Race to Tibet
Sophie Schiller, author
In 1889, a band of intrepid explorers headed by Gabriel Bonvalot attempt to be the first Europeans to reach Lhasa. Along the way, they face freezing temperatures, violent winds, mountain sickness, hostile Tibetans, duplicitous Chinese Mandarins, and a beguiling Tibetan Buddhist princess with a deadly secret. When these explorers reach Tibet, they discover a land of mystery and intrigue, a land of danger that promises them only one thing: death. On the verge of collapse, Bonvalot realizes they will have to resort to deadly force if they ever wish to escape Tibet alive.
Fans of Jules Verne’s travel adventures will find Schiller (Transfer Day) has done a solid job of transforming an obscure real-life Victorian expedition into a thrilling yarn. A sex scandal blights the name of Prince Henri d’Orléans in 1888 Paris, and his father, the Duke of Chartres, fears that his continued misconduct will only further weaken the royalist cause. The duke’s solution is to make the prince’s inheritance contingent on his leaving France for a year to stay out of trouble, a plan that neatly coincides with explorer Gabriel Bonvalot’s desire to be the first Westerner to reach Lhasa. Gabriel lacks the funding to finance the complex and dangerous venture and agrees to take Henri along in exchange for the duke’s backing. Schiller makes the physical challenges of the trip palpable. There are occasional lapses into purple prose (“I’ve had enough of your callousness, you fiendish devil”), but for the most part Schiller succeeds in keeping readers engaged in the plot. (BookLife)