France, 1856: Emmeline Lambert is married to an illusionist sent by Napoleon III to persuade the Arabs - poised for holy war and in thrall to charismatic leaders - that France's might and magic are the greater. Emmeline begins to feel like an illusionist herself, when she dazzles the Emperor and then sheds her inhibitions along with flimsy notions of patriotism and propriety in the hot glare of the Algerian sun. Power, politics, religion and love, the court of Napoleon III and the deserts of Algeria combine in this mesmerising novel from a master storyteller.

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