By: Anchee Min
It is the final days of the Chinese Empire. Trade in opium with Europe is slowly corroding the power of the Ch'ing Dynasty. Orchid, a beautiful seventeen-year-old from an aristocratic but impoverished family, is pushed into the maelstrom when she finds herself unexpectedly chosen to become a lower-ranking concubine of the Emperor.
The world inside the Forbidden City is erotically charged and highly ritualised, but beneath its immaculate face lie whispers of murders and ghosts. The thousands of concubines will go to any lengths to bear the Emperor a son and become his Empress. Determined not to be a victim of the jealousies and foul play, Orchid trains herself in the art of pleasuring a man, bribes her way into the royal bed and seduces the monarch.
Little does she know that China will collapse around her, and she will be its last Empress.