From the back cover:
Shurei Hong, destitute but of noble birth, has always dreamed of working as a civil servant in the imperial court of Saiunkoku, but women are barred from holding office. The emperor Ryuki, however, refuses to take command, leaving everything to his advisors. Shurei is asked to become a consort to the emperor to persuade the ne’er-do-well ruler to govern.
After realizing Ryuki has been faking his ignorance, an enraged Shurei demands to be sent home immediately. Ryuki then locks Shurei in her room, unaware he has now put his consort in great danger…
With this volume, The Story of Saiunkoku proves that is more than just a romance. Even though the developing relationship between Shurei, a poor yet noble lady brought in to the imperial palace to serve as consort and tutor, and Ryuki, her vacuous-seeming charge, remains the driving force for much of what happens, more space is devoted here to exploring the political rivalries and ambitions of others and how their schemes impact the main characters.
Essentially, in order to motivate Ryuki to give up his charade of stupidity and become a worthy emperor, one of his advisors puts Shurei’s life in peril. Ryuki rises to the challenge admirably, shedding his foolish façade and employing badass sword skills and cleverness to come to the rescue. Along the way, he admits why he was acting so dumb in the first place as well as why he has been avoiding relationships with women, even though he actually does fancy them as much as men. Both explanations make a surprising amount of sense.
If volume one served to introduce us to Shurei and her awesomeness, volume two does the same for Ryuki. He’s not only capable of great competence, but he’s also an honest guy and genuinely loves Shurei. She, however, sees her position at court as only temporary and when it becomes obvious that Ryuki doesn’t need a tutor after all, she heads home.
Other nice things about this volume are the brotherly reunion scenes between Ryuki and Seien, who was technically banished thirteen years ago but whose current identity has been obvious; a thoroughly surprising revelation about the Black Wolf, an assassin who did the bidding of the previous emperor; a plethora of attractive bishounen; and the bonus chapter about Ryuki’s love of Shurei’s steamed buns, which he has unknowingly been consuming since childhood (his tutor was Shurei’s father). Thanks to this last, I now have a serious craving.
I’m really enjoying The Story of Saiunkoku a great deal, especially now that it’s gotten beyond the few episodes I saw of the anime. I’m hopeful that the balance between romance and politics will continue, since both leads are at their best when required to exercise their intellect.
Review copy provided by the publisher.