In four thousand years of Chinese history, Empress Wu stands alone as the only woman to rule in her own name. She died in her eighties after decades of successful governance, but her sons could not hold the kingdom she established for them and the dynasty she founded soon fell from power. The Confucian scholars who recorded her historyâ€”outraged by the idea of a woman ordering menâ€”depicted a murderous, manipulative harlot that has ever since obscured her achievements. In The Moon in the Palace (Sourcebooks, 2016), Weina Dai Randel seeks to polish Empress Wu's tarnished reputation, offering a new look at her and her times, the obstacles she faced and the gifts that enabled her to overcome them.
Wu Mei is five years old when a Buddhist monk predicts her future as the mother of emperors and bearer of the mandate of Heaven. By thirteen, she has already entered the Imperial Palace as a Select, one of a small group of maidens chosen to serve the Taizong Emperor. But the palace is a vast and complex hierarchy, and Mei one untried girl among the two thousand women it contains. Her first friend betrays her trust, her emperor has little use for her, and his youngest son seems all too willing to pay her the attention that his father withholds. Meanwhile, intrigue within the palace threatens the emperor and all those who depend on him. In this poisonous atmosphere, even a junior concubine may find it difficult to keep her head. Mei, capable and smart, is not easily daunted, but she worries that she will soon find herself out of her depth.
Mei's story continues in The Empress of Bright Moon (Sourcebooks, 2016), due for release in early April 2016. In both novels, Randel paints in rich and compelling prose a wonderfully believable and nuanced portrait of a long-vanished court and the young woman who must navigate its treacherous paths.
C. P. Lesley is the author of Legends of the Five Directions (The Golden Lynx, The Winged Horse, and, soon, The Swan Princess), a historical fiction series set in 1530s Russia, during the childhood of Ivan the Terrible. Find out more about her at http://www.cplesley.com.