Empress by Evelyn McCune

empress Blurb:

Sweeping through exotic, turbulent seventh-century China, EMPRESS is the captivating epic of one extraordinary woman who would become the only female emperor in all of China’s history. The story of Wu Jao, set against the backdrop of medieval China, reveals not only an age of horrifying barbarism, daring treachery, and precarious power, but also an eternal culture of sophistication and enlightenment.




In a nutshell:

I read it in: German

I liked it:     Yes up to half of the book

For people who like: Ancient China, historical fiction

My thoughts:


The cover

Now, before anyone cries out and complains about the cover: Yes, yes, I know. Thanks to the amazingly knowledgeable reviewers on amazon.com I have learned that the cover of this book is totally wrong, a shame, incredible negligence on the publisher’s part, how could they?! This is not an image of anyone in China during the 7th century , but it is (or is supposed to be) Ci Xi, the Empress Dowager who lived from 1835 until 1908. An unforgivable mistake that occupies everybody more than actually reading the book does. Or so it seems.

Obviously I am the only one who did not immediately realize this and who didn’t jump at the throat of Ballantine Books or Goldmann, the German publisher who made the same mistake. The Germans only used a photo of the older Ci Xi. I wonder whether just one particularly scholarly person on amazon said “Hey, this can’t be Wu Jao, her dress is not right, this is a dress from 1889, and therefore this must be Ci Xi. The publisher screwed the cover up.” and all the following reviewers didn’t want to lose face and chimed in or whether really every reviewer knew this anyway. God, people, chill out a bit!


Another DNF

This is another DNF for me, I am afraid. I thoroughly enjoyed the first half of the book. All the intrigues and the machinations of the courtiers were exciting and entertaining to read. After Wu Jao became empress I lost interest. Somehow I found her character right after that turning point in her life rather strange, because it was not in accordance with her previous one. I didn’t like at all one particular incident and therefore I gave up on her and her story. I couldn’t face reading another 300 pages or so just for the sake of finishing it.



You like Judge Dee?

Oh, one more thing. If you are a fan of Judge Dee, this might be of interest to you. He was mentioned by Wu Jao early on as one of her childhood friends when she was still living at home. Since he later became chancellor I assume he will play a part in the second half of the book.

Location: China during the Tang Dynasty, 7th century

China during Tang dynasty Taizong giving an audience

Official portrait of Wu Zetian at Wu's burial place

Movie tip

Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame


Product info and buy link :

Title Empress
Author Evelyn McCune
Publisher Ballantine Books
ISBN 978-0449907498
I got this book from some sort of bookcrossing
Buy link Buy Empress
More info More about Wu Jao on wikipedia


Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I would love to hear other opinions.

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