Today I am back with my review for Daughters of the Silk Road, a multi-generational family saga that spans centuries…
Author: Debbie Rix
Genre: Historical Fiction
Version: eBook ARC
‘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 she must 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…
A stunning and richly evocative story following the journey of a precious family treasure passed down from one generation to another.
The concept of Daughters of the Silk Road is originally what made me request it for review. The idea of following a vase as it passes from generation to generation starting in the 1440s and ending with its current owner in 2015/2016 had me very intrigued. Plus, I don’t get the opportunity to read many books set (or partially set) in the 15th through 17th centuries, so I was all about it.
The vase’s journey begins in 1441 off the coast of Venice. A man by the name of Niccoló is returning to his homeland of Venice with his family after many years of traveling & exploring. The vase was a gift to Niccoló from a high ranking Chinese military leader, Admiral Zheng He. The vase was painted by the Emperor of China. Niccoló’s daughter, Maria, comes to the forefront of the story & we follow her as she settles into her new life in Venice.
Unfortunately, the execution of this story didn’t work for me. Daughters of the Silk Road alternates between Miranda’s story happening in London 2015/2016 and the linear timeline of the owner(s) of the vase from 1441 through 1650. Now, I’ve read a few multi-generational family sagas that worked really well for me, Homegoing for example. Multi generational books that span centuries are very difficult to pull off. My biggest issue with the multi generational aspect was that as time goes on & the vase is passed down, we get less & less character development & plot with each subsequent descendant. When the vase is first introduced with Niccoló & Maria, we get a fair amount story here. By the time we reach 1650, we barely get a page worth about the descendants that come into ownership of the vase. It felt very unbalanced as the story went on. Then, vase’s journey abruptly stops in 1650 and there is a gaping hole between 1650 and until Miranda comes into possession of it. We never really learn much about the mysterious Aunt Celia whom Miranda inherits the vase from, nor how she came into possession of it herself.
Miranda’s story line occurring in the present timeline of 2015/2016 is a bit cliche. Miranda is a divorced single mom down on her luck and struggling to make ends meet. Miranda meets an man that is totally shady, yet of course she becomes involved with him. You know how it goes, you spend the entire book yelling at the character that the person they are dating is the scum of the earth. The man of course takes advantage of her & screws her over. Not surprisingly, Miranda is better off at the end without him & all of her money problems are solved as if by magic.
It is very clear that the author did extensive research, which I really appreciate. One of my biggest pet peeves in historical fiction is when the story doesn’t feel like it is taking place in the era it is supposed to be set in. While I appreciate that the author gave us historical context, I almost feel like there was too much of a focus on the historical context, and not enough plot & character development as the story progresses. There was a lot of info dumping going on.
Unfortunately, this book just was not my cup of tea. There were too many plot holes, unexplored plot points, and cliche elements throughout the book.
***Content/trigger warning: rape & cheating***
I started writing novels after a long career in broadcasting and journalism. My first novel – The Girl with Emerald Eyes (originally published as ‘Secrets of the Tower’ in March 2015), is set in two time zones – the modern day and 12th century. It explores the extraordinary woman who left the money to build the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
My second novel: Daughters of the Silk Road follows the journey of a family of merchant explorers who return to Venice from China with a Ming Vase. The book again straddles two time zones.
The Silk Weaver’s Wife was published in 2017 and is set in the world of the Italian silk industry. The period story follows the journey of a young Veronese woman who is forced into an abusive marriage. The modern heroine uncovers her remarkable story.
I live in Kent with my family, four cats and 8 chickens.
Have you read Daughter’s of the Silk Road? If so, what did you think?
Comment below & let me know 🙂