A typical Chinese palace drama, such as Legend of Concubine Zhen Huan
and The Legend of Mi Yue
, usually delivers a strong message of female empowerment and involves romance, power struggle, revenge and betrayal. To fit this type of dramatic plot, the protagonist is often designed to be a concubine's daughter who is destined to bring bad luck and becomes reluctantly embroiled in a fierce power fight with her once beloved sister. Despite its formulaic plot about the underdog tale of a brilliant and lionhearted fallen princess, Princess Weiyoung
still possesses unique charms that kept me watching.
In the original novel The Concubine's Daughter Is Poisonous, Li Weiyoung is the third child of the prime minister. After eight years of suffering, she manages to become the Empress. However, falling for her gorgeous sister Li Changle, the King decides to kill her and marry her sister. Weiyoung miraculously gets a second life and starts her revenge against her sinister stepmother and stepsisters. Since the theme of reincarnation is forbidden in China, director Lee Wai Chu (The Romance of the Condor Heroes) drastically rewrites the cruel and vengeful story for the drama remake Princess Weiyoung to place greater emphasis on love.
Despite its unoriginal storyline, Princess Weiyoung stands out with its cast and the meticulous design of the characters. Stepping away from her typical innocent image, Tiffany Tang (My Sunshine) stuns audiences with her refreshing performance as the tough and clever Weiyoung, who is originally the carefree Princess Xin'er of the Northern Liang. The beloved princess loses her family overnight when vicious general Chiyun Nan of the Northern Wei frames her father King Hexi for rebellion and carries out mass slaughter in her country. Xin'er flees to the Northern Wei and gets saved by Weiyoung, who has been abandoned in a rural village by her Prime Minister father. To celebrate his mother's birthday, the Prime Minister plans to send Weiyoung back home. However, Weiyoung gets killed while protecting Xin'er from mysterious killers. Xin'er assumes Weiyoung's identity to seek revenge against the Chiyun clan, but unexpectedly becomes entangled in the bloody succession struggle among the princes of the Northern Wei, including the scheming Tuoba Yu (Vanness Wu, Ti Amo Chocolate) and her love interest, the charming Tuoba Jun (Luo Jin, Diamond Lover).
Readers of the original novel may feel shocked at the profound differences between the book and the drama. While the novel focuses on the feelings of resentment and revenge, the adaptation shows Weiyoung's growth from a happy, innocent princess to a tough and prudent empress. The drama creates an interesting yet complicated love heptagon, involving not just the three main characters but also Weiyoung's stepsisters Changle and Changru, step-cousin Minde and princess Tuoba Di. They have contrasting philosophies on love, but they all remain faithful to their love even though it is unrequited. Through their bitter love stories, the drama sends the meaningful message that love doesn't mean possession and stubbornness can lead to terrible tragedy.