Jill's Reviews > Empress

Empress by Shan Sa
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's review
Sep 03, 09

bookshelves: historical-fiction
Read in September, 2009

I was unimpressed by this novel. The narrator's voice seemed very authentic, as though she actually wrote it back in AD 680, but unfortunately that meant that it was exceedingly dry, mostly consisting of lists of what was in her many parades, how much gold she used building monuments, who she decided to have exiled or beheaded, etc. The most sexy parts (where characters get seduced and so forth) was sullied by the fact that the narrator seemed to have no emotions.

Actually, the lack of emotion was probably the thing I liked least about this book. Because the author starts it with a seemingly omniscient view from inside the womb, the empress Heavenlight has no room to grow and develop as a character. She just knows everything already. This has the further impact of making it difficult to forgive her for her personal failings (and she has several) because if she knows everything, well then why isn't she perfect?

I think that if I had pulled this book off the shelf in the non-fiction section I would have really enjoyed it as a way of bringing ancient China to life. Unfortunately, I expect more from my novels than this kind of dry timeline.
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Sarah 100% agree with you here.

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