The Emperor and the Endless Palace

Mira: Harlequin. Mar. 2024. 240p. ISBN 9780778305231. $28.99. FANTASY
DEBUT In the year 4 BCE, during the Han dynasty, a lowly but ambitious court clerk is manipulated by the Grand Empress Dowager into seducing her grandson, the emperor. Calculated seduction turns into true love, but their relationship may not survive court politics. In 1740, an innkeeper unknowingly hosts a fox spirit in human form who is searching for a rare medicine. The innkeeper agrees to help find this medicine and in the process discovers the mutable line between love and betrayal. In present-day Los Angeles, a medical student meets a gorgeous artist at a circuit party. They’re complete strangers, and yet something between them feels familiar and true. Each timeline is well developed, although three plots in a short novel means that the ending roars up quite suddenly and all at once.
VERDICT Huang’s opulent debut novel is a queer m/m reimagining of Chinese folklore that tells a mystical story of star-crossed lovers who chase true love and atonement across thousands of lifetimes.
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