Empress Orchid – Anchee Min

This novel charts the rise to power of the last Empress of China, from provincial governer’s daughter to the establishment of her small son as Emperor in the 1860s.

At times it felt like a thinly veiled piece of academic work, which sat uneasily with the added shots of sexual and political intrigue. Still, I learned at lot about the workings of the Imperial Court and the Forbidden City in the declining years of the Manchu Qing dynasty, and their attempts to deal with predatory manoevrings of the western powers during the Opium Wars.

Amazon.co.uk link: Empress Orchid