G702 Book Review of The Moon in the Palace by Weina Dai Randel
Author: Weina Dai Randel
Publisher: Sourcebooks landmark
Part of a Series: The Empress of Wu Duology
Type of book: China, Tang Dynasty, Empress Wu, 631-648, seasons, palace life, loyalty, family, filial piety, secrets, friendships, relationships, rivalry, jobs, fighting
Year it was published: 2016
There is no easy path for a woman aspiring to power
A concubine at the palace learns quickly that there are many ways to capture the Emperor’s attention. Many paint their faces white and style their hair attractively, hoping to lure in the One Above All with their beauty. Some present him with fantastic gifts, such as jade pendants and scrolls of calligraphy, while others rely on their knowledge of seduction to draw his interest. But young Mei knows nothing of these womanly arts, yet she will give the Emperor a gift he can never forget.
Mei’s intelligence and curiosity, the same traits that make her an outcast among the other concubines, impress the Emperor. But just as she is in a position to seduce the most powerful man in China, divided loyalties split the palace in two, culminating in a perilous battle that Mei can only hope to survive.
In the breakthrough first volume in the Empress of Bright Moon duology, Weina Dai Randel paints a vibrant portrait of ancient China—where love, ambition, and loyalty can spell life of death—and the woman who came to rule it all.
Main characters include Mei whose father died under mysterious circumstances but wished for her to bring honor to the family. Much to mine surprise, Mei is a different and likable character than I expected. (From the stories I heard of her in my history class, I expected someone very ruthless and someone who always keeps a very sharp dagger.) She is loyal, likable, resourceful and extremely clever as well as intelligent. She is also conflicted and isn't sure of some of the decisions she makes. Pheasant is a very kind and sweet male character who has his own secrets and does what he can to help Mei. Jewel is Mei's rival but has an interesting relationship to Mei and is both ruthless and isn't afraid of taking advantage of people around her. Noble Lady is one of Emperor's highest ladies and is of great help to Mei. She is sweet, gentle and very virtuous.
Life in the palace isn't all luxury
The story is from the first person narrative from Mei's point of view. I really loved the details that were included in the story as well as the feel of the book which is very modern and seems as if it could take place somewhere. The language and tone are modern than ancient and its a good read for those dipping their toes into Chinese culture and history because I do believe its very well researched and it is a dark and fascinating read. I do feel that the characters in this book aren't as compelling and it feels as if the author is holding back a little or is uncertain when it comes to balancing the details and the characters.
(From inside the book)
Weina Dai Randel was born and raised in China. She has worked as a journalist, a magazine editor, and an adjunct professor. Her passion for history tels her to share classical Chinese literature, tales of Chinese dynasties, and stories fo Chinese historical figures with American readers. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society and currently lives in Texas. The Moon in the Palace is her first novel.
All I can say is that I thought I knew quite a bit about China, but apparently not everything as the book set out to prove to me. I did know a little about the main character, the future Empress Wu, the only female ruler in China, but the stories I was told in my history class were of her notoriety, one being that she killed her own child, and another story I clearly remember is that she died a natural death because men were too frightened to scheme and kill her. With the book, the author seems to have built a time machine where she went back in time and then came back and wrote the story. I do think that the characters aren't as deep as I hoped,but I do promise that the sequel more than makes up for it. The first book is more detail oriented where we are introduced to ancient China and to life in the palace as a woman desired by emperor while the second book moves on to focusing on the character a lot more. Also, something interesting is that the moon, as in pretty much a lot of cultures, refers to feminine and mysterious and dark. (For some odd reason reminds me of The Court of the Lion by Eleanor Cooney which is about Empress Wu's grandson.)
This was given to me by the author for an honest review; I also would like to thank Jocelyn from Speaking of China for introducing me to the author who gave me this wonderful opportunity to read and review the novels, truly a time of serendipity
4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)