Roots: The Boxer Rebellion. Liu's fighting style automatically brings Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to mind. Morrison writes for The Times. Octavia quotes Macbeth. There are references to Darwin, H. G. Wells The Time Machine, the Edinburgh Herald, Tennyson, and Lao Tze.
Dialogue Triumphs: Compassion on the Faction: "They're always running in a crisis. Not very good on consequences, ironically."
"You were there, briefly. Treading lighter than a butterfly through time. Through the web of connections."
"The human mind is a very flexible thing. Even if human thoughts aren't."
Continuity: Compassion impersonates the Dowager Empress in her guise as Kuan Yin, Goddess of Compassion, luring the real Empress into a virtual garden inside her during these periods. She reconfigures her external architecture to resemble part of the Forbidden City when letting the Empress in and out. She is also the White Pyramid. She does this partly to control the chi energy of the land and use it to cut off time-travel routes into the area. She briefly "Orientalises" her features to pass unnoticed in what is otherwise her default form in the Forbidden City. Her control room is currently draped with red brocade embroidered with golden dragons and phoenixes, with a floor of interlocking black and red tiles. A rosewood table occupies the space where the console would be in an ordinary TARDIS. Unlike most TARDISes, Compassion doesn't draw energy from a link with the Eye of Harmony on Gallifrey (see The TV Movie, Cold Fusion); instead, she feeds on the chi energy of witchblood from certain humans. She has created a helical time loop involving events here, which always ends with either Octavia or Liu entering the White Pyramid and giving their energy to her via the jade casket, which is actually a kind of battery. When Octavia or Liu's body is finally drained of energy and becomes a desiccated husk, she returns to the start of the loop and begins the process again. She has done this hundreds of times, but the loop is finally broken here when Octavia and Liu become friends, uniting against her and somehow merging their witchbloods together to escape from her. She decides to formulate an alternative tactic next time.
The Faction Paradox train, which is actually a shrine, navigates abandoned stations and line branches and those that only ever existed in the dreams of planners. These include the Necropolis Line in London, City Hall Station in Manhattan, and the British Museum underground station beneath Russell Square. Chi lines limit the Faction's access-points to China. The British Empire is aware of Faction Paradox and the "War in Heaven" but probably think of the Faction as some kind of secret society [although Morrison seems to accept the idea of time travel readily enough]. The Faction have not allied themselves with the Enemy or the Homeworld; although the Enemy might assume that they are allies of the Homeworld, the Time Lords keep attacking Faction colonies (see Interference). The Enemy is currently fighting the Faction on Mohandassa, with the Time Lords waiting to wipe out the survivors. Wings of the Faction include the Military Wing, the Ritual Wing, and the Doubtless Fourth Wing, the existence of which can only be inferred from certain ceremonies. Re-involving oneself in a Warzone where one has already intervened, by going back at a day and interfering in one's own history, is a breach of at least two of the Protocols of Linearity. Personal possessions - aside from totemic knives - are considered to indicate a lack of dedication to the Faction and are discouraged. The Faction's fleet contains various period vessels, including a Chinese junk, a pirate galleon, and a steel gunboat.
Cousin Octavia has green eyes, fine fair hair, sharp cheekbones, and a pointed chin. She is human. She has an eidetic memory implant. Her surname is Sutherland. She is her mother's eighth daughter and was born with witchblood which allowed her mother to force her to work as a medium before she joined the Faction, by entering people's bidata and reordering it to suit her visions. She also had three brothers. Her sister Margaret Elizabeth died in her crib before Octavia was born, and Effie, two years older than Octavia, died in 1883, when Octavia was eleven years old. She led the Valentine's Day attack on splinter group the Thirteen-Day Republic. She once fought a duel in Red Lion Square, her opponent being cast back into linear time and dying of his wounds. The Thirteen-Day Republic was lead by Cousin-Thrice-Removed Anastasia, once Octavia's closest friend. Octavia, backed by Prester John, led the fight against the Republic. The Empire allowed her four hundred and fifty uninitiated Little Brothers and Sisters whose biodata Octavia stripped away and reworked until they mimicked Anastasia's own guards. Following their victory on Valentine's Day, they were initiated, raised to Cousin status, and became the Red Burial, a group of specialist troops used by other military cliques in the Empire. Whilst in China, the Red Burial's biodata is programmed to mimic that of non-combatants, but they retain their original shadows. Octavia smokes. She has been on missions to secret ziggurats on Aztec hilltops, Atlantis, Mu, and Eo. She dislikes funerals, largely due to nightmares after that of one of her sisters. Since her defeat of her former best friend Anastasia, Octavia has not worked well with anyone.
Cousin Anastasia was the daughter of Tsar Nicholas. She tried to teach Octavia to read Russian.
Cousin Ursula is a fixer for the Faction. She is a Gallifreyan. She has blonde hair. Homeworlders refuse to share their ability to speak any language with their human co-cultists (see The Masque of Mandragora, The End of the World). She has a triple pulse [a Faction enhancement to her biodata?].
Gallifrey often sends sentient TARDISes to control all time-travel routes in and out of specific areas so that they can plunder them. TARDISes usually object to having witchblood on board, as it gives them a biodata trace that can be corrupted.
The revenant armies of Orphelia consist of a billion reanimated creatures composed of amphibian flesh.
Links: Octavia, Anastasia, the Thirteen-Day Republic, Valentine's Day, Witchblood, and the Red Burial were all introduced in The Book of the War. Compassion first appeared in Interference and became a TARDIS in The Shadows of Avalon. The Deadly Assassin and Unnatural History (Biodata). Octavia tells Morrison that after the end of the universe, every human is resurrected (Of the City of the Saved).
Location: Peking/Beijing, 1900AD.
Future History: A vast sprawling metropolis dominates the site of Beijing in the twenty-second century, when the Chinese Middle Kingdom rules the entire region.
The Bottom Line: Another resounding success for the Faction Paradox line. Mags L. Halliday's prose is magnificent, and she has honed her ability to write plots somewhat since History 101. The real triumph is in the characterization however, as Liu and Octavia (representing Yin and Yang) finally come together as friends to defeat Compassion who is, incidentally, perfectly captured for the first time in quite a while.