Cover Image: The 1566 Series

The 1566 Series

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Member Reviews

2 "was I lost in translation?" stars !!

Thank you to Netgalley, the author and translator and Alain Charles Asian Publishing for an ecopy. This book was originally published in 2006 in Chinese. This English edition was first published in August 2020 and is the first of a four book series.

This book sold over a million copies in China and was made into a 46 part television series. The author is a writer and screenwriter.

Although I struggled and slogged through this book I never wanted to abandon it.

I very much enjoyed learning about the Ming Dynasty and the political and palace intrigues of the times. The book had a soap opera-ish feel and there were many male character to keep track of. I often had to refer to the cast of characters that was provided at the beginning of the book. I also enjoyed learning about confuscianism, taoism and some of the music and poetry of the times.

The plotline was thrilling and complex and I kept brief notes as I read to try and understand all the machinations and manipulations that were occurring at both the empire and provincial levels.

I felt that there needed to be greater understanding of the psychologies and backgrounds of the protagonists. They mostly felt very similar to me. I also found the writing very inconsistent and often jarring. In a few interludes the writing could be charming and quite impactful but after the first half of the novel was often a slog to get through. I pushed pushed pushed through.

I have no regrets reading this first part of a four part series but I certainly will not be moving forward to continue.
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The Taoist Emperor (Book 1, The 1556 Series) - Liu Heping  

 

I was given a copy of this book by the published in order to provide an honest review. 

Liu Heping is a Chinese novelist and screen writer who has written a lot of historical dramas, as well as book two in this series “The Imperial Emperor”. 

 

“The Taoist Emperor” centers around the Ming dynasty and the rule of Emperor Jiajing There are power struggles taking place in the dynasty and many political parties are struggling with corruption and power. Yet the gods must be seen to be appeased if the Emperor is to maintain the love of the people. 

The villainous clan – known as Yan, are ruthless and their hold on the province threaten to tighten and no one has been brave enough to stand against them – that is until now. A clerk by the name of Hai is finally taking a stand against the Yan. 

 

I do honestly love reading historical fiction pieces but I just couldn’t get into this book. It was so dry and I just couldn’t get into it, I couldn’t engage with the characters or the story. The first half of the book seemed to mainly centers around arguments about taxes and mulberry trees. I kept putting this book down and it was a struggle to pick it up and make myself continue to read it. I mean no disrespect to the writer at all but this just wasn’t my cup of tea.
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Realistic Chinese fiction is hard to come by. I'm used to the high-flying wuxia fantastical stuff that movies are made on, and so reading this was a bit of a change of pace for me. I was not expecting it to be as dry and as....tedious, I guess is a good word, as this book was. I was sick this week and decided to just bite the bullet while couchbound and finish this one up, else I was likely to put it down. It's a very popular book and TV series in China, so I thought there had to be something here for me.

The author is great at worldbuilding, which is both a positive and a negative. He's meticulous at setting the stage for the Ming Dynasty, and I found myself learning a lot about the people, the culture, and the rituals I didn't know fully. Unfortunately, this leaves the book's wheels spinning for the first half. We get some detailed scenes, we get a lot of characters introduced and fleshed out, but not a real sense of who the main players of the book or why we're reading about them.

Speaking of the main character, it took forever for him to show up. Ha Rui finally shows up! Yes! The book can do something with this meticulous world it's got! Hahahahaha no, sorry, the book's over now. We get less than half of the book (more like a slim third, really) with the main character before it's all over. I felt pretty let down, honestly.

And the ending! What an ending it is! ...is what I'd say if it had one. It doesn't. The book feels almost like it ends mid-scene, honestly, with no indication of where the series is supposed to go after this. I don't know if this is a product of a serialized series packaged into a novel with a strange stopping point or what, but I definitely did not think the book ended on a high note, low note, or any note really.

So, great worldbuilding, but it's window dressing for a thin story and absent main character/cohesion that I need to really enjoy a book. The ending doesn't exist, the book just stops having pages. I will not be picking up the other books in this series.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advance review copy in exchange for an honest review.
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First of all- I love it I love it I love it. It is a tale is being woven  which is visually descriptive once again. Takes place during the Ming Dynasty under taoist emperor Jiajing. Where political factions are happening waiting to swoop in. A political power struggle between corruption and power. Who has the love of the people. Is it the immortal emperor. 

You have the Clear Stream faction- Run by Prince Yu ( emperors son) And the Yan faction

By the way I've always wanted to read about the Ming Dynasty.  This book makes me feel like I'm living in that time period.

Arc was given to me by Net galley in exchange for an honest review.
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“𝙍𝙪𝙣𝙣𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙖 𝙘𝙤𝙪𝙣𝙩𝙧𝙮 𝙞𝙨 𝙚𝙦𝙪𝙖𝙡𝙡𝙮 𝙖𝙨 𝙝𝙖𝙧𝙙 𝙖𝙨 𝙧𝙪𝙣𝙣𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙖 𝙛𝙖𝙢𝙞𝙡𝙮. 𝙏𝙝𝙚𝙮 𝙤𝙥𝙚𝙧𝙖𝙩𝙚 𝙤𝙣 𝙨𝙞𝙢𝙞𝙡𝙖𝙧 𝙥𝙧𝙞𝙣𝙘𝙞𝙥𝙡𝙚𝙨.”

The book -1st in 1556 series - is actually a Chinese novel written by acclaimed Chinese screenwriter, novelist, and historian Liu Heping. Originally known as Da Ming Wang Chao 1566, it was first published as a novel in 2006 and then adapted into Chinese period drama in 2007, is very popular in China, and follow the political turmoil of the Ming Dynasty under Emperor Jiajing in 1556 and its overall effect on the country. Initially, I was very happy to read such a famous book and had high hopes from it, but sadly it failed to live up to my expectation.

“𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝙄𝙢𝙥𝙚𝙧𝙞𝙖𝙡 𝘾𝙤𝙪𝙧𝙩 𝙨𝙥𝙚𝙣𝙙𝙨 𝙬𝙞𝙩𝙝𝙤𝙪𝙩 𝙧𝙚𝙨𝙩𝙧𝙖𝙞𝙣𝙩… 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙝𝙚𝙖𝙫𝙚𝙣𝙡𝙮 𝙜𝙤𝙙 𝙞𝙨 𝙨𝙚𝙣𝙙𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙖 𝙬𝙖𝙧𝙣𝙞𝙣𝙜… 𝙝𝙚𝙖𝙫𝙚𝙣’𝙨 𝙬𝙖𝙧𝙣𝙞𝙣𝙜.”

What I dislike:

❌The book doesn't start with its protagonist''s narrative & also initially doesn't clarify who is the protagonist. While reading the book I waited & waited for him but he arrived almost 60% of the book.

❌More than half of the book is spent on the world-building & characterization that renders the narratives tedious, mundane & boring. I just forced myself to keep on reading just for the sake of finishing it.

❌It is irrelevant how much other characters are interestingly written, without the protagonist most of the story feels like a ship without a captain, which sailed aimlessly without any destination.

❌Just when the story starts getting interesting after Hai Rui's arrival, it abruptly ended without any cliffhanger/ proper closure to any characters/ closing to the current plot and I was like where is the remaining story?

What I like:

✔️The book is translated into English by Wen Huang and I don't have any complaint in that regard. The book provides a characters' list which I think very useful since there are so many characters and all the Chinese names sound similar.

✔️The only thing that I liked in this book for which I give it rating is how immaculately it portrayed the Ming dynasty's China, its hierarchy of offices, its historical characters and past events, its cultures, etiquette, and philosophies.

Overall, The Taoist Emperor was a disappointing read for me. What I realized after finishing the book is that the 1556 series is written as a single book and when it was novelized as a series it loses the actual charm and essence of the story. So I won't recommend anyone to read it.

𝙈𝙮 𝙍𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙣𝙜: ⭐⭐(2/5)
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God this book was a slog to get through.

The first 10% of the book is all about people arguing over lack of money and taxes. Then we spend the next 40% of the book with people arguing over mulberry trees. Honestly if I ever hear "land conversion to mulberry trees" again I might loose the plot! 

When I read the synopsis I thought this would be about assassination attempts, Japanese pirates invading China, battle scenes and the last paragraph implies it might even be supernatural. Instead it's a story about converting rice fields into mulberry fields (which is said about 500 times throughout the bool), starving farmers and lots of government officials offering to die for their failure. The translation is fine but it just doesn't flow like a traditional English language book e.g there's strange phrases or descriptions.

If you're interested in Chinese farming, mulberry trees or tradition Chinese government then this is a book for you. It wasn't a book for me - sorry.
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