The Emperor, His Bride and the Dragon Robe by Lisa Sankar-Zhu is a pleasant fairy tale inspired by Chinese tales and by the years Sankar-Zhu spent in China. A young emperor, having settled into his reign, wants a bride. Advised by his courtiers, he sends for the two most beautiful women in China intending to choose between them. Much scheming, some magic, and some careful observation by the emperor follows as he tries to discover which of the women will make the best empress.
The basic pattern of the story is familiar to anyone who has ever read a Cinderella tale: A ruler needs a bride and sends for young women who, in their turn, seek to impress him. On the other hand, this emperor is unusually moderate and thoughtful in his choices, looking well past shoe size and dancing ability in an attempt to learn the women’s true inner worth. He is also wise enough to remember his father’s advice when needed, a most unusual and refreshing trait in a fairy tale hero.
The book’s interior paintings are lovely. They have a careful use of delicate tones and soft, melding colors. Backgrounds are beautifully patterned, and there is a clear love of gardening and quiet artistry here. At the same time, the more active panels with the dragon in play are vibrant and live.
Although the tale is a little long for reading out loud to the very youngest, the pictures will capture their imaginations. Once they are a little older, The Emperor, His Bride and the Dragon Robe will make a good addition to any fairy tale shelf as a tale the child can read for him or herself and as a story to discuss alongside perennial favorites like “Cinderella” and “Sleeping Beauty,” both for what it shares with them and for the ways it differs.
The Emperor, His Bride and the Dragon Robe is available now in paperback and Kindle versions.