In this sensational true story, bestselling author Nigel Cawthorne reveals the dark and dramatic story of the only female Emperor in Chinese history, Wu Chao: concubine, manipulator, politician, murderer, and living god.
At the age of 13, Wu Chao was made concubine to the Emperor, bringing great honour to her family.
Born the daughter of a merchant in seventh-century China, she skilfully used her beauty, wit, and powers of manipulation to seduce her way to the throne of the most powerful empire in the medieval world.
Beautiful, charming, and fiendishly clever, Wu plotted to eliminate all those she could not bewitch, executing her enemies without mercy, murdering her own children for political gain, and eventually proclaiming herself a living god.
Ruthlessly reigning for fifty years, she provoked scandal upon scandal by setting up her own imperial harem and giving her lovers positions of power.
From her instruction in the art of love by palace officials to her bloody downfall, this book throws open a window into the colourful world of T’ang Dynasty China, and to the woman whose infamous behaviour ushered in a golden age in history.
The mystery of the Orient hits an ultimate high when you talk about the Forbidden City of China. This whole book pretty much takes place there as you follow the narrator from birth to death and all the twisty turns in between of the only woman to become Emperor. There were many empresses over the years and dynasties, but only one female emperor.
Wu Chao was not born to the palace. In fact, she was a commoner. Her father was a woodcutter. Her mother was of a noble family, however, and raised her as a lady. She was also extremely intelligent and inquisitive. So when she met Great General Li, she impressed him. He later mentioned her to the people at the palace and she was ordered to come to serve at the palace. Being smart, she took advantage of each and every opportunity as it came and created others. One emperor died and she married another before she was in a position to usurp the power of the throne. She literally became the power behind the throne initially. Her husband was not as adept at running the government as she was. She sat in a chair behind a curtain hung behind the throne and advised him. Eventually, they did away with the curtain and her chair was beside his. Finally, he just let her make all the decisions because she was so much better at it than he was. She was constantly outraging the traditions for women of the time.
This was a bloody time in history. Not only were countries fighting countries, but within China, families were fighting for position and power. Even within families, there were hostilities and power plays. They killed each other frequently or were ordered into exile or to commit suicide. Only the emperor could order someone to commit suicide, and they did. Everyone from high-ranking officials to members of their own family. Even their own children. There were rumors that when this emperor was a concubine, she may have even killed her own infant daughter to throw the empress into disrepute. As I said, it was a bloody time in history.
Mr. Cawthorne has researched extensively and included a lot of peripheral history and details. In some places, it seemed that he may actually have gotten sidetracked with the peripherals and lost the main line. With the accounting of a person's life, you would expect the story to stop with their death or shortly thereafter. Again, Mr. Cawthorne seemed to get a bit lost and rambled on for awhile until he seemed to run out of things to say. If you are a strict history buff, you may enjoy this tome. This is an accounting of her life, not a novel.
This eARC was provided to me by Endeavor Press and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I am not being compensated in any way. All opinions are fully my own.
~ Judi E. Easley for Blue Cat Review