The grandeur, mystery, eroticism, horror, sensuality, decadence and vast scope of this tale unfold in settings
as far flung as the Imperial court, the shimmering, haunted Pure Flower Hot Springs pleasure resort, the bleak, windswept, desolate north, the diseased, fever-infested prison island of Hainan, and finally, the distant piney mountains of far western Szechuan.
Barbarians frolic with fine court ladies, betrayals great and small are hatched, eunuchs, poets, courtesans and warriors collude, and weaving in and out around the characters and events from beginning to end is a “shape-changing,” highly-sexed
witch (or, if readers prefer, a crazy old woman), who represents the legendary immortal of Taoist lore. No story of the T'ang would be complete without this preternatural element, which gives the tale a richly fraught, uncanny extra dimension and removes it
far from the ordinary adventure-saga.