Review: Sondok, Princess of the Moon and Stars

Sondok: Princess of the Moon and Stars, Korea, A.D. 595 (The Royal Diaries)Sondok, Princess of the Moon and Stars
by Sheri Holman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sondak, Princess of the Moon / 0-439-16586-5

Possibly more than any other girl in the Royal Diary series, Sondok has to struggle daily with the sexism inherent in her culture and the culture around her. Although her father has named her his heir (in the absence of any male children), many of the surrounding countries are horrified at the notion and vow war and disaster should a woman ascend the throne. And Sondok's own father seems frustratingly ambivalent in his decision - valuing her for her wisdom one moment, then forbidding her from learning anything beyond "women's pursuits" in the next.

In this regard, Sondok's father is weak and remarkably frustrating. When a foreign ambassador arrives from China, Sondok's father goes widely overboard in an attempt to court the powerful kingdom for an alliance and allows the ambassador almost complete control of the kingdom. Sondok is forbidden to pursue her love of astronomy (a strictly male discipline), her best friend is sentenced to death for choosing the life of a monk over that of a courtier, and her loving and loyal mother is banished for failing to provide a male heir. When the ambitious ambassador is finally revealed as being far more trouble than he is worth, Sondok's father realizes the error of his ways too late - too late to recall his wonderful wife, too late to restore some of Sondok's innocence and trust.

If I have one criticism of this excellent book, it is that I wish it had gone a few steps farther. Though Sondok does come to realize to trust herself and stop trying to please those who will never accept her anyway, because of her gender, she still laments the leaving of the cruel ambassador because she had 'learned so much' from him, whereas I felt that the only thing left to learn from him was self loathing and doubt.

Parents should note that this book involves a certain amount of magic, in the form of starry visions, and feverish dancing rituals in which a god speaks through the form of a shaman priestess.

~ Ana Mardoll

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