I have to start this review by saying that this is my favourite book, hands down, ever. Shan opens this beautifully done novel with the intimate birth of Empress Wu Zetian, before she became a legend. It follows Wu as she enters China’s Forbidden City as a concubine, working her way through the intrigue and heartbreak that hovers over the palace. Shan paints the triumphs and setbacks of Wu in such a way that you can’t help but want to know more about her, about where she will go next.
There are authors who tell you a story, and then there are authors who put you in the story. You don’t just read this book, you’re birthed and left stumbling from one revelation to another alongside her. This is my go-to book, my first recommendation when someone wants something to read. It is captivating, sorrowful, poetic, and heartbreaking, and I love every piece of it.