Sondok is one of the books from the Scholastics Royal Diaries range. I’ve been collecting the books for a couple of years now and you can see all my reviews here. The Scholastic Royal Diaries series are fictionalized diaries of real historical royal women. As the series is aimed at teenage girls, the books are set during the royal women’s adolescence. There’s some creative license to the dates and facts in the books so further research is required if you want to know the real story. For instance, Sondok’s original name was Dok-man and when she became queen, her name changed to Sondok. Sheri Holman states in the Author’s notes that she used the name Sondok instead of Dok-man as Sondok is more known by her queenly title. Just so you know Sondok is sometimes spelled Seondeok and Dok-man as Deokman but I am going with the spelling in the book.
The story begins in 595 AD. Sondok is the eldest daughter of King Chin-pyong and Queen Ma-ya. Sondok’s father is the ruler of Silla, one of three ancient kingdoms of Korea. The other kingdoms are Konguryo and Paekche. The three kingdoms are constantly at war with each other. King Chin-pyong is worried that Paekche will invade Silla so he courts an alliance with China to protect his kingdom. He invites Lord Lin Fang, an ambassador of China to stay in the palace.
Sondok is interested to meet Lord Lin Fang when she learns that they both are interested in astronomy. She’s notices that the Chinese lunar calendar predicts a lunar eclipse and based on her calculations there will not be an eclipse. When Sondok finally meets Lord Lin Fang, she is severely disappointed. Lord Lin Fang thinks it’s unladylike for a woman to have an interest in astronomy. He dismisses her opinions and tells her that she should focus on women’s work. The king is required to do certain rituals to scare the eclipse away but if there is no eclipse, he will look like a fool. In order to win favour with the Chinese, the king decides to adopt the Chinese Lunar calendar and forbids Sondok from astronomy.
Sondok spends more time doing domestic chores with her mother and sisters. She finds the work demeaning and that causes a rift between her female relations. As the months past, Sondok learns to respect her female family members and have the courage to voice her opinion on the day of the lunar eclipse.
I enjoyed reading about Sondok. I think that she is a character that teenagers can relate to as she was searching for her own identity and wanted to be taken seriously by the adults in her life. I had not heard of Sondok before reading the book. It was fun learning about an Asian princess as most stories focus on European princesses. I found out that there was no Lord Lin Fang in real life. He was added as a story point. His character annoyed me a lot and it was hard reading about Sondok’s despair and anger towards him. Although I thought she handled herself pretty well against a repulsive character.