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Hannah’s Pick of the Week: The Emperor and the Endless Palace by Justinian Huang

The emperor and the endless palace cover

“I follow his gaze and then it strikes me. The paintings and sculptures are varied and diverse, but they all feature the same subject. It is unmistakable who it is. 

They all feature me.”  

Justinian Huang, The Emperor and the Endless Palace, pg. 153 

What if you were doomed to love someone in every lifetime? What if it’s not the person you thought it would be? 

In 4 B.C.E., Dong Xian falls into a plot by a scheming dowager empress to seduce her son. Soon, the enterprising young courtier realizes he’s bitten off more than he could chew. Surrounded by palace intrigue and with a cruel military general at his back, Dong Xian faces a near impossible task. 

In 1740, isolated innkeeper He Shican seeks help from an ex-lover in finding a rare ingredient for a mysterious, possibly supernatural traveler. He ends up releasing a horror he couldn’t have possibly imagined. 

And in present-day Los Angeles, recently-out medical student River chases after a billionaire’s artistic boyfriend, who may or may not be his soulmate. But are they truly destined to be? 

Spanning wide swathes of time and space, each of these stories connect in soaring and surprising ways, reveling in an undercurrent of power, obsession, love and fate. Lovers swim together against tides destined to tear them asunder, from the machinations of the royal family to mythological beasts to the modern concrete jungles of the L.A. rave scene. There are elements of magic imbued in each timeline, but the characters are all too earthly in their pursuit of their goals. Huang crafts a LGBTQ+ genre-bending tale about imperfect people trapped in a reincarnation cycle that demands perfection at all costs, lest the arc of love bend towards resentment.  

If you liked reading Shanghai Immortal by A. Y. Chao or Bitter Medicine by Mia Tsai, then this is a great next book for you. Or, if you’re interested in reading a tale where the author turns the “fated soulmates” trope on its head (think Song of Achilles but they’re all morally grey at best), with a dash of Chinese mythology and a whole lot of history, then I recommend The Emperor and the Endless Palace.

Photo of Author Justinian Huang

Photo by Benjamin Yi

Categories: Books and More

Tags: Books and More

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