The novel’s twin strands of the modern-day historical/archaeological investigation and the 17th century story which it unfolds, echo the central themes of the intertwining of East and West at a critical point in the scientific field and the cultural barriers for the key individuals which are created through prejudice and fear.
The historical tale is evocatively written and is an engagingly ripping yarn. The added dimensions of how fear and ignorance block scientific advance and the focus on the characters who manage to escape or transcend the cultural barriers give the novel some added texture and depth.
I didn’t find the final part of the novel as satisfying as the rest, but it’s still a good read overall. It contrives to address some uncomfortable themes and deliver relevant historical background without leaving readers feeling they’ve been too earnestly lectured; it kept me turning the pages and left me wanting to read more by the author.