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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.
The first volume of the Empress of Bright Moon duology paints a vibrant portrait of ancient China—where love, ambition, and loyalty can spell life or death—and the woman who came to rule it all.
The Moon in the Palace just reminded me that I do not read nearly as many books that are set in historical China as I should. Every time I pick one up to read I find that I really love it yet it’s one place I never seem to deliberately seek out. I need to change that, I do, so if anyone has any other historical China recommendations I’d really love to read them.
The Moon in the Palace by Weina Dai Randel was such a fun read. It felt like one of those guilty pleasure reads because this was honestly like reading an Oriental historical fiction version of The Bachelor. The Palace had so many levels for the concubines that I felt like I was rounding through the 9 circles of Hell from Dante’s Divine Comedy (also known as Dante’s Inferno or Inferno). Every woman there plotting, fighting, and back-stabbing to move up to the next level and be one step closer to the Emperor.
On that note I should mention that this book is very heavily focused on that part of the Palace and China. There is very little in this book that takes place outside of the Palace walls and the hundreds of concubines.
Mei finds herself within those walls pretty quickly (which isn’t a spoiler since her becoming Empress is the plot of the book). Once Mei is inside the book never goes outside so you won’t be reading a lot about life outside of the life of a concubine. The life of a concubine is basically being as deceitful as possible to screw over the other girls and win the Emperor’s favor. I loved that perspective, it was fun.
So, while this isn’t really telling historical fiction from much of a historical perspective it’s a great book. It’s just so wrapped up in the lives of the concubines that you don’t get much history from it but there is a sequel and since it takes place during Mei’s time as Empress I’m thinking that is probably more in line with details of historical China.
There was a lot of cattiness and betrayal in The Moon in the Palace which made it a fun read to curl up with at night. There were times a woman would do something and I would just be, “Omg! That (insert horrible word here)!!!”. Once, I even felt like I trusted the character (and I never trust characters) then was so betrayed later. After that moment I kept hoping and hoping for her to get her just desserts so when she did I may or may not have done a little happy dance on my couch (I totally did).
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was so deliciously deceitful and catty, so much plotting and betrayal, so much revenge, and one-upmanship. Sure, there wasn’t a lot of history (outside of her rise to power and the identity of the Emperor and his sons) but this was the story of Mei and her rise to Empress, on that note it totally delivers.
Get it here and enjoy!