Monday, December 26, 2016

The Empress of Bright Moon: A Novel of Empress Wu - Weina Dai Randel

Summary: In the captivating sequel to The Moon in the Palace, Mei must protect her people from a murderous empress

The second book in this stunning duology, The Empress of Bright Moon follows Mei as she struggles for power within the Emperor's palace, risking her life to dethrone the murderous Empress and establish herself as the new female ruler of China.

After Mei's lover, Pheasant, is crowned Emperor, a power struggle erupts between Mei and Pheasant's wife, Empress Wang. Both women are desperate to secure their name and rank. But when Empress Wang takes their feud to a new level by murdering Mei's supporters, Mei realizes that she must defeat the bloodthirsty Empress—not only to save herself, but also to protect her country.
  (Summary and pic from goodreads.com)

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

My Review: Ever since reading the first book in this duo, The Moon in the Palace, I’ve been looking forward to reading this installment. Empress Wu is a fascinating person and this book does a great job of discussing her life. The first one definitely left me excited for what was happening next.

The first book had a few writing issues that I discussed in my review, mostly, I think, due to inexperience on the author’s part. I am happy to report that I think those issues were resolved in this book. The writing was much smoother and less choppy. The dialogue also flowed a lot better, and while I found the dialogue to be distracting in the last novel, it really added to the story in this installment. There was quite a bit of dialogue, actually, and I think that it was actually one of the strong points in this installment. Although this is historical fiction novel, because it is based on the life of Empress Wu and Chinese court life, there is a lot of intrigue and involvement between the different characters and so the dialogue was important. Also, I really enjoyed the descriptions of Chinese court life. The author did a great job of making it come alive and bringing out the intrigue and drama that surrounded the time period.

The story itself was quite tragic, and it is one of those times when it seems apropos to bring out to the old adage “You can’t make this stuff up” or “Truth is stranger than fiction.” Although the author does admit that amidst her vast research she did have to take some liberties of her own, I think the liberties she has taken make sense and add to the story. It’s always hard to recreate the past, especially when things were so different then and the culture is so vastly different, but it is obvious that with the research done that this book is a good description of Empress Wu’s life. Because of the nature of historical documentation and the obvious favoritism that has gone to men and reporting their goings on throughout history, women like Empress Wu serve as a great reminder that men are not the only ones who shaped the world and culture as it is today. These books do a great job of documenting her early life, and even if some of it is conjecture due to the limited comparative resources available, it is enlightening to read about such a woman as Empress Wu and how she came to power in a man’s world.

If you are interested in ancient Chinese culture and especially the life and dynasty of Empress Wu, I really enjoyed these books and would recommend them. They are interesting, intriguing, and really bring to life the dynasty of a very powerful woman who ruled in the ancient world.

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader: There is some language and violence, even against women and children. This was not gratuitous, but definitely tragic in its truth. 

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