A few years ago, I read Min's EMPRESS ORCHID and knew that I would be anxiously awaiting the sequel. EMPRESS ORCHID chronicled the rise of Empress Tsu Hsi (Lady Yehonala) from poor peasant to imperial concubine to Empress. It was thoroughly engrossing in the way that only good historical fiction can be.
I had to wait several years for the sequel but it was worth it.
THE LAST EMPRESS follows the further adventures of the Empress after the death of her husband. Historically, this Empress has been called the "Dragon Lady," but Min seeks to offer a more sympathetic portrayal of this powerful female ruler. The politics in the book are intricate and fascinating. And Min does manage to make Lady Yehonala a sympathetic character. Although the book is fiction, it makes one realize how history is written by the victors and may not always reflect the whole truth.
My only complaint with the book is that it tended to drag in spots. This was also true of EMPRESS ORCHID. Overall, however, it offers a compelling portrait of a great (and controversial) female ruler. Recommended for historical fiction buffs.