"Alma Alexander's life so far has prepared her very well for her chosen career. She was born in a country which no longer exists on the maps, has lived and worked in seven countries on four continents (and in cyberspace!), has climbed mountains, dived in coral reefs, flown small planes, swum with dolphins, touched two-thousand-year-old tiles in a gate out of Babylon. She is a novelist, anthologist and short story writer who currently shares her life between the Pacific Northwest of the USA (where she lives with her husband and two cats) and the wonderful fantasy worlds of her own imagination. You can find out more about Alma

on her website (www.AlmaAlexander.org)

her Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/AuthorAlmaAlexander/ )

on Twitter (https://twitter.com/AlmaAlexander )

on Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/Alma-Alexander/e/B001IXNUQ4?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_2&qid=1308346776&sr=1-2-ent)

or her Patreon page (https://www.patreon.com/AlmaAlexander )"

The Secrets of Jin-Shei by Alma Alexander

"A group of women, the jin-shei sisterhood, form a uniquely powerful circle that transcends class and social custom. They are bound together by a declaration of loyalty that transcends all other vows, even those with the gods, by their own secret language, passed from mother to daughter, by the knowledge that some of them will have to pay the ultimate sacrifice to enable others to fulfill their destiny.

The sisterhood we meet run from the Emperor's sister to the street-beggar, from the trainee warrior in the Emperor's Guard to the apprentice healer, from the artist to the traveller-girl, herself an illegitimate daughter of an emperor and seen as a threat to the throne. And as one of them becomes Dragon Empress, her determination to hold power against the sages of the temple, against the marauding forces from other kingdoms, drags the sisterhood into a dangerous world of court intrigue, plot and counterplot, and brings them into conflict with each other from which only the one who remains true to all the vows she made at the very beginning to the dying Princess Empress can rescue them.

An amazing and unusual book, based on some historical fact, full of drama, adventure and conflict like a Shakespearean history play, it's a novel about kinship and a society of women, of mysticism, jealousy, fate, destiny, all set in the wonderful, swirling background of Syai, a fantasy kingdom inspired by Imperial China."

The novel has been published in thirteen languages worldwide (including Hebrew, Lithuanian, Catalan, Turkish, as well as the more global Spanish, German, and Portuguese…) and continues to make an impact on readers to this day. It was a finalist for the Washington State Book Award and the Endeavour Award, and in a lesser but equally notable honor the concept of jin-shei had become so entrenched in its context that jin-shei-bao sisters were used as a perfectly "understood" piece of worldbuilding background in fan-fiction based on Joss Whedon's beloved 'Firefly' series.

The concepts of the female language, jin-ashu, and the sisterhood of jin-shei are based in the real-life women's language of Nushu in China, taught for generations from mother to daughter and used as a written (and secret) communication between women. The sisterhood vow is a little stronger in my story than it might have been in reality but these sisters-of-the-heart did (to some extent) exist. The story of "Secrets of Jin-shei" is inspired by a background of Imperial China (although not of any specific dynasty)


The Secrets of Jin-shei by Alma Alexander takes its inspiration from the now almost-extinct Nüshu women's script and the Hunan kindred customs of laotong (sworn sisters) and laotang (sister circles), in a world based on Tang China and the unique figure of Empress Wu Zetian. A group of women, the jin-shei sisterhood, form a uniquely powerful circle bound together by a declaration of loyalty that transcends all other vows, even those with the gods, and by the secret language passed from mother to daughter. The sisterhood runs from the heir to the throne to an Imperial Guard trainee warrior, from a daring alchemist and an apprentice healer to a poet and a traveller-girl, herself the illegitimate daughter of an emperor. And when one of them becomes Dragon Empress, her determination to hold power against the sages of the temple and marauding forces from other kingdoms drags the sisterhood into deadly political and magical intrigues, and brings them into bone-deep conflicts with each other. – Athena Andreadis



  • "The Secrets of Jin-Shei is a complete original - and a completely magical piece of literature"

    – Joanne Harris author of Chocolat
  • "Alexander has created a world of depth and detail in The Secrets of Jin-Shei. A fine, rich novel."

    – Louise Marley, author of The Child Goddess, The Glass Harmonica, and The Terrorists of Irustan)
  • "This fast-paced, imaginative, and thoroughly engrossing fantasy explores the meaning of friendship and loyalty among eight young women—sisters of the heart—in a mythical Chinese realm. Ever since the dawn of time, mothers have passed on to their daughters a special language (jin-ashu) and the existence of special friendships (jin-shei) that cross boundaries of class and heritage. Accepting someone's offer of jin-shei brings both benefits and responsibilities, and Alexander's characters find their lives both complicated and enriched by these friendships. Kito-Tai, the poet daughter of a seamstress, is asked by Princess Antian, the emperor's oldest daughter (and empress-presumptive), to be her jin-shei, a request that will eventually change the course of the empire."

    – Booklist, Nancy Pearl
  • "[B]eguiling...unique...a rich cast of characters...extraordinarily accomplished."

    – Financial Times (London)
  • "...sure to be popular with fans of Amy Tan, Gail Tsukiyama, and even Marion Zimmer Bradley.... Highly recommended."

    – Library Journal - starred review
  • "Alexander expertly weaves the lives of characters into a plot full of intrigue and magic...."

    – Orlando Sentinel