The Dragon and the Pearl
by Jeannie Lin
Book 2 of Tang Dynasty
Former Emperor’s consort Ling Suyin is renowned for her beauty; the ultimate seductress. Now she lives quietly alone—until the most ruthless warlord in the region comes and steals her away....
Li Tao lives life by the sword, and is trapped in the treacherous, lethal world of politics. The alluring Ling Suyin is at the center of the web. He must uncover her mystery without falling under her spell—yet her innocence calls out to him. How cruel if she, of all women, can entrance the man behind the legend...
I want to say that I think this book suffers from pacing. And maybe the romance was a little hard for me to root for at the beginning. And also, the ending felt a bit rushed.
But otherwise, I DID find myself enjoying a good third of the story, specifically the middle third of it, after both Suyin and Li Tao kind of let their guards down around each other and become intimately involved. The beginning had a fairly decent start up until the mind games between Suyin and Li Tao dragged on a bit longer than I would have liked. Then the story picks up slightly when the romance starts... and then tapers off again as that part of the story dragged on for a while. And then the last third of the book inserted a lot of action that felt slightly out of place and rushed, bringing about an ending that felt a little off kilter.
In a way, I kind of enjoyed the quiet, banal happenings during the beginning of the book that had been used to show the relationship between our main couple changing day by day. But I also felt a bit squicky about how their sexual relationship starts off, and didn't really care for the fact that Suyin felt more like an accessory to Li Tao's story than actually being part of the story herself. Especially considering the significance Suyin's flashbacks, contemplating her role throughout her life. After all of that--the fact that she'd spent her life being used and owned by men--I would have liked to have seen more for Suyin.
If anything, I kind of wish we could have developed Suyin's character a bit more, instead of just having her be the "One True Love Cure All for Li Tao's Darkness and Problems." Ling Suyin has a lot of history and complexity all on her own that I wished had been explored more.
My final complaint would be the loose ends and random tangential story lines that felt inconclusive.
Otherwise, the writing is just as beautiful as I remember Jeannie Lin's writing being. And even in spite of Suyin's underdeveloped character, I really, really liked her a lot. Given more substance, I think she would have been a wonderful character with a wonderful story to tell, not shadowed by the main male character in this book.