Title: The Cold Palace
Author: Melissa Addey
Genre: Historical Fiction
18th Century China. In a devastating breach of etiquette, the Empress of China cuts off her hair and is exiled by a furious Emperor to ‘the cold palace’. Historians still do not know what caused her to take this step.
Ula Nara is a happy sixteen-year-old, in love and betrothed. But before she can be married, she must attend the Imperial Daughters’ Draft. When she is chosen as a bride to the heir to the throne, her beloved vows to become a monk, while Ula Nara must face a lifetime of regret. Determined to make her pain worth something, she aims for the pinnacle of success: to become Empress. But perhaps being an Empress is not worth as much as she thought, and happiness may lie in the simpler things. The final book in The Forbidden City series, this is a chance to understand Ula Nara, a terrifying and powerful rival to the other ladies of the court.
Ula Nara lives a contented life in her small village. She’s in love with Niu Lang and they plan on getting married soon but before they marry, she must do her duty and take part in the Imperial Daughters’ Draft. Disaster strikes when she is chosen to be one of the Prince’s brides. When she goes home to say good-bye to her sweetheart, he vows to never marry and become a monk. Ula’s life is meaningless to her until she discovers an outlet for her pain and suffering. She becomes a vengeful bride, doling out punishments wherever she sees the slightest transgressions. The thing she can’t abide is happiness so she finds victory when she can squash it with a glance, a word or even through physical force. All this turns Ula into someone she can’t recognize, and, on a whim, she cuts off all her hair. The Emperor, upon seeing her in such a state of madness, exiles her to the cold palace. Destitute and alone, will she find happiness in her new surroundings or will she end her life in despair?
The Cold Palace is a riveting piece of historical fiction that needs to be read by everyone. Melissa Addey reveals through this story what life was like for women in 18th century China. The Imperial Daughters’ Draft and the ins and outs of court life are a lush backdrop for young women like Ula. Every scene is rich in historical accuracy with an impressive cast of characters, each with their own wants and needs. I connected with many of the characters, but my compassion went out to Ula. I found the Prince turned Emperor a complex yet astute man who truly wanted the best for his brides and concubines. The ending was so emotional for me, I cried. Not since Memoirs of a Geisha , have I read such a mesmerizing, honest historical fiction taking place in Asia. Highly recommend!
Ula. She is such a fascinating character, one who had her beloved stripped from her and made everyone pay for her unhappiness. The more fury she possessed, the easier it was to slip into madness. Her journey is unforgettable and an example to all those who harbor regret in their souls.
My Rating: 5+ stars
Buy it Now:
I mainly write historical fiction: my first novel, The Fragrant Concubine, was Editor’s Choice at the Historical Novel Society, my latest, The Cold Palace, won the 2019 Novel London award. I was the Leverhulme Trust Writer in Residence at the British Library and now run regular workshops there. I am just completing a Ph.D. in Creative Writing. I live in London with my husband and two young children who help me with research trips and exploring new eras.
Social Media Links:
Reviewed by: Mrs. N