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Tall Poppies Review: ‘The Moon in the Palace’ is Full of Forbidden Love, Intrigue, and Clever Women

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Palace intrigue, forbidden love, and clever women. Weina Dai Randel’s beautifully written, RITA-award winning The Moon in the Palace is full of all three and more.

Set in China during the Tang Dynasty (seventh century), the novel follows the life of Mei, the future Empress Wu. From an early age, Mei is marked as a chosen one: “She would eclipse the light of the sun and shine brighter than the moon. She would reign over the kingdom that governs many men. She would mother the emperors of the land but also be emperor in her own name. She would dismantle the house of lies but build the temple of the divine. She would dissolve the kingdom of ghosts but found a dynasty of souls. She would be immortal.” At age twelve, she is taken from her family and enters the bottom echelons of the royal court.

From then on, Mei’s entire world is within the walls of the Forbidden Palace, where political favor is the currency, plotting is the favorite pastime, and falling in love with the wrong person will get you killed. Richly described, Randel’s intense research shows on every page, from the elaborate lush clothing to the food meted out based on position of favor within the court. Every character has her own motivation, be it to become the “Most Favored,” sneak a stolen kiss in a quiet garden, or support a preferred heir to the Emperor’s throne.

In the center of it all, Mei’s rise up the court is a combination of right-place-right-time and clever positioning. She struggles to learn who she can trust, learning some hard lessons, and how to stay alive when your security balances on the whims of a man. Mei is a fierce woman who took control of her destiny in a time choices and freedom were nonexistent. When you finish, you’ll rush to read the breathtaking sequel, The Empress of the Bright Moon. Fans of historical fiction and Chinese culture will especially love this novel.


Weina Dai Randel is the award-winning author of two historical novels, The Moon in the Palace and The Empress of Bright Moon, historical novel series of Empress Wu (Wu Zetian), China’s only female emperor. The Moon in the Palace won RWA RITA® Mainstream Fiction with a Central Romantic Theme Award in 2017, was nominated by Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Historical Fiction, by RT Book Reviewers Choice Award for Best First Historical, and recommended by Texas Library Association’s 2017 Lariat Reading List. The series have been translated into 7 languages and sold worldwide. Weina was born and grew up in China. English is her second language. She came to the United States at the age of twenty-four, when she began to speak, write and dream in English. She holds an M.A. in English from Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Texas. For more information about Weina, go to www.weinarandel.com

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