This one picks up after the ending of My Fair Concubine and follows the story of Dao as she's traveling to the north to be married. Dao wasn't one of my favorite characters from that book, but I liked her a bit more in this story. She's better developed here, but I was left feeling that she wasn't particularly strong. I guess my issue is that in a lot of Lin's work, the women see their honor and duty--to family and empire--as a strength, and I have no issues with that per se, but given that most all of them share this quality, the characters have started blending together for me. Jia from Silken Thief is the one exception to this I've seen so far and as a result, I found her very compelling.I hope Lin starts exploring more characters like Jia in the future. Of all the characters in this particular story, I found the hero most interesting. I was glad for them to end up together in the end if only because I liked him so much and wanted him to be happy (quite honestly, I didn't care if Dao was happy). The change in scenery from Imperial China to exploring the culture and people of the outer cultures was a nice shift too.