The Moon in the Palace by Weina Dai Randel
Series: Empress of Bright Moon #1
Paperback, 395 pages
Published 1st March 2016 by Sourcebooks Landmark
Genre: historical fiction
Buy on Amazon
Synopsis: 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.
Overview: I adored this book! It had been on my to-read list for a while, but I finally picked it up, then had a hard time putting it down. However, I must admit that I’ve always been a bit of a sucker for historical fiction, especially if they take place in Asia. There’s just something so alluring about them, whether they’re from China, Japan, or Korea; they pull me in all too willingly.
What I loved about the book: I was enchanted by Weina’s writing style. It was lyrical and easy to follow, enticing my fingers to turn page after page. It was so difficult to take a break from it. But while the prose was mesmerising and poetic, I was all too familiar with some of the culture that was shown. Due to this, I could identify with events that were happening in the book. I knew what Qingming was like—a tradition my family follows every year. I knew how women could be like in Asia, although I will admit that the ones I met in this book were way more venomous than the ones I’ll ever encounter. I knew how much loyalty could bind people and families: this is something my father taught me when I was a child and still reminds me of to this day. Despite not being from China, learning more about its roots was fascinating.
Favourite passage: “I knew now: love and destiny were two wild horses that could not be curbed. They galloped in different directions and ran down different paths where streams of desire and hope would not converge. To follow one was to betray the other. To make one happy was to break the other’s heart. Yet I supposed that was part of life, a lesson we had to learn. To grow up was also to give up, and to build the future was to dissolve the past. The only thing we could do was hope for the best, to believe that the horse we chose would find us a safe destination.”
What didn’t work for me in the book: Especially in the later parts of the book, I had trouble easily following the changes in time. While it helped that every chapter began with when they started to take place, the flow of time in the book was strange for me. Perhaps it was because of how the chapters began that I was more aware of time in this book since timelines do not seem to bother me in books where the authors rarely bring it up.
Conclusion: I can’t wait to read the next book! I was sorely tempted to immediately start on The Empress of Bright Moon, but I wanted to write a review that focused on The Moon in the Palace. This book is highly recommended if you love historical fiction and wish to learn more about the beginnings of the only recognised empress regnant in the history of China.