When I read the premise of this novel, it reminded me of one of the asian dramas that I love watching. I’m a sucker for historical dramas and this seemed right up my alley. I was excited because this novel is based on an actual historical figure, whom I know nothing about and I felt that this would be a really interesting way to learn about her. So here is my review:
As a concubine, it is imperative that one is able to capture the Emperor’s attention. Many paint their faces and style their hair attractively. Others present the Emperor with fantastic gifts. Still ore rely on their knowledge of seduction to draw his interest. But young Mei knows nothing of these womanly arts… and yet, she will give the Emperor a gift he will never forget. Mei’s intelligence and curiosity, while marking her as 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.
This novel was captivating in its richness and writing style. The author did a fantastic job of making the story come to life. Every little detail was accounted for, from the types of food that was eaten, to the customs and intricacies of court life. It really set the stage for the events that transpired in the book. I love reading about politics and hierarchies that exist within kingdoms, and this novel definitely did not disappoint in that aspect. There was always something intriguing going on, and this book kept me on my toes; I literally could not pull my eyes away. However, this novel did have its flaws. From the description of this novel, I expected Mei to be a great deal more cunning and intelligent. However, she is portrayed as extremely trusting and her ability to move up in the ranks is mostly attributed to luck and help from others. This was a disappointment to me, as I was really looking forward to seeing a battle of wits between the different concubines. There was a romance aspect in this novel that was interesting but fell a bit flat; I couldn’t really believe in the love between the two characters so I didn’t really care for the romance at all. While this novel gives off the impression that this book will be about Mei and her exploits, it’s really more about her observing things going on in the court and also mentioning some of the near-miss situations she is involved in. I cannot say that she ever actively did anything that made me applaud her bravery or intelligence. While I cannot speak for the historical accuracy of this novel due to my lack of knowledge, I will say that this novel was extremely interesting and had me hooked from page 1 despite the negative factors. I’m probably going to read the next book in this duology; I just hope that Mei becomes a stronger and smarter character in it!