The Substitute Princess’ Love (2024) Summary & Review: The Fate of an Abandoned Daughter

The Substitute Princess Love Chinese Drama Review
  • Cast
  • Cinema
  • Plot
  • Music
  • Ending
  • Rewatch Value

Before I start reviewing this drama, I want to quickly address the major controversy surrounding it: the real age gap between the leads. 

Dylan Kuo, who is our male lead is a 46-year-old actor and he is almost twice the age of Zhang Miao Yi, our 25-year-old female lead you might recognize from her role in When I Fly Towards You.

The 20-year age gap might be disturbing to some, but to me, it isn’t a problem because at 25, a person is expected to discern between right and wrong, and based on her successful career, I believe she is very intelligent.

In real life, this dynamic might be troubling, but when watching dramas, it’s important to remember that every inclusion of a theme is meant to convey a message or strengthen the narrative, so sometimes you need to suspend your disbelief.

Now, if you’ve read some previous reviews on the blog, you know I’ve had the biggest K-drama slump for the longest time, which is both a blessing and a curse because I can’t find time to do anything else.

Also See: Top 12 English Dubbed Chinese Dramas To Binge-Watch On YouTube ASAP

I usually stay away from historical Chinese dramas because my first experiences weren’t the best, and I’m not a fan of incredibly naive female leads being paired with much more mature male leads because the power dynamics are always troubling.

But I picked this one up on a whim, and even though it isn’t my favorite, it definitely stands out enough for me to talk about it on the blog because there were certain things I loved about the execution.

What is The Substitute Princess’ Love About?

The drama opens with a wedding and a burial taking place simultaneously, and we learn that our male lead, Wen Ye, is being posthumously married to our female lead, Shen Ke Yi, after news reaches that he had died while on the battlefield.

Sub Princess 8

In fact, Shen Ke Yi had been offered up by her father, who wanted to show his merit to the king without losing any treasures. So, he went around and found his previously discarded mistress’s child and convinced her to marry the supposed deceased male lead.

She agrees to do this because the safety of her nanny, who is the only one who genuinely cares about her in the world, is threatened. But then she gets to the house and learns that the plan is to sacrifice her so she can be properly with the male lead in the spirit world.

Her nanny finds out about this and helps her escape before being caught herself. While on the run, Shen Ke Hi meets our male lead who isn’t actually dead. It turns out that a false war report had been delivered by a wicked member of the King’s Court (her father) who had engineered the assassination of our male lead who is one of the princes. 

They protect each other that night, but the next day while out getting water and sustenance, Shen Ke Yi’s stepmother finds her and takes her back to her husband’s house. There, she is told that she needs to comply with everything they’ve said unless she wants her nanny to suffer, so she decides to be buried alive.

Somehow our male lead finally goes back to his palace, announces his return, and saves our female lead. But he doesn’t want to be entangled with her because her father is the one who arranged for his death, and he fears that she might be a spy (which she actually is). 

You May Also Like: 10 Interesting Historical Chinese Dramas Set In The Song Dynasty

She wears him down slowly and gradually, even while her scheming family does everything they can to jeopardize her position in the house. In time, they both fall for each other, but their problems are far from solved, even with the weakening of her father’s authority, because a new threat, the second female lead, appears.

Our second female lead, Zhou Shuang Zhi, in this drama is positively obsessed with the male lead and she kills several people in order to protect her love for him and hide her plans, even though initially she wanted to kill him.

Sub Princess 19

This historical drama has a happy ending because every evil person gets what they deserve, while our male and female leads are happy together with their child.

My Review 

If I’m being 100% honest, I have to admit that one thing that dulled my enjoyment of this drama was our female lead, which is a little odd to say because I loved her in When I Fly Towards You.

When I Fly Towards You is the first youth Chinese drama I ever watched, and I love it so much that I revisit it from time to time because it’s amazing, and the OST is my ringtone.

One thing that made When I Fly Towards You very precious to me was our female lead’s performance, which I feel is much more suited to that age group. But here, in a drama that is supposed to feel much more mature and serious, her childish antics rubbed me the wrong way.

That’s not to say it was completely horrible, but I definitely could have done without the forced comedy and painful naivety of the female lead and the entire setup, which I feel ran into being overly dramatic.

The whole concept of a wrong bride or a switched bride is a very popular trope, especially when you consider more popular Chinese dramas like Wrong Carriage Right Groom and all that, so this isn’t something we are unfamiliar with. But I do have to admit that it’s starting to feel a little too much.

And just as a side note, if you like anime, then you might want to watch No Doubt in Us on Netflix, which has so many similarities with this one, from the wrong bride to the discarded wife tropes and the premise is essentially the same. 

Sub Princess 9

Anyway, as I mentioned earlier, this drama isn’t the worst, but towards the end, it became overly dramatic. Chinese dramas usually have a rolling plotline, unlike Korean dramas where the conflict is often packed into one and resolved by the end.

In this drama, we had the plotline of the discarded wife, potential espionage, and the crimes of our male lead’s father-in-law, which was eventually succeeded by the deranged second female lead’s attempt to keep our male lead to herself.

And if you think that’s where it ends, you’ll be shocked because eventually, our female lead gets pregnant, a love triangle emerges out of nowhere, and for some reason, she decides not to be with him, even though the entire misunderstanding is cleared up.

Related: Top 12 Amazing Chinese Family Dramas To Watch This Weekend

As someone who’s used to historical Korean dramas, it was a little annoying to see the story prolonged this way, because this made the whole affair feel unnecessarily drawn out and rather boring. I might be in the minority, but I don’t need a drama with every single element in the world; something simple will suffice.

Princess 1

The secondary couple, our male lead’s elder sister and his guard, were honestly the most beautiful part of this drama. There have been very few times where the secondary couple overshadows the primary couple, but this is one of those instances where I was genuinely tired of seeing the endless drama of our main leads and needed something fluffier like our secondary couple’s romance.

I think what made this all the more precious was the fact that it was a story of growth and facing one’s fears, in this case, the fear of public condemnation and chasing one’s happiness shamelessly. Our sister here lost her husband ten years ago, and for these ten years, she endured the maltreatment of her in-laws.

Her man wasn’t happy about this, and he tried to reassure her over and over again that she was important and she mattered, and she needed to find happiness however much she could. Unfortunately, she falls terribly ill in the final episodes. Their love story is much more direct and, in my opinion, more romantic. I loved that they had this amazing chemistry between them that surpassed our primary couple’s chemistry.

Sub Princess 15

I know I said that I didn’t hate every aspect of the drama, and I did mention some positive aspects above, but another important theme that came through in this drama is how sometimes a parent imposes their will on a child because they believe they know what is best.

Sometimes this is done for what they believe is a good cause, and for others, it’s purely out of greed. But the main takeaway is that sometimes you can’t know what is best for your child. In this drama, our male lead’s stepmother, who actually sort of cared about him, did all she could to frustrate his happiness because she felt that his life would be in danger if he came too close to power.

There are many ways of interpreting this, and I did see a lot of reviewers talk about how she did it because she was more interested in protecting her biological son, but I don’t think this is entirely true because she clearly cared for our male lead. How she went about caring is a totally different matter, but it’s striking that sometimes the best decision you make for a person might be the one that ends up ruining their life.

Having a parent’s undivided attention and support can indeed make life better, but sometimes, this unfettered connection can breed negative consequences.

Is The Substitute Princess’ Love Worth Watching? 

At the end of the day, this was a very mediocre drama to me, and I wouldn’t genuinely recommend it to anyone unless you enjoy painfully naive female leads who are very childish and if you are in the mood for a niche-gap romance Chinese drama.

In my opinion, the miscommunication and often the total lack of communication drove the plot for the major parts, and I’m not sure how I feel about this. While this lack of communication was crucial to the plot in a way that can’t really be criticized, in the future, I’d like to see more dramas without relying on it.

This is my very humble opinion about this drama, which I have a sort of love-hate relationship with, but I do think it’s going to be amazing for anyone who decides to open their hearts to it.

I would absolutely recommend this to anyone who wants a historical romance Chinese drama with a fair bit of politics and leads who have the most amazing chemistry.


Check out reviews of some other equally amazing dramas on the blog (check related posts below) and let me know if you have any questions in the comment section below.

And, if you’d like to watch some more historical Chinese dramas, I’ve written on everything from the funniest ones to the much more political historical Chinese dramas that will make you scream. 

Read Next: 11 Amazing Chinese Dramas on Netflix That Will Keep You Glued To Your Screen

You May Also Like

More From Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.