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The Moon in the Palace by Weina Dai Randel: A Book Review

The Moon in the Palace
Author: Weina Dai Randel
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Release Date: March 1, 2016
Pages: 402
Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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.

     In the breakthrough first volume in the Empress of Bright Moon duology, Weina Dai Randel 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.

     My Review: Wu Zetian is China’s female emperor. The Moon in the Palace chronicles the early life of Empress Wu. Mei, as Wu is called in this novel, receives a prophecy at five years old that she will be the mother of emperors and an emperor in her own name. Her fate pleases her father, and believes that Mei will bring her family honor. When she enters the palace at thirteen, she believes that she will immediately lead a good life. However, she soon finds that there is treachery in the court, as hundreds of women are fighting to receive the Emperor’s affection. Mei realizes that she must stay ahead of her enemies so that she can survive and bring her family honor. 

     Mei is a woman who is devoted to her family. She wants her parents to be proud of her. She is very intelligent and likes to read. When she goes to the palace, she is very naive and trusting. She soon realizes that she cannot trust anyone in the harem because they too have the same ambition as Mei. Mei becomes more observant. She is always planning for her survival. She finds a few friends and is very loyal to them. She is also very compassionate. Even though she does not like her enemies, she still feels some pity for them. She also yearns to live the life she wants and fights for her happiness. She does not want to be someone’s pawn. Thus, throughout the course of the novel, Mei develops into a mature and capable young woman.

     Overall, this novel is about duty, friendship, love, loyalty, choices, loss, and sacrifices. This novel is about a woman who is searching to find her own happiness. I liked how Mei grew as a character, and I look forward to reading the sequel to see how she has grown. I loved how the author portrays the danger and cruelty within the Tang court. This novel is full of court intrigue, action, danger, and a forbidden romance. Moon in the Palace left me breathless and utterly captivated, and I cannot wait to read Empress of Bright Moon. This novel is sure to  appeal to fans of soap operas and to fans of the historical dramas, The Tudors, Marco Polo, and The Borgias.  This novel will also delight fans of C.W. Gortner, Philippa Gregory, Michelle Moran, and Stephanie Dray.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars



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