Empress tainted with self-love

Every now and again, perusing the discount stand in the local BnN, you’ll find something that piques your interest. Empress by Shan Sa is my latest. Shan Sa is the pen name for Yan Ni Ni, a vivacious and accomplished young woman. Published at nine, apprenticed to a world famous painter, a poet in English and French, her biography reads like a surrealist painting. As much praise as we can give her, however, must pale in comparison to the praise she gives herself. But I’ll come back to that.

The book itself is good; a tale that starts of vibrantly and vividly, a rich portrait of a headstrong young woman trapped in a beautiful ancient world that aims to imprison her simply because of her gender and station. Shan Sa captures and illuminates a strong young soul who is determined to be reborn again and again in her conquests over strife and the crushing nature of life. Her words are those of a poet; rich with texture and color and bringing the scene alive. But after this woman finds her place as Empress and finally Emperor, Shan Sa loses her touch and dawdles. Her pen writes and rewrites, but nothing of interest emerges. Matters of state and late-in-life lust appear, but there is no substance and the woman we cared about is replaced by a two-dimensional sketch of a person; very disheartening. I spent the last 100 pages wanting and waiting to be finished.

I feel like this disappointing downward spiral and ending came from our authoress’ profound love of herself and overestimation of her abilities. For example: most novels start with a poem or clip from another work that inspired the author. Her novel begins with one, one that she herself penned. Even if it is meant as a dedication, it is intended only to draw attention to her words and the beauty that she has created in them. Her opinion of herself oozes from between the pages of Empress and ultimately tainted the experience. Sad, because it could have been so much better.

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This work by H.E. Saunders is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.