"The eight-year-old son of Chamberlain Sano mysteriously vanishes. Sano discovers that Lord Matsudaira, his political rival, has had the boy kidnapped and sent to the northern frontier island of Japan known as Ezogashima (Hokkaido). Something is rotten there: Communications between Ezogashima and the capital have broken down. Sano and his wife Reiko travel to Ezogashima to rescue their son and find themselves caught up in big trouble that involves the murder of a woman who belonged to the native Ainu people, a samurai warlord gone dangerously mad, and escalating racial conflict between the Ainu and the Japanese. Sano and Reiko must solve the murder if they want to escape Ezogashima alive."
"In memory of Fat Boy, 1988-2007"
Fat Boy was one of Rowland's cats.
- Sano clan
- The Rat
- Lord Matsudaira
- Tokugawa Tsunayoshi
- On Rowland's official site, the summary given for The Snow Empress differs greatly from the blurb given on the back of the 2008 paperback reprint. Most notably:
- Instead of being vague about which of Sano's rivals kidnapped Masahiro, it outright states that Lord Matsudaira did it.
- It gives the modern name of Ezogashima (Hokkaido).
- It refers to the people who originally inhabited Ezogashima as their proper name: Ainu. Within the novel, all of the characters refer to them as Ezo and it is not until much later that their proper name is stated.
- The only character to refer to the Ainu people with their proper name is Hirata.
- The 2008 paperback reprint includes the prologue and chapter one of The Fire Kimono.