“The Rebirth of the Malicious Empress of Military Lineage” is a Chinese romance novel written by Qian Shan Cha Ke. It was published in 2016 on a Chinese-language site by the name of xxsy, before Zazajunnie chose to translate the novel. It has been completely translated, standing at 231 chapters and 4 side stories.
The web novel tells the story of a deposed empress, a mother of two children. Betrayed by her husband and his favored consort, she’s given the choice to hang herself. She wakes up in her 14-year-old self, resolved to protect her family with this second chance.
Here are some reasons why you should read “The Rebirth of the Malicious Empress of Military Lineage.”
Rebirth and Revenge in Chinese Web Novels
What if you die with regrets? What would you do if you were given a second chance to relive your life? Chinese web novels attempt to answer these questions through the theme of reincarnation, or rebirth as many fans call it. Often times, the protagonists of these novels choose to seek revenge in their do-over.
Revenge is a common theme in Chinese web novels. It lends itself nicely to the idea that naivety will get someone killed. Chinese people view lying from a different standpoint than Westerners. On his blog China Hope Live, Joel explains: “Mainland Chinese lie and deceive reflexively in many aspects of their daily lives and relationships; it’s routine, accepted, expected and generally considered unavoidable. If you’re straight, honest and genuine, people will think you’re simple, naive and stupid.” This cultural clash also occurred in the 2019 movie “The Farewell.”
In “The Rebirth of the Malicious Empress of Military Lineage,” Shen Miao dies because of her naivety. With her do-over, Shen Miao vows to scheme against her former husband. In a way, the novel reaffirms the idea that the ends justify the means through Shen Miao and her opponents’ actions. The only difference? Readers root for Shen Miao because of her love for her family.
Shen Miao: A Strong Female Protagonist
What do you look for in a female protagonist? Amanda Patterson from Writers Write defines six characteristics of strong female protagonists: she has a goal that defines the narrative arc, she’s imperfect with flaws, she captures the readers’ attention, she undergoes character development as the story progresses, she exists as an individual rather than as a supporting character and she has the ability to go toe-to-toe with the antagonist.
Shen Miao checks every single one of these characteristics. She is a strong female protagonist. What I like about Shen Miao is the author’s choice to keep her as an ordinary person rather than an OP character — a character who’s over-powered. For example, female protagonists in other works carry over their skillset that they gained in their previous life. For Shen Miao, she only has knowledge of the future. Other than that, she remains to be an ordinary 14-year-old girl.
Because she’s 14, Shen Miao relies on her wits to plot against her enemies. To me, that’s her defining trait through the novel. While her enemies try to ruin her and her family’s reputation, it’s fun to see her outwit such schemes in a way that it backfires on her enemies.
Her goal to protect her family — her father, her mother and her brother — is a double-edged sword. Because of the life she led as a sacrificial pawn for her husband, she’s willing to do anything to protect them. At one point, she puts her life on the line, lighting the family temple, where she’s confined for punishment, on fire. Her fearlessness is one of the things I love about Shen Miao.
Well-Written Plot and Sub-Plots Make a Machiavellian Universe
Stephen King says, “Story is honorable and trustworthy; plot is shifty, and best kept under house arrest.” With a great character like Shen Miao, the author Qian Shan Cha Ke has the responsibility to convey that through plot. And the author succeeds.
In the novel, the second and third branches of the Shen family conspire to suppress Shen Miao by having one of her cousin’s suitors challenge her to an archery match to humiliate her. After all, the suitor wants to please the cousin Shen Yue. So, the match is decided by shooting an apple on the opponent’s head. The issue for the suitor? Shen Miao has never touched a bow, at least in her new life.
What’s supposed to be a humiliation for Shen Miao becomes a life-threatening one for the suitor. The author is masterful at evoking the idea of “saving face” in Chinese culture. Shen Miao’s lack of experience in archery means that she loses face and becomes humiliated. However, her weakness becomes her weapon, forcing the suitor to lose face as the challenger.
Other subplots include the male lead Xie Jing Xing and his interfamilial conflict. Overall, the plot of “The Rebirth of the Malicious Empress of Military Lineage” is made of subplots upon subplots. Each character has their own motives. Alliances can be easily made — they can just as easily be undone. If you love Machiavellian characters, this novel is full of them.
Or if you love soap operas and telenovelas, then this novel is perfect for you with all the drama, plot twists and figurative face slapping.
Slow Burn: A Well-Developed Relationship that Leads to Romance
When I read a romance novel, I usually look for three things: gradual romance development, emotional intimacy and a relationship between two equals.
Shen Miao and her relationship with Xie Jing Xing are exactly that. In the beginning, both characters try to grasp each other’s motives. For Shen Miao, she has little to no knowledge of Xie Jing Xing in her previous life since she was dedicated to pursuing her then-husband, the Ninth Prince Fu Xiu Yi.
Enemy or ally? The Xie family’s downfall foreshadowed the Shen family’s downfall. In a bid to prevent such a future, Shen Miao tips off the Xie family. Thus, begins the interactions between Shen Miao and Xie Jing Xing.
It begins as a quid pro quo before they become allies. From allies, they become comfortable with one another, exploring their romantic interest. As I read the novel, I loved their scenes. As a deposed empress, Shen Miao is the modern equivalent to a wife who was emotionally and physically abused. Her previous relationship was toxic.
In this do-over life, Shen Miao has newfound experiences in her requited love for Xie Jing Xing. She flounders at the care and protection from a man outside of the family. I found it endearing and sad because Shen Miao was neglected by Fu Xiu Yi. The male lead doesn’t disappoint as he takes measures to protect Shen Miao. At the same time, Xie Jing Xing doesn’t stifle Shen Miao with overprotectiveness as he acknowledges Shen Miao’s strengths.
I would caution new readers that the romance doesn’t appear until about halfway through the novel. Overall, I recommend this novel if you enjoy reading slow burns.
“The Rebirth of the Malicious Empress of Military Lineage” is one of my favorite Chinese web novels. As such, I hope that readers such as yourself will come to love this novel as well.