The year is 1853, and a young Japanese girl's world is about to be turned upside down.
When black ships carrying barbarians arrive on the shores of Japan, the Satsuma clan's way of life is threatened. But it's not just the samurai who must come together to fight: the beautiful, headstrong Okatsu is also given a new destiny by her feudal lord - to save the realm.
Armed only with a new name, Princess Atsu, as she is now known, journeys to the women's palace of Edo Castle, a place so secret it cannot be marked on any map. Behind the palace's immaculate facade, amid rumours of murder and whispers of ghosts, Atsu must uncover the secret of the man whose fate, it seems, is irrevocably linked to hers - the shogun himself - if she is to rescue her people . . .
Lesley Downer's mother was Chinese and her father a professor of Chinese, so she grew up in a house full of books on Asia. But it was Japan, not China, that proved the more alluring, and she lived there for some fifteen years. She has written many books about the country and its culture, including Geisha: The Secret History of a Vanishing World, and Madame Sadayakko: The Geisha who Seduced the West, and has presented television programmes on Japan for Channel 4, the BBC and NHK. She lives in London with her husband, the author Arthur I. Miller, and still makes sure she goes to Japan every year.