The Apothecary Diaries Review

After breaking a “curse” on the imperial heirs, a palace servant with training in herbal medicine is promoted up the ranks to food taster…and right into the thick of palace intrigue in this lushly illustrated period mystery series!

Maomao, a young woman trained in the art of herbal medicine, is forced to work as a lowly servant in the inner palace. Though she yearns for life outside its perfumed halls, she isn’t long for a life of drudgery! Using her wits to break a “curse” afflicting the imperial heirs, Maomao attracts the attention of the handsome eunuch Jinshi and is promoted to attendant food taster. But Jinshi has other plans for the erstwhile apothecary, and soon Maomao is back to brewing potions and…solving mysteries?!

-From Penguin Random House

I was given this manga as a gift and was so excited to read it. Most light novels turn manga I have heard of are isekai, so when I came across this title I knew I wanted to read this – especially because it is historical fiction!

Despite her hopes to remain low profile, she is found out when she helps the consorts with the Emperor’s offspring due to her ability to read and write. The way each character is introduced is smooth, the story isn’t rushed along and you aren’t starting in the middle of Maomao’s story and the people and the rumors she encounters while inside the walls of the inner court. While consort Lihua doesn’t take heed, consort Gyokuyo was able to save her daughter and offer her gratitude to Maomao by making her a new lady-in-waiting, as well as attracting the interest of Jinshi, whose position is still unclear.

The story surrounds MaoMao, an apothecary by trade and now a maidservant of the inner palace. Despite her story of being kidnapped, this story really reminded me of the few volumes of Ooku in terms of its placing and movement of the characters. It also gave me the small memory of when I first read Dr. Stone in that the magic of reading how she created her aphrodisiac and the ways she tested her medicines and poisons.

I can see Jinshi’s interest and infatuation growing with MaoMao the more they have their interesting banter. Not necessarily a slow burn of a romance, but a growing piqued interest and appreciation of what she can do in whatever is grand scheme is working under the Emperor. I enjoyed the story in its slow progression, giving the readers time to really immerse themselves in the story. I also appreciated the internal monologues, especially of MaoMao as she is much smarter than she lets on, but omitted all the information to keep her place in the inner court.

Have you read The Apothecary Diaries manga or light novel? Let us know in the comments!


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