Book Review: Race to Tibet, by Sophie Schiller + an excerpt (& giveaway!)

 My review (skip below to enter the giveaway!)

I went through a period of fascination with Tibet in my mid-teens, and read Seven Years in Tibet (by Heinrich Harrer). (I saw the film later, and I didn’t think it was nearly as good as the book.) To come back to a book about Tibet, after so many years, reminded me of my earlier fascination.

As this was fiction of real-life events, I’m now intrigued to perhaps read the accounts of Bonvalot, and Prince Henri, and particularly of the priest Father Dedeken, who knew Chinese (apparently quite unusual for the time). Perhaps my greatest fascination, likely because of the lack of story about her, was the character of Camille, who joins the expedition in order to find her husband (who had gone missing in Tibet some months prior). I would have liked to see more of Camille, as she rarely showed up in the narrative. In some sections, it’s as if she didn’t even exist with the caravan. Fortunately her plotline does not disappoint in the end.

I think this book would be best for history buffs, or those interested in Tibet. At times it feels more a history lesson than fiction, which though in itself is not a bad thing, occasionally took me out of the story.


Bonvalot’s head was spinning. They were navigating across a frozen white world with no path in sight, no hope of escape. All around they were surrounded by steep ridges and dangerous cliffs that gave way to a blackened abyss. One wrong move could send them tumbling to their deaths. Bivouacking at this altitude was also impossible. The wind could blow them off a sheer cliff or into a crevasse where there would be no chance of rescue.

Several minutes later they were infused with hope.

Several yards away they spied a curious object, an obo: heaps of stones upon which prayers are inscribed. This particular obo had a line of colorful prayer flags that bore the ubiquitous Buddhist prayer Om mane padme hum (Hail jewel in the lotus). A short distance away they spotted another one, and another one. Bonvalot decided the safest course of action would be to follow the trail of obos until they had crested the summit, then course their way down to the plain below.

As the camels neared the summit their movements became more plodding, their breathing more laborious; foam appeared at their mouths as they struggled under the burdensome weight of their loads.

After what seemed like an eternity, they finally reached the summit, which resembled a gorge between two steep, snow-covered mountains. They rejoiced, thinking the worst of their ordeal was over. But that was not to be the case.

Out of the blue they heard a noise like thunder followed by a rushing sound. Looking up, the men scanned the mountainside, their eyes wide with fright. Then, without warning, someone screamed, “Avalanche!”


Race to TibetRace to Tibet

(historical fiction)

Release date: January 26, 2015
Self-published at Tradewinds Publishing

336 pages

ISBN: 978-0-692-25409-7



An intrepid band of explorers headed by Gabriel Bonvalot, France’s greatest explorer, and his partner, Prince Henri d’Orleans, attempt to be the first living Europeans to reach Lhasa. Before they leave Paris, Bonvalot meets Camille Dancourt, the beautiful, strong-willed wife of a French surveyor who disappeared in Tibet, who desperately wishes to join the expedition. When the caravan sets out they face freezing temperatures, violent winds, mountain sickness, hostile Tibetans, duplicitous Chinese Mandarins, and a beguiling Tibetan Buddhist princess with a deadly secret. When the 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 must resort to deadly force if they ever wish to escape Tibet alive. (provided by the author)



Race to Tibet - Sophie SchillerSophie Schiller was born in Paterson, NJ
and grew up in the West Indies.
Among other oddities
her family tree contains a Nobel prize-winning physicist
and a French pop singer.
She loves stories that carry the reader back in time to exotic
and far-flung locations. She was educated at American University, Washington, DC
and lives in Brooklyn, NY. She is currently at work on a new historical thriller set in the Caribbean.

Visit her website. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter

Buy the book: Amazon


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9 thoughts on “Book Review: Race to Tibet, by Sophie Schiller + an excerpt (& giveaway!)

  1. Pingback: France Book Tours stops for March 23-29 | France Book Tours

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  3. Thank you for your thoughtful review. I’m glad you liked the character of Camille Dancourt, which was one of the fictional elements I added for dramatic purposes. It’s always a toss-up when writing about a historical figure how much you should fictionalize versus how closely you should follow the historical record. It’s like a juggling act. For the historical purists you try to maintain the story line, but for the sake of a good story, you add these dramatic elements. In the end, I believe Camille was a good addition as she added dramatic tension, as well as being a nice counterpoise to Bonvalot’s bold determination. Merci!

  4. thanks for sharing your thoughts about this book. sorry it did not totally satisfy you, but glad it introduced you to some important historical figures

  5. Pingback: Race to Tibet: Tour Quotations | France Book Tours

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