The book in one sentence: The making of a Japanese folk hero ... from the future.
Synopsis of The Weeping Empress by Sadie S. Forsythe: Chiyo Alglaeca was happy in her life. That is, until it was all taken away. Forced into notoriety, stalked by a mysterious cult, hunted by the emperor, and facing betrayal at every turn she clings to the only safety she can find: two enigmatic men and the sharp bringer of death, Salvation. The Weeping Empress explores the devastating effects of loss, the hunt for redemption, and the price of destiny. It questions the true meaning of evil and asks what monster is not also an innocent?
My two centsImagine being ripped out of your own cozy world --- in your pajamas no less -- and thrown into a totally different time. This is what happens to housewife Chiyo, a modern-day woman who wakes up to find herself in a middle of a life-death situation, in the distant past of Japanese samurais.
Chiyo initially reminded me of the character of Mulan, a young Chinese woman who broke all conventions of her time and became a legendary warrior. (Ok, I admit that I only know Mulan because of the Disney adaptation so my knowledge is pretty limited.)
Like Mulan, Chiyo is thrust into the awkward role of becoming the prophesied saviour to a empire suffering under a despot emperor. Aside from questioning what the whole time-travel thing (and hence her very sanity), Chiyo expectedly is apathetic to her supposed role. But the two rebel men who saved her from her initial predicament, Muhjah and Senka, take Chiyo under their wing and prepare her for this role.
Herein we see the transformation of Chiyo into the warrior she is meant to be. While she struggles with overcoming the incredulity of her situation and the loss of the life she has left behind, she focuses her energies on the present as a coping mechanism. With hard work and her two mentors, she slowly embraces her new reality.
While this can be seen as a grand epic story of a folk hero in the making, it is also an intimate look into a woman warrior's life and her relationship with two men who become her protectors.
And the ending is one of those "oooooh" moments.
*This book blindsided me! Initially, it seemed interesting. But based just on the synopis, I wasn't quite prepared to come across this combination of folk tale, epic saga, and sci-fi (time travel is involved after all).
This all takes places during the samurai age of Japanese warriors -- there is bloodlust and gore, epic fights, a secret society. I know this sounds a bit much, but it all comes together fantastically!
If you're into Japanese culture, you'll also find the descriptions of customs, warriorhood and the katana (swords) fascinating.
The beginning felt slightly clunky to me. For some reason I had a feeling that the beginning wasn't as well edited as the rest of the book. I also came across the misspelling of "lose" twice (spelled "loose"), which irked me no end and almost made me stop reading (I didn't want to see any more typos!).
Verdict: An engrossing read for anyone who likes something unexpected and novel. It seems impossible and fantastical to conceive any of this in the real world which makes for some fast page turning action and adventure. Plus I know you want to find out who the Weeping Empress is!
First lines: Chiyo opened her eyes and looked up at the crisp blue sky. There was a fluttering in front of it as the leaves of the sparsely foliaged tree waved lazily. The wispy tendril of cirrus cloud floated into the periphery of her vision and the disappeared and was forgotten. It was beautiful, the type of view that children cherish and adults forget.
Last line: [..] looking out at him across the endless expanse of time.