It's not easy to be an emperor, especially one who is controlled by a powerful minister since childhood. But this emperor is intelligent and courageous. He finds out that he has a secret, identical twin brother, and asks for his help. So begins Secret of the Three Kingdoms, a bold, fresh take on the legendary struggle for the throne during a very special era in ancient China. Read on for my first impression.

<Spoilers> I have watched the first 5 episodes.

The Three Kingdoms doesn't just occupy a tumultuous period in ancient Chinese history, it Is also famous because of the enigmatic real-life characters involved in a grand battle to control China.

Those participants leave a vivid image through countless novels and modern-day media productions, even including manga books and video games, to recall the legendary period of entangled relationships and deep intrigue within the palace and out in the battlefields, with successive waves of rising and falling fortunes along the tides of time. Through the history of the Three Kingdoms, we learn important lessons about loyalty, betrayal, love, friendship, and even gain an appreciation for cunning strategies that could be deployed in the modern business world.

In the adaptation based on the popular novel of the same name, written by Chinese novelist Ma Boyong, the story adopts a dynamic twist by inserting a brand new character, the Emperor's secret twin brother, to bring us a fresh, bold account. In turn, the viewers are taken on a grand journey back to the times when young men and women were making history.

Ma Tian Yu, with his good looks and quiet demeanor, plays Liu Ping, the twin brother who was raised away from the court and his birthright. He is kind and not particularly ambitious. When he is asked by his royal brother to take charge to restore the waning Han dynasty and vanquish those who seek to usurp the throne, he actually takes on the risky mission for the sake of saving lives. He obviously has a lot to learn. Thankfully, his brother's Empress (Wan Qian) teaches him about the court's etiquette and intrigue. Although the beautiful Empress is committed to carrying out the Emperor's wish, she has to shape up her new student in practically no time.

Will they succeed? That's the big overhanging question.

Despite a gallery of trendy time-travel dramas, real history doesn't change.

But that's not important right now.

What's important is that this new drama has thoroughly presented a convincing twist, that of the emperor having a twin brother, and infuses new blood into a well-known chapter in China's long history. The suspense is simply riveting. Even though I've studied the history, I actually don't know how the compelling new story will develop and end.

After just minutes into the first episode, I couldn't take my eyes away.

I had just recently finished The Flame's Daughter, a martial-arts romantic adventure, caught Princess Agents which features a kick-ass slave girl, and even re-watched Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms. Was I ready to start another historical costume drama?

Yes! I'm already hooked.

When the drama first begins, the twin brothers and the Empress, are only aged around 18 to 20. The other enigmatic characters who will also show their impact and influence in history, such as Sima Yi (Elvis Han, Wu Xin: The Monster Killer) and Cao Pi (Tan Jianci, aka JC-T), are also around the same age.

That youthful energy is what sets this drama apart from other series about the Three Kingdoms. It lets us get more face time with the characters to see how they will learn from experiences to either stay true to their life's goal or deviate and change.

So far, I am thoroughly impressed by all the leading characters, especially Liu Ping, the young man who is practically plucked from the countryside to become his Emperor brother's successor; Fu Shou, the beautiful Empress who is committed to carry out the Emperor's wish at any cost; and Sima Yi, the daring friend who sees clearly and will carve his own place in history. The era of the Three Kingdoms is the time when one's true mettle is tested. Many will fail by fate's trials, others may succeed simply by luck, but some will shine beyond history because of their constant courage and undying spirit.

It should be noted that the charismatic Elvis Han plays the equally charismatic Sima Yi. The opposite personalities, as contrasted between Ma Tian Yu and Elvis Han, really ignite the screen. The young friends who grew up together may not always be friends. Their relationship will dynamically change along the way with other characters influencing their surrounding environment.

It isn't enough to have handsome actors playing cool characters. The well-crafted dialogues, delivered with perfect cadence and expression, are most impressive and set this drama apart. Like other outstanding Chinese historical dramas, the new production comes with fabulous settings and glamorous costumes, along with outstanding performances from respected actors. Observant viewers will notice the thoroughness in the rich details captured in every scene. The result is stunning beyond my original expectation.

I invite you to take a look at the first episode. I think you'll stay glued to the screen too.


Secret of the Three Kingdoms - 三国机密之潜龙在渊

Starring Ma Tian Yu and Elvis Han

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The Secret of the Three Kingdoms has just premiered on DramaFever, and there is one new episode a day. Check out the trailer, posters and stills HERE.

You have no idea about the roller coaster ride you're about to experience.

I promise I'll write more articles about this fantastic drama. By the time I finished this article, I was already into episode 7, where Sima Yi finally locates his missing dear friend when he meets the Emperor. You've got to watch the confrontation scene - humor can still be found even when one is surrounded by danger.

~ Find me at NancyZdramaland for more updates!

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