Monday, January 11, 2016

The Fragrant Concubine by Melissa Addey

China, 1760. The Emperor conquers Altishahr, a Muslim country to the west of his empire and summons a local woman from his new dominion to come to the Forbidden City as his concubine. 

Meanwhile in the market of Kashgar a girl named Hidligh is kidnapped by Iparhan, a woman scarred by the Emperor’s conquest of her homeland and bent on vengeance. Iparhan offers her a deal: Hidligh will become the Emperor’s concubine, living a life of luxury. In return she will act as Iparhan’s spy. 

But when Hidligh arrives in the Forbidden City, she enters a frightening new world. Every word she utters may expose her as an imposter. Iparhan is watching from the shadows, waiting to exact her revenge on the Emperor. The Empress is jealous of her new rival. And when Hidligh finally meets the Emperor, she finds herself falling in love… 

A passionate story, richly imagined in the spaces of real history. Melissa Addey meticulously evokes a strange, beautiful and harsh society. Emma Darwin, award-winning author of The Mathematics of Love and A Secret Alchemy. 

Melissa Addey has given us a new take on the cherished but controversial legend of ‘the Fragrant Concubine,’ one that weaves together the many conflicting versions of the story and plausibly embraces how romance might have blossomed between the brilliant Manchu monarch and his fragrant Muslim consort. Professor James Millward, author of A Uyghur Muslim in Qianlong’s Court: The Meanings of the Fragrant Concubine 

If you enjoyed Lisa See's Peony in Love, Anchee Min's The Last Empress and Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha then The Fragrant Concubine will be a new favourite. Set in China's Forbidden City in the 18th century, where the women of the court vie for the Emperor's attention and every concubine must fight for her position.


The stunning cover and the exciting back cover blurb of THE FRAGRANT CONCUBINE drew me in from the start. And after judging a book by its cover, I can say my instincts were right with this one. First, I love historical fiction that can take me on a journey to a different time and place. In this tale we are swept into China's Forbidden City in the late 18th century. At the heart of the story is a young girl named Hidligh, a street urchin with a bleak future, but who is crafty enough to survive her harsh life. She comes into contact with a man and a woman named Irphan with treacherous, treasonous motives. This couple prepares her to become a spy, a concubine to the emperor. And Hidligh more than succeeds in catching the emperor's attention. She becomes his favorite, but earns the enmity of his other wives and concubines in so doing. With a slight tone of fantasy, the author has weaved a fascinating, dangerous story that captured and held my attention throughout. 

I love books set in places that I am not familiar with and with characters that are unlike others that I have read before. The setting was especially captivating to me. This book takes place in the 1700s in China, which is a time and location that I have not read much about. The author takes us into the court of the Emperor, a place that is filled with social rules and obligations. At first, Hidligh is not familiar with any of the rules she will have to follow. One of my favorite parts in the book is when Iparhan and her servants are trying to teach Hidligh how to be a proper lady.

The novel was easy to read, and although a times the pace slowed, the overall story was very engaging and worth reading to the very satisfying ending. This is a definite book to acquire, especially if you love stories about concubines and the mysterious Forbidden City of China. 

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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