Mei's future begins with a prophecy that is followed by tragedies. Foretold to be a powerful woman, mother to emperors and an emperor herself, her father teaches her in many subjects. But his death leads her to the Court of Emperor Taizong. There, Mei struggles to become the Emperor's Most Adored Concubine to help her mother. But she struggles to be noticed in a world dominated by scheming women. Mei is noticed by one person, Pheasant, who turns out to be Emperor Taizong's son. Life is hard, but Mei must persevere.
The first part of this duology sets the the stage for an epic story. Mei is a wonderful narrarator, but young. She is trusting, selfless and brave. But she must learn to be cunning. As life gets harder as she gets older, the reader comes to love her. The politics of the Inner Court are thick, deep and maddening. There are multiple adversaries and really only one friendly lady, so the reader feels Mei's loneliness. The love affair with Pheasant turns out to be pleasant, but makes things fraught. The book is amazing and was nominated for multiple awards. It was one of my favorite books of 2016.