Journey of the North Star


This novel tells the story of Yong Le Emperor Zhu Di, who began his reign in 1403 and ruled China for over 20 years. It is told from the point of view of a eunuch slave who rose to prominence within the Emperor’s court.  Castrated at a young age, his family lost to the devastation of war, Ma Yun, as he comes to be called, is compelled to write an account of the emperor’s life and achievements.

I was initially somewhat disappointed with this work, as I thought, based on my reading of the synopsis, that it would be much more plot oriented, However, by the time I’d finished the story, I’d become quite attached to the main character.

Strictly a narrative, this novel has virtually no dialogue.  More speaking between the various characters, combined with an element of dramatization, would have given the reader a better understanding of their motivations and personalities.

This book was thoroughly researched, but, like all good historical fiction, it was smoothly integrated into the framework of the story.  It was well formatted, with various Chinese texts which were quoted throughout the book bolded for easy identification. These quotes, combined with breathtaking setting details, and elaborate religious ceremonies, brought 15th-century China vividly to life.

The pacing was slow, but this perfectly suited the narrative. The characters in the novel were well crafted, although a glossary would’ve been helpful, as there were a myriad variety of minor ones which, although essential to the book, got rather confusing after several pages. I’d recommend this to anyone who enjoys character historical fiction, or is interested in Chinese royalty.

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