Empress Wu: Rise
Author: Jeff Hortman, Andrew Knighton
Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: February 11, 2018
Source: Publicist in exchange for an honest review
Synopsis: In a world of choreographed behavior. A trap of etiquette and standardized rules. In the palace of the most powerful kingdom on Earth. In the midst of this web of constraint and rigid authority, one woman triumphed over centuries of ritual. One Machiavellian courtesan rose above the rules and became the most powerful ruler in the world.
My Review: This novel chronicles Empress Wu’s rise to becoming the queen consort to Emperor Gaozong. As a young girl, Wu meets a fortune teller that says her destiny is to be a king. Even though this seems like an impossible future, Wu still dreams one day of ruling China. Years later, she is given an opportunity to become the concubine to Emperor Taizong. The position of concubine seems to Wu a life of luxury at the palace. When she arrives at the palace, she realises that she is more of a maid rather than a glamorous concubine. She continues her life at the palace working until Emperor Taizong’s death is near. However, it is when she catches the eye of the crown prince. They both fall in love with each other. When Emperor Taizong dies, Wu is forced to go to the convent. However, the new emperor is determined to bring her back to the palace. With Wu winning the new emperor’s heart, she finds a way to return to the palace and ultimately becoming empress.
After reading a few historical fiction books on Empress Wu, I was curious to see how they portray her character. She has had a negative reputation throughout history. She has even been accused of killing her own daughter. Thus, I was curious to see how these authors have painted her. When we first meet Wu, she is an innocent but very intelligent girl. She is also dreamy and dreams of a big future. During Emperor Taizong’s reign, she is a concubine of no importance. However, there were some moments where she was cunning and plotted to live a more glamorous lifestyle. Still, this is a very sympathetic take on Empress Wu. The authors show her as a woman who experiences many tragedies and is heartbroken when she loses her loved ones. However, she does not let the tragedies get to her. She is also shown to have glimpses of arrogance and proves herself to be a capable politician among the male ministers.
Overall, this novel emphasizes the personal tragedies and obstacles Empress Wu makes as she slowly rises to the throne. Besides Empress Wu, most of the characters were very one-dimensional. After reading this novel, I came away not fully understanding the characters. The novel is very well-written and it made medieval China come alive. The story ended in a cliffhanger, and I’m looking forward to reading the sequel. I recommend this novel for those who would like to read about Ancient China, strong queens, and political intrigue. Empress Wu: Rise proves that this empress is just as fascinating as Elizabeth I, Catherine the Great, and Queen Victoria.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars