Parrot's story is interleaved with largely comic episodes involving the immortals who follow her progress and manipulate her life: an Undersecretary in the Taoist Celestial Administration, King of the Dead Yama, the Good Lady Guan-yin, the Western Motherqueen, and an assortment of other figures. Much of the story is told from Parrot's perspective in the first person, but much is in the third person, with many sections modelled on Ming short stories (complete with interjections by the storyteller) or other Chinese genres. Larsen draws on Chinese sources not just for content but for structure and form, though heavily reworked for a Western audience. (And she sensitively negotiates the dangers involved in cultural appropriation of this kind.)
The earlier part of Silk Road is slower and closer to historical fiction, with the supernatural action largely epiphenomenal, but it becomes both more eventful and more fantastic as it progresses. There are enough of the cliches of modern fantasy to keep most readers of the genre happy — perhaps too many for some of us — but there is also much that is refreshingly original.
Silk Road is out of print, but secondhand copies seem easy enough to come by. It forms part of a trilogy, with Bronze Mirror and Manchu Palaces, but is a self-contained novel.