(Cover picture courtesy of Fantastic Fiction.)
10th day of the 1st moon,
17th year of King Chinp’yong
It is the Hour of the Pig when the whole palace is settling down to sleep and only the watchmen and astronomers are awake. I have not had a chance during the festival season to sit at my favourite stargazing spot. It is here where I feel most alive. Here inside the grand mystery of the stars…
How can I help myself, Grandmother? During the day, everything is chaotic in Kumsong. Men rush around the palace, merchants hawk their wares. The city is a jumble of oxen and horses and children and slaves, all bellowing and laughing and tripping over one another to get where they are going. But at night, all is still and peaceful. I can look up into the heavens and find order…
My roots are here, Grandmother. My roots are in the stars.
Say what you want about The Royal Diaries, but I’ve just discovered another awesome female ruler that I never knew existed before. Sondok was the first woman in Eastern Asia to rule in her own right, having ascended the throne in 632 AD. The ridiculous amount of sexism Sondok chronicles in her writings to her dead Grandmother as a girl are a sort of precursor to what she would face when she took the throne.
But of course that doesn’t deter her and although it takes a while, Sondok realizes her true potential—and it isn’t to be an obedient little female either. Her struggle against the societal norms in Korea is fascinating and reveals a lot about not only the religious turmoil in the court at the time, but also the cultural turmoil. The best part is that Sheri Holman presents all of this information without being too obvious about telling the reader. Sondok describes the times and makes some observations, but Holman believes enough in the intelligence of the reader to let us make our own assumptions.
In contrast to some of the other Royal Diary books, there are actually interesting events going on at the time in Korea and Sondok is a part of them, not just an idle observer. That makes the plot both fast and exciting and also makes Princess of the Moon and Stars one of my favourite books in the entire series.
I give this book 5/5 stars.
*Only available as a used book.