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Shadow of the Dome is the story of a long and perilous sea voyage from China to Persia in the late 13th century. It is based on an episode from The Travels of Marco Polo, and the main characters are a little known Mongol princess and her companions. The book tells of their early lives at the court of Kublai Khan, their journey to Persia, and how things didn’t always go according to plan.
Unlike many novels about the Mongol Empire, this one does not focus on battles or politics. Rather, it tells the story of women and servants, people whose lives weren’t always well documented. It is a tale of friendship, duty and destiny.
I’d like to share some of the story of how I wrote the book. It’s been a long journey – 8 years since I had the original idea – and one that required a lot of research. Not just the trips to the British Museum and the British Library, but on the ground research too. I wanted to get an idea of what it might have been like to travel across the South China Sea so I found myself on a cruise from Sri Lanka to Singapore, stopping at some of the places in the book. Of course, there isn’t much similarity between a modern cruise ship and a medieval Chinese junk, and my trip was only 10 days, rather than the 18 months that I describe in my book. But, in the absence of a time machine, it was the best I could do!
However, I did find a replica junk in the Ibn Battuta Mall in Dubai. Then there was the visit to Korcula, in Croatia, which claims to be the birthplace of Marco Polo…
I originally conceived of Shadow of the Dome as a sort of “historical travelogue”, a voyage through time as well as space. But, like all the best journeys, it started to take on a life of its own. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!
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