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The Empress of Bright Moon by Weina Dai Randel: A Book Review

The Empress of Bright Moon
Author: Weina Dai Randel
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Release Date: April 5, 2016
Pages: 370
Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: The time for taking hold of her destiny is now.

     At the moment of the Emperor's death, everything changes in the palace. Mei, his former concubine, is free, and Pheasant, the heir and Mei's lover, is proclaimed as the new Emperor, heralding a new era in China. But just when Mei believes she's closer to her dream, Pheasant's chief wife, Lady Wang, powerful and unpredictable, turns against Mei and takes unthinkable measures to stop her. The power struggle that ensues will determine Mei's fate–and that of China.

     Surrounded by enemies within the palace that she calls home, Mei continues her journey to the throne in The Empress of Bright Moon, the second book in Weina Dai Randel's acclaimed duology. Only by fighting back against those who wish her harm will Mei be able to realize her destiny as the most powerful woman in China.

     My Review: The Empress of Bright Moon is the sequel to The Moon in the Palace. When Emperor Taizong dies, it seems like all will be well for a new era of the Tang dynasty. Her lover, Emperor Gaozong, is ready to be the good ruler that he has always dreamed. However, Emperor Taizong's brother-in-law becomes Regent, and Mei is forced to enter a Buddhist monastery. After years of loneliness and separation, she is finally reunited with Emperor Gaozong, and she becomes the second highest lady in the court. However, she finds that she has made a deadly enemy in Empress Wang, and the two of them become rivals as they fight for the title of Empress and the Emperor’s heart.

     In The Moon in the Palace, we see Mei as a naive girl who is thrust into the political intrigues of the court. In this novel, Mei is mature and she is more adept at politics.  She becomes a close advisor to the Emperor. However, she finds that this court is more dangerous than during Emperor Taizong’s reign. She realizes that finding happiness is not easy, and she realizes that she has to experience the loss of her dear ones. This makes her angry, sometimes ruthless, and vengeful. However, she soon learns to bestows acts of kindness, mercy, and forgiveness to her enemies. To forgive her enemies is something she struggles throughout this novel, yet it is also demonstrates her strength. She is also very intelligent and strategic. She is very observant in how to defeat her enemies. Thus, I found Mei to be a very strong character.

     Overall, this novel is about loss, choices, forgiveness, and redemption. It is about a woman who is trying to cope with loss. The message of the book is that where there is darkness, there is hope. This novel is very heart-wrenching and is an emotional, poignant, and raw read. I loved how this book portrays a mother’s love for her children, and how she overcomes her personal tragedies.  Mei is a very complex character. She is very flawed, yet she is very real. I also found the villain to be very compelling. The empress was a victim of her circumstances. She too has suffered. She is evil because the court is cruel. She is the empress, and yet she is not treated as one. She is humiliated and criticized for not bearing a son. Like Mei, she too, has to fight for the Emperor’s affections to bring duty and honor to her family. Instead, she is the laughingstock of her family and is mocked. This novel perfectly shows the dangers and cruelty of the Tang court. Instead of a duology, I would have liked there to be a trilogy to see how Mei has grown when she becomes the Emperor of China. Still, The Empress of the Bright Moon left me utterly breathless, and this novel will linger with you long after you have read the final page. I recommend this book to fans of Stephanie Dray, Allison Pataki, and Marci Jefferson.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars


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