marco or on the Rialto Bridge. But Venice is just the starting point of this great journey.
Even though the story alternates between the past and the present I never found this confusing. However, as the story moves forward through time we find many characters that are mentioned only briefly. And as the family tree grows and more descendants are added to it, one has to remember how the characters are related to each other.
However having said that, I really enjoyed reading this magnificent story. It kept me interested to the end and made me dream about these characters and my own ancestors. How different life must have been back then!
With thanks to Bookouture and Netgalley for approving my request to read and review this book.
Debbie Rix has written two novels. Her debut 'Secrets of The Tower', reached the Number One spot in Amazon's Italian category. Set amidst the world of medieval Italy, it explores the creation of the most famous building in the world - the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Her second novel - 'Daughters of the Silk Road' follows the fortunes of a family of merchant explorers who bring a Ming vase back to Venice from China in 15th century. Debbie spends a lot of time in Italy and the setting of the novels reflects her knowledge and passion for the country.
Debbie lives in the Kent countryside with her journalist husband, children, sheep, chickens and cats. When not writing, she is usually to be found in the vegetable garden. She began her career with the BBC- initially as the news reader on Breakfast Time, thereafter appearing as a presenter and reporter on a variety of factual and light entertainment television series. She had a spell as an Agony Aunt, and has also written about gardens and gardening - one of her private passions.