From bestselling authors Janie Chang and Kate Quinn, a thrilling and unforgettable narrative about the intertwined lives of two wronged women, spanning from the chaos of the San Francisco earthquake to the glittering palaces of Versailles.

San Francisco, 1906. In a city bustling with newly minted millionaires and scheming upstarts, two very different women hope to change their fortunes: Gemma, a golden-haired, silver-voiced soprano whose career desperately needs rekindling, and Suling, a petite and resolute Chinatown embroideress who is determined to escape an arranged marriage. Their paths cross when they are drawn into the orbit of Henry Thornton, a charming railroad magnate whose extraordinary collection of Chinese antiques includes the fabled Phoenix Crown, a legendary relic of Beijing’s fallen Summer Palace.

His patronage offers Gemma and Suling the chance of a lifetime, but their lives are thrown into turmoil when a devastating earthquake rips San Francisco apart and Thornton disappears, leaving behind a mystery reaching further than anyone could have imagined . . . until the Phoenix Crown reappears five years later at a sumptuous Paris costume ball, drawing Gemma and Suling together in one last desperate quest for justice.

Audiobook Review

5 stars

Narrators: Katherine Chin and Saskia Maarleveld

After listening to that book I can tell that Kate Quinn and Janie Chang’s duo works effortlessly to give you a gripping story spanning through the years of San Francisco big earthquake to five years later.

The narrators also worked perfectly together too, their respective narration blending seamlessly together.

For once I will write a “bullet point” review to list everything I loved in that book.

  • I love that I learned so much about San Francisco in that period time period. That’s also what I love with Kate Quinn’s stories: I always learn new facts about past events! I liked reading about Chinatown and its bustling yet poor living conditions and had no idea of the ban on letting Chinese people come to the US once the gold rush and railways were done!
  • I love that we got a soprano to follow as one of the main characters. Thanks to Kate Quinn’s study field (I had no idea she studied to be a soprano) everything rang true! From Gemma’s training and day to day’s work to the backstage opera life.
  • Adding a character suffering from migraines had me connecting on a deep level with Gemma as I unfortunately suffer from these. It also was the perfect reason why Gemma wasn’t more famous given her impressive golden voice.
  • I think Sue Ling was perfect. The embroideress appeared like a grey mouse at the first glance but she hid a spine of steel and a ferocious drive in protecting those she loved.
  • Thanks to another main character, Alice, our botanist I learned a thing or two about plants and of course The Queen of the Night. It had me googling that rare plant and now considering getting one!
  • The villain was an excellent villain. Killing you with a “I am sorry” on his lips the bastard!
  • I also loved how both author portrayed that period be it San Francisco high society or its poor Chinatown to artistic Paris and the rise of Paul Poiret’s in the fashion industry.

That story gripped me from the first sentences and never let me go before the end! I even enjoyed a lot listening to the authors explaining their research, the choices they made for their characters, the liberties they took from history (just a few).

And I have now a new author to follow: Janie Chang!

Thanks for reading.


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  1. That earthquake is a historical event that pops up often in books. Glad to hear you enjoyed this so much, learned some new things, and connected with the character via your shared experience with migraines.