Based off books by author Li Xin, the drama is being produced by Ruby Lin's own production company.
Liu Xiu fell in love with Yin Lihua the moment he laid eyes on her, commenting that his ideal job would be as a chamberlain of the imperial insignia, and the ideal wife would be Yin Lihua. He actually ended up becoming the founder of the Eastern Han dynasty, reinstating the House of Liu as the imperial family after Wang Mang had usurped the throne in 9 AD.
Cast & Credits
The plot seemed very intriguing and engaging right from the start and we follow Liu Xiu's and Lihua's journey through the whole drama, from the moment they find each other after long time through many fights together against the current Emperor and for the people till he finally became an Emperor himself and then with classic palace intrigues, we live the life in palace with them. I wanted to learn and find more about this part of Chinese history as I was interested to hear more about her, about that woman who was a true companion for her man and who became an Empress with humble and pure heart. And it did live up to my expectations.
Let me tell you something about the leads and characters they played. Honestly you don't get to see such fantastic leads often in some drama, who carried the heaviest roles, who acted so believable to the point I literally wanted to wipe off their tears, kiss their foreheads, hug them tightly and smile with them when they were happy, they really engraved in my heart for a lifetime. Lihua and Liu Xiu deserve the title of the best couple ever in whole historical dramaland. I simply couldn't take my eyes off of them. Their relationship that is built on ultimate trust and honesty above all, so strong that nothing could destroy it. I really appreciate that between the couples. I became to feel respect for Liu Xiu cause he treated Lihua with such love and care, with such relaxing and positive attitude, he didn't care when she pretended to be a guy as he didn't care when she stopped pretending because for him she was one and only Lihua who he loved since he was a kid, he loved his men all equally and he trusted them, he wasn't jealous when Lihua was alone with them, the only woman between men and still he had real trust in all of them. For me that was the biggest strength of this drama, one big comradeship, men who fight for one cause and who built such powerful friendship along the way. Really worth seeing and experiencing that.
Not to mention chemistry between our leads, it was electrifying, you could feel it in your bones from their every move and I came to wonder how it's possible that Ruby and Justin are only friends? Amazing actors indeed. Justin has been my favourite Chinese actor since Scarlet Heart but Ruby, I didn't think she was this good, the woman is outstanding actress, that's for sure. Her gracious figure when she was a Lady Yin in the palace, her coldness and calmness when it was needed, her passion and courage in battles, her endless love for her family, she was the actual hero of this drama and she carried all of it. I don't think I've seen till now female character like hers, that much educated, smart, brave, loyal, tomboyish yet feminine, strong yet fragile, lovable yet very strict and someone who was selfless when it came to her family and closest people she loved. The one woman I'll admire forever. Yes in some scenes she exaggerated, all of the sudden she acted weird and not like before, that's when I thought that this drama has some flaws but most of the time I could totally relate to her and understand her.
This drama is also very good cause of the females, you get to see many intelligent and strong women who were most of the times more brave and smart than men which is a rare thing to experience in dramaland. Hu Po, Ding Rou I completely loved, those two girls were such support to our heroine and the ones who were beside her all the time never abandoning her. They are supporting characters but they mean so much, without them this drama wouldn't be the same. I enjoyed in their love stories too, one with Lihua's brother who was such adorable and wonderful guy, and the other one with Gongsun, Liu Xiu's best friend and most loyal general.
What was one of the biggest strength of SaA is family. Bonding between members of a family, between Liu Xui and his brothers, sister and mother, between Lihua and her brothers and mother, between them and Deng's, it was such wonderful sight, watching so many family members being so close and taking care of each other. For me Lihua and her family were the ones that captured me, they gave me feelings of warmness, coziness, feeling of home, I really fell in love with them and their relationship, every one of them had important role and each one of them simply crawls under your skin. I cried so hard when some of them died, I felt like my heart was ripping apart when some events happened and the way they happened, I really think that my heart died a few times during this drama and that's when I knew that this drama will become one of my all time favourite.
Many scenes were so real, battles were done in very good way, effects pretty realistic, sceneries breathtaking with beautiful usage of colours-red, blue and green, astonishing costumes, I wanted so much to try at least one of those dresses, everything seemed really on high level with high budget. For that part I don't have complaints.
Also music, opening and ending songs are so beautiful, the lyrics are among the most powerful I've heard and they have such deep meaning, every time I listened to them I get goosebumps. They fit perfectly with the drama and its plot.
I think I said everything I wanted to say, I think SaA is definitely a drama worth watching cause you don't get to see lead characters like that every day. And you don't get to see relationship building like that every day nor such comradeship and brotherhood. Those things are for sure the ones that will win you and keep you interested to watch it till the end. Despite all the plot holes and some really stupid characters and happenings. I would love for more dramas like this one, please.
Story -- The drama started out very interesting and probably the first 10 episodes I was sucked right in. It did start to get slow though, and at certain points I didn't even feel like watching anymore, but I pushed through! Later on it did get a lot better and I was super interested again, so you just have to be patient. In general, the plot is a bit like the typical periodical/historical Chinese dramas--there's always the kind-hearted female lead and the anti who wants to ruin everything and get revenge.
Acting/Cast -- I never doubt Ruby Lin's choice when she picks her own actors/actresses for the dramas. They always do a great job and bring the characters to life. Yuan Hong was a great choice for the main lead; I haven't really seen his previous works but this one was enough for me to recognize his great acting skills. Honestly, the only one I have to nitpick about is her eldest brother. His acting was really off-putting, like... I couldn't tell if his acting was just that bad or if his character was just so shitty?? (excuse my language).
Music -- there weren't really any OSTs in this one, I was surprised. There was really only the opening theme and ending theme, which were also used as insert songs. There were also variations of the song sang by other singers, but I prefer the original singers.
TLDR; This is a good watch overall, but the middle gets a bit slow and boring, just a warning! The acting is great, don't worry about it. Basically the drama just gets draggy in the middle and is a bit lengthy but it starts and ends great (which is a bonus because who likes to have terrible endings!!).