In an epic story that strives for grandeur but falls short in its conservative pacing, the 17-year-old daughter of a senior official at the Chinese court is the focus of attention. In the middle of the 19th century, she was chosen to serve the imperial family in the palace in Beijing. When the emperor hears her singing one day, he becomes interested in the young woman and she quickly is installed as one of his favorite concubines. One year later, she gives birth to a son - the emperor's only male heir, and thereby earns the title of Second Class Imperial Consort. So when the British and French armies attack Beijing, the emperor takes her and his son and flees with the court to his retreat at Rehe. Thus ends the first part of a two part series on the rise of the notorious Empress Dowager and her 46-year rule over a China that could only worsen under her despotic ignorance. Reign Behind a Curtain is the sequel that shows how this royal consort became installed in power once the emperor dies.
by Eleanor Mannikka synopsis