Race to Tibet by Sophie Schiller
E-Book, 342 pages
January 14, 2015
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Received from publisher for review for France Book Tours
"An intrepid band of explorers headed by Gabriel Bonvalot, France’s greatest explorer, and his partner, Prince Henri d’Orléans, attempt to be the first living Europeans to reach Lhasa. Before they leave Paris, Bonvalot meets Camille Dancourt, the beautiful, strong-willed wife of a French surveyor who disappeared in Tibet, who desperately wishes to join the expedition. When the caravan sets out they face freezing temperatures, violent winds, mountain sickness, hostile Tibetans, duplicitous Chinese Mandarins, and a beguiling Tibetan Buddhist princess with a deadly secret. When the explorers reach Tibet, they discover a land of mystery and intrigue, a land of danger that promises them only one thing: death. On the verge of collapse, Bonvalot realizes they must resort to deadly force if they ever wish to escape Tibet alive."
Please note this is an in-process review (I swear I do finish books! It has just been a crazy couple weeks). A full review will be forth coming. I am approximately two-thirds of the way through the book at this point.
Race to Tibet is a true adventure story – the characters traverse some of the most dangerous locations of their time (and probably still today). The author makes it clear to the reader just how terrible the circumstances were of their expedition – the cold, the mountain elevation illness, predators, bandits, severe storms, etc. No one seemed to want the travelers to make it to Tibet. It had to be almost an art-form attempting to get there.
One of the strangest elements of the book so far is the seemingly “is he real or isn’t he real” character of Przewalski. I haven’t yet determined if he is just a very vivid manifestation of Bonvalot’s mind or if he is actually still alive (since he is supposed to be dead at the start of the novel). I don’t know if I am supposed to question Bonvalot’s sanity or if it is some mystery element – I’m sure that will pan out more as the book resolves.
Unlike many historical fiction novels, 98% of the characters in this book are male – there is one female character (at least so far), Camille Dancourt. It is a much needed element, to break up all of that testosterone on this expedition – even though it would have been very odd for a female to be on an expedition of this sort. She helps to make life more difficult for Bonvalot as he now has to keep his eye on a woman as well as leading the expedition. I actually enjoy this male lead, action adventure.
The author does a great job of keeping the tension high as the group treks through the mountains. You never can get quite comfortable! They are just reaching what will likely be the most dangerous part of their expedition – so I look forward to seeing how this whole thing resolves.
Also by Sophie Schiller:
About the Author:
Sophie Schiller was born in Paterson, NJ and grew up in the West Indies. Among other oddities her family tree contains a Nobel prize-winning physicist and a French pop singer. She loves stories that carry the reader back in time to exotic and far-flung locations. She was educated at American University, Washington, DC and lives in Brooklyn, NY. She is currently at work on a new historical thriller set in the Caribbean.
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