Review written for MM Good Book Reviews
This novel is one of the most extraordinary ones I’ve read in a long time. I’m still feeling a deep sadness and valiantly trying to compose myself, while at the same time I’m shocked with how emotionally powerful Erasing Shame is.
This is an alternative universe ancient China, a world created by the author based on the Six Dynasties. Being a created world though doesn’t mean that the culture portrayed in the book doesn’t feel realistic. I was immensely satisfied with the historical feeling of that area the story has. The explanations the author provides greatly help you not only follow the story in a better way, but even understand a bit about ancient Chinese culture.
This is the tragic story of the Rong Empire Heir and his best friend/love who is doomed to betray him. This is a tragic story of a very strong love that is doomed not to prevail.
Jiang Shicai first met the Heir Lan Yu when he was a little boy of six years old. Though it seemed extremely unlikely the two of them formed a great friendship and Shicai swears lifetime loyalty and support for the young Heir. Children’s oaths doomed to fail when at age 15 Shicai’s father betrays the Han people and the Empire by letting their enemy pass their borders resulting in the slaughter of all the Imperial Family save Yu and his mother. Five years later though the last of Shicai’s hope dies when news of Yu’s suicide reach him. Feeling hopeless and helpless, drown in shame and despair Shicai vows that he will restore the family name and honor Yu’s death by making whatever in his power to help the Han people.
Ten years after his father’s betrayal Shicai will face new challenges in the face of a young playboy/inspector named Xuechi. His resemblance with Yu will distract Shicai, his exuberant behavior will irritate him and his rare moments of vulnerability will forever seduce him. His goal to achieve prosperity for the Han will be constantly overthrown by his object of desire; hidden truths will remain in shadows until the moment things come crashing down leaving Shicai yet again hopeless.
In a world surrounded by corruption, greed and cruelty love will bloom, yet it can only exist in a world of make belief, behind masks of happiness, because when those masks fall cunning manipulation, deep, dark hatred and twisted feeling unveil.
Our characters are doomed from the beginning to fail. Xuechi’s long life trauma and hatred will not allow him to stop, sacrificing everything and everyone on his way to revenge never allowing anyone close enough to help, never asking for help. And Shicai’s strong ideals and sense of honor blind him from his love, pride and ego getting in the way ultimately ending losing the one person that ever meant something for him.
We also witness other types of “love” in this book, coming from loyal servants, who despite or because their idolizing their masters end up never seeing what would be the one thing that would make them happy. And of course the one-sided loves of loyal subordinates and people who blindly love their superiors ending up draining them with their demands or their ignorance of who their object of worship really is.
It was painful reading about Xuechi, his many personas and facades hiding a deeply isolated person, wounded and suffering that horrible emotional pain. His end was perhaps the saddest one I’ve ever read and although Shicai truly break down with it, I couldn’t help feeling a bit anger toward him and his ideals that cost both of them so, so much. Both characters in the end suffered their own punishment for their choices however cruel it was.
Erasing Shame might be a tragedy, but it is definitely a brilliantly written book. It’s pace and suspense will always keep you on your toes and it honestly won’t let you stop until you reach the bitter end. At times you will feel like a child, you will laugh and smile, you will read about the wondrous Chinese culture of that area and the incredible diplomacy and sophistication of those people. You will feel anger and despair along with the characters and even a little sick with the cruelty and brutality of others. But in the end you will love this book.
For me this is a must-read book and I wholeheartedly recommend it. It is simply too good to miss.