Thursday, March 24, 2016

Debut Titles for Spring - Part 1

I am always amazed at how many wonderful debut novels are published each year.  Although I have many favorite authors whose books I eagerly await, it is exciting to discover a new talent. I have read some great debut novels this year that I would love to share with you. 

Weina Rai Randel debuts not one, but two novels this spring.  Her Empress of the Bright Moon Duology reimagines the life of Empress Wu of China.  Empress Wu, the first woman to rule China under her own name,  has often been portrayed as a ruthless and immoral woman.  The author decided to research the life of this fascinating woman ruler and found little documentation to support this reputation.  Taking into account that the Confucian scholars at the time who were writing the history had reason to besmirch a woman ruler, the author decided to write her own version of the story. 

 The first novel, The Moon In the Palace, begins with the life of the empress as a young girl.  When Mei is 5 years old a fortune teller states that she will not only be the mother of emperors, but an emperor in her own right.  Her sheltered life comes to an end when her beloved father dies.  She is taken from her family at age 13 and accepted into the palace of the emperor as one of 15 Selects of the inner court.  Her father's lessons in history, mathematics, poetry and especially Sun Tzu's The Art of War serve her well as she finds herself entangled in palace intrigues, jealousies and deceptions.  Young Mei also finds herself in grave danger when she falls in love with a young boy called Pheasant, as she belongs to the emperor. 

The second novel continues the story of Mei's rise in the court. The looming death of the emperor puts all of his concubines at risk.  Upon his death, those like Mei who have not born him a child will be sent to monasteries, where they will live in seclusion for the rest of their lives.  But Mei still has Pheasant on her side and although she is banished to a monastery she will return to the palace in time.  A monk reveals that she will face great loss before her fated rise to power and she does indeed suffer much grief.  Still, Mei's inner strength and her true love will see her through as she finally becomes Empress Wu.

I was lucky enough to be assigned these two titles to review for Library Journal.  I also had the chance to interview Weina Dai Randel for the magazine. To read my interview, Click Here. For more information about the author please check out her website Click Here