Bian’s Tale teaser

I promised a teaser on Bian’s Tale. You may have read the first 3 chapters when I posted them last year, and those haven’t changed much. This is approximately the first quarter of the book, to chapter 11.

Link:  (This old version has been removed as the text has been changed a lot)

New link:

New version


It’s very different from the Amber novels and I’d love feedback again.


About Mark Henwick

I was born in Africa and left out in the sun too often. An early interest in philosophy and psychology was adequately exorcised by tending bars. And while trying to enroll in a class to read Science Fiction full time, I ended up taking an engineering degree which splendidly qualified me to move into marketing. That in turn spawned a late onset career in creative writing. When not working, I get high by the slightly less conventional means of a small light aircraft. My first book, 'Sleight of Hand' is available on Amazon at

21 responses to “Bian’s Tale teaser”

  1. soireadthisbooktoday says :

    Reblogged this on So, I Read This Book Today . . . and commented:
    Bian’s Tale!

  2. David says :

    Going to drop you an email to get the Kindle formatted document, looking forward to reading this, I expect it will be again be a great read like the rest of the series has been.

  3. Dee DenBleyker says :

    Thank you for this teaser and it was a teaser. Excellent! I will anxiously await the finished book. Do you have an idea when that will be?

  4. Dee DenBleyker says :


  5. Mark Henwick says :

    Thank y’all. 🙂

    Dee, my forecasts are c**p. I shall do my best to get to the 3/4 point by the end of next month. That’s best case. Worst case is 1/2 way point. Either way, I’ll make however far I’ve got available again as a teaser.

    (I am also writing a little of Bite Back 4 at the same time).

    I’m really upset that it’s so difficult to get variable fonts and Chinese characters into the Kindle file for Saigon. The Part 1 and Part 2 pages should have page size Chinese characters for ‘innocence’ and ‘awakening’ overlying the English words. I’ll post an image on this page.

    Oh, and my apologies for throwing more new words at you 🙂
    Watch out for the To Dara.

  6. Bernd says :

    This book is shaping up nicely. I am really looking forward to it now. Also looking forward to the next teaser. Thank you Mark. I am going to forward this to a few book reading friends to see if I can get them to swallow the hook with this tasty tasty bait for this series.

  7. larry says :

    ‘appreciated your descriptive phrasing of young Bian along the Song Sai Gon – ‘could almost see & smell the local environment (though I doubt I’d want to!).
    An environment that really hasn’t changed much for a very long time – the poor remain poor, and life along the river is always the same.
    Difficult to take research through culture, and into the mind of a young girl who’s known nothing else.

    A bit less of a visual effect from Bian 3 years later, though the Opium trade was “spot on” – lost a great aunt & uncle to opium addiction in the U.S. around that same time. Wide spread drug addiction & rampant alcoholism have been “lost” in our educational histories…
    Interesting choice on the execution demonstration – someone that the local populace would demonize (and not cause riots), though someone not really effecting the French.

    Note to previous reply: PDF to MOBI (Kindle readable) converters on-line, though the resulting formatting is a bit off…

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Some interesting points from Larry.

      In my research, I’ve unearthed pictures from that era of the Saigon River (Song Sai Gon) and Arroyo Chinois (‘Chinese Creek’, now called Ben Nghe) – just google “Arroyo Chinois Saigon” to see some. I think the river wouldn’t have been too bad, but the creek would have been odorous! There was industry along the creek right up to Cholon and beyond, and it didn’t look wide or fast-flowing. There was also the main Saigon abattoir about half way between Saigon and Cholon. The contemporary eyewitness accounts I have don’t make a lot of the unpleasant smells, so I’m concentrating on the exotic 🙂

      Yes, the opium trade…Britain and France’s shame. There are arguments you could make for the benefits to Indochina of being a French colony: for instance, the epidemics and famines I refer to are factual and were greatly reduced once the French built their hospitals and regularized food production etc. But opium?

      I can’t unearth a lot from that time on criminals being guillotined, but there are photographic images taken on the Boulevard Charner in front of the Justice de Paix of public executions, as I’ve depicted it but without the near-riot.

      • larry says :

        As readers, we’re (hopefully) privileged to look over a writer’s shoulders and into their imagination. Easier for us to understand an interstellar empire or a pack of werewolves than to imagine ourselves in Bian’s world — we’ve no preconceptions of the unknown, we live with our own experiences every day, and the “lenses” of those experiences blur our conception of Bian 120+ years ago.
        Bian had already obtained her basic values and expectations before she was “adopted” into the French family. Bian’s true tale is how her later experiences added to her initial experience, strengthening those things truly important to her…

        Opium: We tend to forget that past empires of the British, French, and others, were driven by profits and, opium was a very profitable commodity, as was the slave trade. Extremely shameful, from today’s perspective.
        Some did take their governance seriously, with beneficial results, but even they were ruled by the various profit-making consortiums. The British colonization of the Americas and Australia was somewhat different, though the first was to get rid of religious rebels (later to benefit from trees and pitch for their growing fleet) and to empty their prisons — profits were in the Caribbean, and especially India and the China trade. For the French, Indochina…

  8. Jon.Gray says :

    I have this feeling (hope) that understanding why Bian is “Bian” is going to become more and more important the deeper into Amber’s story we get. I await the next installments of both anxiously; I need my next “fix.”

  9. Veneta says :

    Oh how I love this teaser Mark! 🙂 I agree with J. Gray about his assessment of Bian. I would like to add that all she went through without showing how she really felt had to affect her in so many different ways. For her to stand strong through it all shaped who she could be and would become. My only problem with this story is THAT I CAN’T READ THE REST OF THE STORY! Thank you Mark for this whole series and hurry up with Bian’s story! (LOL)

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thank you Jon and Veneta. Yes, Bian’s journey is important to Bite Back and Amber. Both Amber and Bian get ‘thrown in the deep end’ and have to survive, but their paths go very different ways. Together, they are very important in the outcome of Bite Back.
      Also, on a more personal level, Bian’s Tale will reveal why Bian behaves as she does.
      My only problem with these stories is I can’t write them fast enough 🙂

  10. Daniel Dobbelstein says :

    Hello Mark,

    lovely read so far, though as feedback i must admit i am a little confused about the timeline so far. The first part, i think around the first 6 chapters, i would think of Bian as a little girl, maybe between the age of 4 to 6. The second part, she acts and is reacted upon more like a young adult, maybe 14 at least 18 at the latest… But it is mentioned its only been 3 year, so with my calculation she would be 9 years old at that time at most. I think people would react alot different to a 9 year old, even if she acted that independantly and mature.
    The shipcaptain would not talk to a 9 year old, nor would her father leave her alone at a docksite to wait for her teacher?

    Otherwise very lovely story and very intense.
    Oh one second thing, when Bian’s parents, leave her with her adoptive french family it is hinted at, or said “They want to adopt a girl before they travel home to france.” wich made the second part a bit a surprise for Bian to still be in Saigon.

    Just food for thought

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thank you for the feedback Daniel, and you’ve hit on something I’ve been having trouble getting just right.

      Bian is ‘9 or 10’ at the age she is sold (she is unsure; traditional Vietnamese of that time did not celebrate birthdays, but she knows the sign under which she was born – Year of the Cat). Her voice sounds very young in Part 1. That’s partly deliberate to create the contrast with Part 2.

      The really tricky thing is to get the age and voice right for Part 2 onward. I now have amended the drafts to remove the comment about going back to France soon. That is the eventual plan, but the Beauclercs intend to do that as part of other plans to do with the 1900 grand exhibition in Paris (details will be revealed in Part 3). I also now have that 4 years have passed between being adopted/sold and the scene on the quay, so she’s assumed to be 14. She’s precocious – in most things she sounds and acts as if she’s 16 or older and people treat her as if she is.

      Would Zacharie Beauclerc leave her on the dock to wait for Song Yi? (Even at 14 and acting 16). You’re right to question this and I have no proof either way, but I believe this would have been regarded as safe in that place, at that time, for the privileged, responsible child she was.

      I’ll try and fine tune the draft to convey this better.

      I really appreciate feedback of this kind!


      • Daniel Dobbelstein says :

        Hello Mark,

        maybe its just me, that percieves it as such, but in the first part, she appears younger to me, then 9 or 10 years old. I don’t think a 9 or 10 year old girl would tell her sister, at a percieved insult, that she hates her… that sounds younger for some reason for me.
        As well the way she acts with her sister when they get home, it seems to me as a much younger girl then 9 or 10.

        Her Sister as well would be a bit old to be sold as a prostitute, if Bian was 9 or 10 at that age. Her Sister would then have to be… almost 18.
        At least i would think so from the things being said and remember about her by Bian. Like that her Sister remembered the time before their fathers disgrace, when they lived in a big stone house.

        From what i can make out at this point, Bian and one of her brothers, where born after the fall of her father from the Imperial court. Sometime during the stay in the fishing village. Her 2 older siblings do remember the time before though, that is being said.

        Around that time, in the early 19th century, especially in the asian continent, i think they would not sell their daughter to become a prostitue, if she was around 16 or 18. I doubt any brothel would even still pay to take her at that age, in that time.
        Most women got married rather early, around the age of 16 was pretty average at that time, i believe. I think the age of 12ish, would most likely be realistic for her Sister to be sent to a brothel, or sold to someone who intends that fate for her, to consider payment for her, without them wanting to take Bian instead, since they would still consider some time to “train” the girl properly for work.

        Not sure exactly but i also don#t think that a 9 or 10 year old girl would be quite that naive about whats about to happen to her Sister, and it would be pretty difficult to “get her adopted” at that age. Most Parents, that are childless do look for younger children to adopt for various reasons.
        Especially with an “illegal” adoption, that they paid money for, they would look for a child much younger.

        with best regards

  11. Mark Henwick says :

    I’ve also received criticism from my most difficult beta reader – my daughter.

    As a result, I’m reworking the lunch scene slightly and heavily changing the dynamics of the 5 girls meeting in the cafe.

  12. Mark Henwick says :

    The original PDF (written in 2014) has been removed, as the second part of it has been so extensively rewritten. (24th Jan 2017).

    I am appalled that it has taken me so long to get back to Bian’s Tale, and that it is still so s l o w to write

    Hopefully I will be able to post a new sample soon.

  13. Daniel says :

    Ummm the link up top gives a 404 file not found error now ;P looking forwards to read about Bian

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