Long, long ago, the Eight Noble Sages helped a noble warrior found the ancient great nation of Saiunkoku, “the country of the coloured clouds,” and eventually “brought about the dawning of the Age of Man.” Therein lies the problem, of course … time has passed and “Age of Man” is so last century … only a strong, intelligent, tenacious young woman can save the empire now!
In spite of her high noble birth, Shurei Hong, her father Shoka, and their one remaining loyal servant Seiran, live in near-poverty. Shurei spends her days teaching local children because – regardless of her superior smarts – she was never allowed to take the imperial civil service exam at the Palace complex “since only men are eligible.” Her father heads up the Imperial Archives, and even though his position has no real political power, he’s made sure his daughter has been (overly) well educated.
Called to the Inner Court, Shurei, at 16, is about to save the empire … as the wife to 19-year-old Emperor Ryuki Shi. He’s got quite the frivolous reputation: as the youngest of six princes, Ryuki’s ruling position was an “accidental ascension” – four of his prince-brothers killed each other fighting for the throne, while the fifth was banished; he has no interest in governing and is content to leave all decisions up to his decrepit but wise advisors; and uhm … well … he apparently shares his bed every night with a different male servant.
Shurei certainly has her work cut out for her, especially in the heir-producing department. Meanwhile, her caring, gentle ways (in spite of the occasional fierce anger) wins the hearts of her waiting staff, and (not surprisingly), she’s also got that young hubby of hers sharing all his darkest secrets. Trust goes a long way with these royals. [Kate and William take note, ahem!]
The Saiunkoku story is a veritable empire of its own, by the way. The manga is based on the “light novels” of the same name that span 20 (!) volumes. The manga obviously is available in both Japanese and English. The manga then became an anime series, has spawned soundtrack CDs, dramatizations on CDs, a web-based radio program, and art books. What else is next?
Wow … when I picked up the debut English volume, I had no idea what sort of commitment this was going to be! Same goes for our spunky teenaged Empress, too!
Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult
Published: 2010 (United States)
SAIUNKOKU MONOGATARI © Kairi Yura and Sai Yukino
Original Japanese edition published by Kadokawa Shoten Publishing Co., Ltd.