Illustrated by Nekokurage
Maomao is an apothecary who gets snatched up in a forest and sold into indentured servitude to the Imperial Palace. There, she’s tried to keep her head down so her kidnappers don’t earn much off her, but when she figures out the “curse” killing all the Emperor's children is really a poison, she is discovered as a learned person and an apothecary, and promoted to a lady-in-waiting for the Emperor's favorite concubine. She becomes an official taste tester for the concubine. A noble and administrator of the Emperor's court, Jinshi, has other plans for Maomao and her talents, but she seems to be immune to his tactics of seduction and persuasion.
This manga is set in something very akin Ancient China, which is a favorite amongst mangakas, but the time period and name of the emperor isn't specified, so it could be a fantasy world that just looks very similar to China. Maomao gets some character development about halfway through the volume, which is great, but the rest of them are fairly surface-level in this volume. Jinshi is an interesting character with his own agenda, but it's really not clear what it is at this point. He doesn't definitely seem like he's out to kill the Emperor and take his spot, so I'm curious to see what his end goal is with all this scheming.
The illustrations by Nekokurage are more detailed than some other manga, owing to the need for elaborate clothing and settings. The palace and Inner Palace where Maomao lives is very beautiful and looks like it could have been pulled from a history book on Ancient China.
There is a scene where Maomao is asked to make an aphrodisiac for Jinshi, and she uses some bread to sop up the extra (she makes it from chocolate). The other ladies-in-waiting come across what they thought was a snack, and we find them sort of collapsed in each other's arms after, presumably, ravishing each other. They are fully clothed, but it is heavily implied as to what they were doing. Overall, the tone of this volume and that scene make this better suited for high school audiences.
Sara's Rating: 8/10
Suitability Level: Grades 9-12
Publisher: Square Enix
Publication Date: December 8th 2020
ISBN: 9781646090709 (Paperback)
Tags: Rating: 8/10, Suitability: High School, Manga, Historical Fiction
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