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Mulan meets The Song of Achilles in Shelley Parker-Chan's She Who Became the Sun, a bold, queer, and lyrical reimagining of the rise of the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty from an amazing new voice in literary fantasy. To possess the Mandate of Heaven, the female monk Zhu will do anything “I refuse to be nothing…” In a famine-stricken village on a dusty yellow plain, two Mulan meets The Song of Achilles in Shelley Parker-Chan's She Who Became the Sun, a bold, queer, and lyrical reimagining of the rise of the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty from an amazing new voice in literary fantasy. To possess the Mandate of Heaven, the female monk Zhu will do anything “I refuse to be nothing…” In a famine-stricken village on a dusty yellow plain, two children are given two fates. A boy, greatness. A girl, nothingness… In 1345, China lies under harsh Mongol rule. For the starving peasants of the Central Plains, greatness is something found only in stories. When the Zhu family’s eighth-born son, Zhu Chongba, is given a fate of greatness, everyone is mystified as to how it will come to pass. The fate of nothingness received by the family’s clever and capable second daughter, on the other hand, is only as expected. When a bandit attack orphans the two children, though, it is Zhu Chongba who succumbs to despair and dies. Desperate to escape her own fated death, the girl uses her brother's identity to enter a monastery as a young male novice. There, propelled by her burning desire to survive, Zhu learns she is capable of doing whatever it takes, no matter how callous, to stay hidden from her fate. After her sanctuary is destroyed for supporting the rebellion against Mongol rule, Zhu takes the chance to claim another future altogether: her brother's abandoned greatness.


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Mulan meets The Song of Achilles in Shelley Parker-Chan's She Who Became the Sun, a bold, queer, and lyrical reimagining of the rise of the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty from an amazing new voice in literary fantasy. To possess the Mandate of Heaven, the female monk Zhu will do anything “I refuse to be nothing…” In a famine-stricken village on a dusty yellow plain, two Mulan meets The Song of Achilles in Shelley Parker-Chan's She Who Became the Sun, a bold, queer, and lyrical reimagining of the rise of the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty from an amazing new voice in literary fantasy. To possess the Mandate of Heaven, the female monk Zhu will do anything “I refuse to be nothing…” In a famine-stricken village on a dusty yellow plain, two children are given two fates. A boy, greatness. A girl, nothingness… In 1345, China lies under harsh Mongol rule. For the starving peasants of the Central Plains, greatness is something found only in stories. When the Zhu family’s eighth-born son, Zhu Chongba, is given a fate of greatness, everyone is mystified as to how it will come to pass. The fate of nothingness received by the family’s clever and capable second daughter, on the other hand, is only as expected. When a bandit attack orphans the two children, though, it is Zhu Chongba who succumbs to despair and dies. Desperate to escape her own fated death, the girl uses her brother's identity to enter a monastery as a young male novice. There, propelled by her burning desire to survive, Zhu learns she is capable of doing whatever it takes, no matter how callous, to stay hidden from her fate. After her sanctuary is destroyed for supporting the rebellion against Mongol rule, Zhu takes the chance to claim another future altogether: her brother's abandoned greatness.

30 review for She Who Became the Sun

  1. 5 out of 5

    chai ♡

    [puts head in hands] this novel spins out the most brilliant and wounding words about the febrile nature of desire, the terrible gnawing feelings of gender dysphoria, the habitable sorrows of unbelonging, and so many moments of fugitive tenderness between unresolvable opposites. I am going to let this story haunt me for a very long time. Full review to come, but in case you're wondering: yes, they said it's "Mulan meets The Song of Achilles" and they were NOT kidding. [puts head in hands] this novel spins out the most brilliant and wounding words about the febrile nature of desire, the terrible gnawing feelings of gender dysphoria, the habitable sorrows of unbelonging, and so many moments of fugitive tenderness between unresolvable opposites. I am going to let this story haunt me for a very long time. Full review to come, but in case you're wondering: yes, they said it's "Mulan meets The Song of Achilles" and they were NOT kidding.

  2. 5 out of 5

    jessica

    forget ‘the song of achilles’ comparison you just read in the synopsis/publisher pitch. just pretend you never saw it because it will be doing you a disservice. this is not that kind of book. this is more similar to ‘the poppy war.’ its a dark, brutal, unforgiving tale about characters who will do whatever they can in order the achieve what they believe is their fate. there is no soft, wholesome love in these pages. there are antiheroes who use people and connections in order to serve their purp forget ‘the song of achilles’ comparison you just read in the synopsis/publisher pitch. just pretend you never saw it because it will be doing you a disservice. this is not that kind of book. this is more similar to ‘the poppy war.’ its a dark, brutal, unforgiving tale about characters who will do whatever they can in order the achieve what they believe is their fate. there is no soft, wholesome love in these pages. there are antiheroes who use people and connections in order to serve their purposes. go into this ready for well-written war-heavy descriptions, dense strategic and political maneuvering, unexplainable ghosts, complex characters, interesting motives, and an emotionally charged plot. this is the kind of book it truly is. its one of history and magic and destiny. thank you tor books for the ARC!! ↠ 4.5 stars

  3. 5 out of 5

    Petrik

    I have a Booktube channel now! Subscribe here: https://www.youtube.com/petrikleo ARC provided by the publisher—Tor Books—in exchange for an honest review. 4.5/5 stars She Who Became the Sun has the bravery to pitch itself as The Song of Achilles meets Mulan and actually live up to it. If you’re active on bookish social media, you should know that She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan is one of the two most hyped books published by Tor Books this year; the other one being The Blacktongue Thie I have a Booktube channel now! Subscribe here: https://www.youtube.com/petrikleo ARC provided by the publisher—Tor Books—in exchange for an honest review. 4.5/5 stars She Who Became the Sun has the bravery to pitch itself as The Song of Achilles meets Mulan and actually live up to it. If you’re active on bookish social media, you should know that She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan is one of the two most hyped books published by Tor Books this year; the other one being The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman. Both of these books have been received praises from many people for the past few months, and with these kinds of huge praises and buzz, there’s the tendency for them to disappoint. Now, I haven’t read The Blacktongue Thief yet, but the hype for She Who Became the Sun is real and well-deserved. With such a striking cover art illustrated by JungShan Ink—the artist who illustrated the cover art to The Poppy War Trilogy by R.F. Kuang—this historical fiction/fantasy debut managed to live up to all the praises. “Becoming nothing was the most terrifying thing she could think of—worse even than the fear of hunger, or pain, or any other suffering that could possibly arise from life.” She Who Became the Sun is the first book in Radiant Emperor duology, and it’s a reimagining of the rise of the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty. The year is 1345, in a famine-stricken village, two children are given two fates; the boy—Zhu Chongba—is destined for greatness, and the girl is fated to become nothing. However, when a bandit attacks this village and orphans the two children, Zhu Chongba succumbs to despair and dies. The girl, with a burning desire to survive no matter what it takes, decides to take Zhu Chongba’s name and steal her brother’s fated greatness. I loved this book, and I’m genuinely impressed by how well-written this book was, especially remembering that this is a debut novel. The themes of destiny, war, gender, identity, desire, love, and duty were delivered efficiently with much impact; the importance and freedom in our power as an individual to choose, regardless of our circumstances, were spectacularly elaborated. Seriously, I would be lying if I say that I didn’t feel invigorated by Zhu’s resilience. “Monks were supposed to strive for non-attachment, but that had always been impossible for Zhu: she was more attached to life than any of them could have understood.” Yes, the main character, Zhu Chongba was undoubtedly the main highlight of the book for me. Her resilience, her cunning, and her desire to live were nothing short of inspiring to me. I’m not saying that I agree with all of her decision, but Parker-Chan’s way of crystallizing Zhu’s motivation to the readers was so superbly-written that I can’t help but felt that I understood Zhu. Zhu is overall a pragmatic character, and she’s willing to do everything in her power to defy fate, fight, live, and most importantly, she refuses to become nothing. I loved her character’s arc; her moral is colored in grey rather than black and white, and her storyline just felt so believable to me. “So I always knew you had a strong will. But what’s unusual about you is that most strong-willed people never understand that will alone isn’t enough to guarantee their survival. They don’t realize that even more so than will, survival depends upon an understanding of people and power.” Honestly speaking, Parker-Chan did such an excellent job on Zhu’s characterizations, and it made the beginning of Part II worrying for a while. Here’s the thing, Part 1 of the novel centers entirely on Zhu’s coming-of-age story, and she was the only POV character during this section; the sudden shifts to a multi-POV narrative in Part 2 of the novel took a bit of time for me to get used to, and for a while, I was terrified that this storytelling decision would end up diminishing the quality of the narrative. Fortunately, my worry was unfounded; the novel only became better because of the change to the multi-POV structure. Ma, Ouyang, and Esen are the other three main characters that, in my opinion, significantly improved the depth and emotions of the novel. Similar to Zhu, these characters have character development and characterizations that felt so organic and well-realized. The character’s respective motivations, agendas, and backgrounds that complex their emotions, relationships, and sense of duty further were so incredible that I couldn’t even imagine how the novel would be like if it was told solely from Zhu’s perspective. “Desire is the cause of all suffering. The greater the desire, the greater the suffering, and now she desired greatness itself. With all her will, she directed the thought to Heaven and the watching statues: Whatever suffering it takes, I can bear it.” I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the characters and story in this novel won’t be a happy-go-lucky one. As I said at the beginning of this review, She Who Became the Sun is a reimagining of the rise of the emperor of the Ming Dynasty; if you’re familiar with the history of The Red Turban Rebellion and Zhu Yuanzhang, I’m sure you’ll recognize some—not all—characters involved in Zhu’s story. I personally think it’s more accurate to call She Who Became the Sun a historical fiction—or maybe historical fantasy—than a straight-up fantasy novel; rather than having me barraged you with essays and paragraphs of information regarding the inspirations, I think it would be better for me to give you the link to the author’s website—I advise you to check these only after you finished reading the novel—on the subject of the historical figures instead: https://shelleyparkerchan.com/histori... But regardless of genre classification, there’s one thing for sure about She Who Became the Sun; it is written lyrically and wonderfully. “Learn to want something for yourself, Ma Xiuying. Not what someone says you should want. Not what you think you should want. Don’t go through life thinking only of duty. When all we have are these brief spans between our non-existences, why not make the most of the life you’re living now? The price is worth it.” Parker-Chan has an immensely desirable writing style that displays her proficiency for storytelling in practically every scene of the book. Tensions, dialogues, atmosphere, and emotions were conveyed efficaciously, and the pacing of the narrative flowed naturally without hindrance. She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan is a novel destined for greatness, and greatness will be achieved when the publication date has been reached. Although this is the first book in a duology, rest assured that there’s no cliffhanger, and the book worked well as a standalone. There are still 5 months before this wonderful debut comes out, and I’m already so looking forward to seeing how this duology will be concluded. Claim greatness for yourself. Claim She Who Became the Sun. Official release date: 22th July 2021 (UK) and 20th July 2021 (US) You can pre-order the book from: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Book Depository (Free shipping) | Bookshop (Support Local Bookstores!) The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication. You can find this and the rest of my reviews at Novel Notions Special thanks to my Patrons on Patreon for giving me extra support towards my passion for reading and reviewing! My Patrons: Alfred, Alya, Annabeth, Ben, Blaise, Devin, Diana, Edward, Hamad, Helen, Jimmy Nutts, Joie, Lufi, Melinda, Mike, Miracle, Nicholas, Seth, Shaad, Summer, Zoe.

  4. 5 out of 5

    may ➹

    — find this review and others on my blog! 4.5 stars Just from reading the first few chapters of She Who Became the Sun, I could tell it would become an instant favorite. And it quickly did, with its reprehensible yet loveable characters and devastating finish. A tale dipped in tragedy and written in exquisite prose, this historical fantasy is epic in all sense of the word; it will captivate you with its intricate character work and unpacking of destiny and gender, and then break your heart. She Who — find this review and others on my blog! 4.5 stars Just from reading the first few chapters of She Who Became the Sun, I could tell it would become an instant favorite. And it quickly did, with its reprehensible yet loveable characters and devastating finish. A tale dipped in tragedy and written in exquisite prose, this historical fantasy is epic in all sense of the word; it will captivate you with its intricate character work and unpacking of destiny and gender, and then break your heart. She Who Became the Sun follows Zhu Chongba as the reimagined emperor of the Ming dynasty rising to power. As a peasant girl, she is fated to amount to nothing, until her brother dies and she snatches the opportunity to cloak herself in his identity and take his own destiny of greatness. She soon becomes a monk and slowly climbs the ranks of the rebel army against the Mongols, thrust into a world of slippery politics, betrayals, and high-stakes battles.  Desire is the cause of all suffering. The greater the desire, the greater the suffering, and now she desired greatness itself. With all her will, she directed the thought to Heaven and the watching statues: Whatever suffering it takes, I can bear it. So much of She Who Became the Sun is brilliant, particularly its characters. Though Zhu and Ouyang are certainly morally questionable and wretched, and they commit terrible acts, Parker-Chan manages to make you root for them. It’s an even more impressive feat considering that you want both of them to succeed, though they are on opposing sides of a war and it will inevitably result in defeat. The exploration of themes like destiny and ambition through their arcs is careful and complex, and if the plot is slow-moving at times, you are never once allowed to hold your breath as you watch the characters evolve. Zhu’s ambitions of greatness manifest from an intense desire to live and transform into a ruthless determination to achieve what she wants, no matter the cost. It’s riveting to watch her move through the story, to watch her grow in power and hunger, and though you sense that she is slowly falling into corruption, you still can’t help but be awed by her cunningness and want her to reach her goals. Her relationship with Ma was also a delight for me; I found it so sweet, and the ending made me incredibly excited to see what direction their romance will head. Ouyang, on the other hand, is the eunuch general of the Mongol army driven by his perceived need for revenge against the family who stole his own family from him. And even though he is a raging misogynist... I love him! He is such a tragic figure, repulsed by himself, his body, and his longing for Esen (a result of internalized homophobia but also how he is supposed to hate Esen), and it makes for such compelling anguish in a character. The romance—more like extreme tension and yearning—between him and Esen was honestly torment to read but only exacerbated Ouyang’s internal struggles. She saw someone who seemed neither male nor female, but another substance entirely: something wholly and powerfully of its own kind. The promise of difference, made real. She Who Became the Sun is immense in all it encompasses. It builds an expansive world and sets up intricate politics, and the scheming and backstabbing are just as exciting to read as the epic battles. It also takes on several themes like destiny, choice, power, ambition, and gender. The premise of this book with Zhu having to be her brother to realize her ambitions works so well for studying Zhu’s relationship with her gender, and Ouyang’s feelings about gender intersect brilliantly with his self-hatred tied to his castration. There is a beautiful questioning of what gender is in relation to all the ways it is expected to be performed and how it is perceived, within a patriarchal historical setting. Perhaps the largest theme throughout the book is destiny, and it is genius how it is portrayed through Zhu and Ouyang as foils to each other. Zhu chases after destiny, one that wasn’t hers but she will force to be, unwilling to let anything or anyone but herself dictate her fate. Ouyang, on the other hand, lets himself be shackled by his history and the revenge he believes he is supposed to carry out, however miserable it makes him. Thus, She Who Became the Sun explores the weight of destiny compared to personal desires, asking if individual choices, actions, and willpower can defy fate. It never lands on a definitive answer, instead portraying the costs both Zhu and Ouyang must pay because of their destinies. Nobody will ever end me. I’ll be so great that no one will be able to touch me, or come near me, for fear of becoming nothing. While the book is certainly something to savor and let seep into you slowly, She Who Became the Sun does an expert job of building up tension and suspense. Throughout the book, you get the sense that something monumental will happen, that it will be tragic too, and yet even if you think you’re ready for the ending, it still manages to shock you and hit you hard. All the buildup leads to satisfying—and painful—payoff and sets up excellently for the sequel. Though I wouldn’t say the comparison to The Song of Achilles is perfect, you can certainly see why it was made by the end, meaning: you will still be thinking in agony about the ending months after you finish. If you like books with multifaceted morally grey characters, romance equal parts yearning and angst, or studies of power, revenge, and ambition, you absolutely need to read this. She Who Became the Sun is undoubtedly radiant and a new force to be reckoned with in the historical fantasy genre, and I am in awe of everything Parker-Chan managed to masterfully tackle in her debut book. Pick this up, feel my lingering pain and astonishment, and join me in the agonizing wait for the sequel. —★— :: representation :: Chinese and Mongolian cast, genderqueer lesbian MC, genderqueer gay MC, wlw LI, mlm LI :: content warnings :: war themes, murder, death, violence, child murder (off-page), starvation, gender dysphoria, misgendering, internalized homophobia, ableism, amputation, misogyny [more details] Thank you to Tor for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion in any way. All quotes are from an advance copy and may differ in final publication.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Robin

    ↠ 4.5 stars This was pitched as Mulan meets The Song of Achilles, and it was that and so much more. A glorious epic in every sense of the word. Fate is a tricky thing, and after hearing a fortune teller give reference to her brother's destiny for greatness, the girl expects to hear very much the same. However, her own destiny is revealed to be just that: nothing. While her brother is fated to rise up and leave his mark upon the world, she is expected to fade from view, unremembered. Starving and ↠ 4.5 stars This was pitched as Mulan meets The Song of Achilles, and it was that and so much more. A glorious epic in every sense of the word. Fate is a tricky thing, and after hearing a fortune teller give reference to her brother's destiny for greatness, the girl expects to hear very much the same. However, her own destiny is revealed to be just that: nothing. While her brother is fated to rise up and leave his mark upon the world, she is expected to fade from view, unremembered. Starving and desperate, an unexpected event changes the trajectory of her entire future. She takes her chance, seizing her brother's identity and assuming his fate in the process. Under this new circumstance, she may just find freedom, glory, and a way to change her destiny forever. She Who Became the Sun is, simply put, a masterpiece of a debut. It’s a powerful, evocative, and brutal high fantasy that will leave you utterly wrecked and begging for more. Parker-Chan blends history with fiction in this sweeping story that chronicles Zhu Yuanzhang’s ascent to power and the rise of the Ming Dynasty in 14th century China. It’s the perfect novel for anyone looking for complex characters set amid a backdrop where loyalties are tested and the stakes are high. The lyrical prose paints a vibrant picture of a war-torn period, reimagined, but ultimately true to its roots. Right from the get go, I was pulled into the ambitious nature of the narrative amidst its definitive passion and decisive action. I straight up devoured this in under a few hours and then realized I would have to suffer in silence since none of my friends had finished reading. What it means to be an arc reviewer am I right? The exploration of gender and gender identity, tied up in a story that is so brilliantly queer, is the true hero of all of this though. There was a very nuanced conversation taking place within the novel, that I appreciate and can tell will be carried over into the next installment. To see a character that was not only flawed and determined, but honest with themselves about their own identity and who they are, was incredibly powerful to read. Looking forward to seeing just how that evolves in the next book. And my God, that ending. So devastatingly beautiful it may just keep me up for the next few nights. If we're lucky, otherwise I may not ever get to experience sleep again. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this arc in exchange for an honest review Trigger warnings: starvation, death, abuse, public execution, mass death, misgendering, ableist language, dysphoria, life-altering injury, offscreen murder of a child.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Roanhorse

    An absolute stunner. Move this to the top of your TBR pile and buckle up. First, a note about the comps. Comps are funny things, and the industry loves them, and some readers love them, too, but I'm not sure the comps on this one (Mulan and Song of Achilles) do this book justice. Yes, there's a girl who disguises herself as a boy and becomes a general but not out of duty or honor or any of that noble stuff. She does it because she covets. She wants. She sees a destiny meant for another and seize An absolute stunner. Move this to the top of your TBR pile and buckle up. First, a note about the comps. Comps are funny things, and the industry loves them, and some readers love them, too, but I'm not sure the comps on this one (Mulan and Song of Achilles) do this book justice. Yes, there's a girl who disguises herself as a boy and becomes a general but not out of duty or honor or any of that noble stuff. She does it because she covets. She wants. She sees a destiny meant for another and seizes it as her own, and she continues to take and take in ways both horrifying and laudable until the ending which will make you gasp and wonder about the cost of it all. Definitely not Disney. The second plotline (the Achilles plotline) in the book belongs to the "enemy" but that's such an oversimplification that I'm embarrassed I used it. And oh, what a doozy of a story it is. It had been a long time since I've seen a character as complex and nuanced and infuriating and heartbreaking as this one. In a word, I loved him. I wish I'd written him, he's so good. But clearly it was meant for Parker-Chan to bring him to life as only she could. (Also, Patroclus could never.) The story, much like the characters, is ambitious and clever and the depth of emotion Parker-Chan is able to tap into without ever becoming maudlin is astounding. I caught my breath more than once and had to stop and read whole paragraphs to my husband they were so good. (He's not a reader, but I like the think he appreciated them.) There's war and violence and betrayal (oh the betrayal) and destiny both embraced and defied. Incredible work. Cannot wait for the next one.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    ARC provided by TOR - thank you so very much! this was truly so magnificent, and will for sure make my best books of 2021 list (if not my favorite book of the year, too)! full review to come before publication, but i truly am simply just a ouyang apologist. Content and Trigger Warnings: starvation, loss of a loved one, death, murder, mass murder, gore, war themes, brief mention of cannibalisms, hurt to an animal, death of an animal, mention of slavery, non-consensual castration in past, mention o ARC provided by TOR - thank you so very much! this was truly so magnificent, and will for sure make my best books of 2021 list (if not my favorite book of the year, too)! full review to come before publication, but i truly am simply just a ouyang apologist. Content and Trigger Warnings: starvation, loss of a loved one, death, murder, mass murder, gore, war themes, brief mention of cannibalisms, hurt to an animal, death of an animal, mention of slavery, non-consensual castration in past, mention of vomiting, plague, mass illness, quarantining, off-page torture, bombs, many mentions of alcohol consumption/maybe alcoholism, off-page death of a child, depression depiction, fear of being outed, misgendering (always in a negative light), and just a lot of internalized body/gender feelings - this book can be heavy at times, so please use caution. Youtube | Instagram | Twitter | Blog | Spotify | Twitch Buddy read with Maëlys! ❤

  8. 4 out of 5

    megs_bookrack

    **3.5-stars heavily rounded up** I'm slightly scared to write this review, but I am just going to do it. Bite the bullet, say what I have to say and perhaps, tick a couple of people off along the way. She Who Became the Sun was one of my most anticipated releases of the year and I fully expected to give it 5-stars. Unfortunately, that's not the experience I had. The first 25%, I was hooked. We meet a young girl, a peasant of the Central Plains of China, who adopts her brother's identity after he tr **3.5-stars heavily rounded up** I'm slightly scared to write this review, but I am just going to do it. Bite the bullet, say what I have to say and perhaps, tick a couple of people off along the way. She Who Became the Sun was one of my most anticipated releases of the year and I fully expected to give it 5-stars. Unfortunately, that's not the experience I had. The first 25%, I was hooked. We meet a young girl, a peasant of the Central Plains of China, who adopts her brother's identity after he tragically dies. He was fated for greatness while she was fated to die, yet the tables have turned. Now owning his identity, she is able to enter a monastery as a young male novice. More importantly, she commits to seizing Zhu Chongba, her brother's, greatness for herself. She will make her fate a choice, instead of a chance. The last 25%, I was so engaged. There's a lot of action, brutal deceptions and pivotal moments that tied me right back into the story. The central portion, however, was a mixed bag for me. I couldn't focus, my eyes kept glazing over; to be honest, I was bored. I felt like a ton was happening, while simulataneously nothing was happening. Trust, I understand this makes zero sense, but it's what I experienced. With my disappointments out of the way, I will say that Parker-Chan's writing deserves a full 5-stars. Their ability to create a beautiful sense of place, evoke strong emotions with their characters and seamlessly incorporate multiple perspectives into one linear narrative, is top notch. I did feel like I was transported to 14th-Century China. Additionally, I enjoyed the exploration of gender identity and gender fluidity. With both Zhu and Ouyang, a eunuch general in the Mongol army, their gender identity was a large part of the development of their characters over the course of the story. Obviously, I am giving this book 4-stars. I clearly enjoyed it. Even though I didn't enjoy it quite as much as I expected, it's still a really good start to a series. Although I am not sure how many books The Radient Emperor series is slated to be. I will definitely be continuing on. Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity and am confident a ton of Readers will love this one!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sofia

    This was probably my most anticipated read of 2021, and I was bitterly disappointed. She Who Became the Sun reminds me of Mulan and The Poppy War, with none of the humor of the former and none of the weight of the latter. Zhu was like Rin, if Rin had less ambition and less personality. There were two characters named Chaghan and Altan, which reminded me of TPW. And a certain character lost a hand, just like in that series... But maybe I'm looking too much into it. The only character I liked was This was probably my most anticipated read of 2021, and I was bitterly disappointed. She Who Became the Sun reminds me of Mulan and The Poppy War, with none of the humor of the former and none of the weight of the latter. Zhu was like Rin, if Rin had less ambition and less personality. There were two characters named Chaghan and Altan, which reminded me of TPW. And a certain character lost a hand, just like in that series... But maybe I'm looking too much into it. The only character I liked was Ma. Her gentle acceptance of Zhu was touching, and her perspective was the most interesting one to me. The way Zhu finally felt like herself with Ma was beautiful. Zhu, on the other hand, was a very boring character to follow. She was described by other reviewers as ambitious and power-hungry, vicious and merciless. But I didn't get that. The only time she felt ruthless or clever to me was at the monastery. I'm not sure if I read a different book, but to me, Zhu hardly deserved what she got in the end. She won a battle and all of a sudden, everyone loves her. She didn't do anything to prove herself worthy. I did like how we never learned Zhu's real first name. That aspect of SWBTS reminded me of Rebecca. It was intriguing to read about how the Zhu of before was considered worthless and how the Zhu of after was something special. However, I didn't like much else about her character. She's let off the hook too quickly when she gets into trouble. Her problems are solved by plot convenience, and it felt far too easy to me. Everything happened to quickly, in fact. The pacing was abysmal. Battles were over in a few pages, and I was left with whiplash, wondering what had just happened. And then there would be long stretches where nothing happened at all. The plot was directionless and aimless. The main goal felt murky to me. It was just confusing to read, overall. I felt like I was constantly missing something important, even when I wasn't. The exploration of gender and sexuality was perhaps the best part of this book. But other than that, I was very disappointed. The characters were dull, the plot was weak, and the pacing was dreadful. I wanted so badly to rate this five stars, but I just couldn't. 2 stars ____ Uneven pacing, poorly developed plot, lackluster characters, and a healthy dose of convenience come together to make one of the most unsatisfying books I've read this year. ~ review to come ~ I was provided with an eARC of this book through NetGalley by Tor Books. Thank you!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Althea | themoonwholistens ☾

    ✧ you can find this review and more on my blog ✧ This is the queer epic fantasy we all needed. Before reading, I didn’t know what exactly to expect with “Mulan meets The Song of Achilles” but it is just that, while being so painfully aware of it’s own setting that reminds me more of The Poppy War with its brutal nature. Accompanied by a unique perspective, charming yet complex cast, lyrical prose, and immersive writing style that hits all the right emotions. — overall thoughts: 4.5 — ⇢ content warni ✧ you can find this review and more on my blog ✧ This is the queer epic fantasy we all needed. Before reading, I didn’t know what exactly to expect with “Mulan meets The Song of Achilles” but it is just that, while being so painfully aware of it’s own setting that reminds me more of The Poppy War with its brutal nature. Accompanied by a unique perspective, charming yet complex cast, lyrical prose, and immersive writing style that hits all the right emotions. — overall thoughts: 4.5 — ⇢ content warnings// (view spoiler)[ Ableism, Amputation, Castration (non-consensual, pre-existing), Death, Dysphoria, Homophobia (internalized), Misgendering, Murder (child), Physical Abuse, Public Execution, Sex (Consensual), Starvation, Torture (non-graphic), Violence (hide spoiler)] This did still feel like it was opening to a broader world and I honestly cannot wait to see where Shelley Parker Chan goes with the rest of the books. If you are looking for an in-depth and intricate magic system, I should say that you won't really be getting that for this first installment at least. There's still a magical/fantastical element to it but it's more on the backdrop and used to propel character development. She Who Became the Sun is a character-driven story that explores the internal politics of a ruling body and economics of war that highlights the journey these characters experience and while it does deal with heavy and dark themes— this read like a historical c-drama (in the best way possible) packed with a truck load of thought provoking moments that was brilliantly tied together while being so unflinchingly queer At it’s core, it’s about people trying to believe in their own fate in a society that sees them different ⚔️ The way discussions on gender roles and gender identity were weaved into a plot about war was just *chefs kiss* with nuanced conversations that will keep you reading The dual POV was incredibly intriguing since you get to see the conflict progress from both sides progress. One of my favorite aspects was the fact that our two main characters weren't each other’s love interest. Shelley Parker Chan could have so easily made it a star-crossed lovers scenario and I’m so happy they didn’t. It benefitted the war narrative and made for way more interesting romances anyway. some other details you can find: -14th century china -yearning generals -forbidden romance -platonic relationships -complicated relationships -family drama -ghosts ↣ If you're looking for a fast-paced, emotional, and dark fantasy that revolves around war (just the way I like it) that is built on solid themes, high stakes, and will keep you turning the page while entrancing you the whole way through... here you go ☀️ I have too many words and I don't know if I got across how much I loved this book but I can’t wait to see how the rest of the story plays out 💛 ↢ This was a refreshing historical fantasy debut and further deepens my love for this niche of a genre. I already know this is going to be iconic. *Thank you so much to the publicist at -Tor/Macmillan- for sending me an ARC to review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.* ---------------------- (2/20/21) [ at this point, i think half of my copy is highlighted ] (1/9/21) I can't believe I'm saying this but... I got an ARC ---------------------- [ there's this one scene that i really want to quote but i can't until i have the finished copy... i really hope it makes it until then because it was so hard hitting for me and i feel was a pivotal point for our main character. no spoilers but all you need to know is it's about a friendship and i'm a sucker for those. ] ---------------------- (12/4/20) you can’t pitch a book as “will wreck you and you will be grateful” and be ANOTHER ASIAN INSPIRED BOOK without expecting me to be interested. Not possible.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin

    MY REVIEW: 4.5 Stars ⭐️ I loved the main character, Zhu! She does whatever she has to do, disguising herself as her brother, to survive and make her claim to fame so to speak. (Turns out the seerer was correct, read the book) There are other wonderful characters in the book, even the villains are fleshed out nicely. And everyone in the the book has some kind of underlying issues. Some would say Zhu is a villain of sorts but she just does whatever she has to in this world and to me, I just can’t MY REVIEW: 4.5 Stars ⭐️ I loved the main character, Zhu! She does whatever she has to do, disguising herself as her brother, to survive and make her claim to fame so to speak. (Turns out the seerer was correct, read the book) There are other wonderful characters in the book, even the villains are fleshed out nicely. And everyone in the the book has some kind of underlying issues. Some would say Zhu is a villain of sorts but she just does whatever she has to in this world and to me, I just can’t not like her! There are battles, I mean obviously. I would just recommend reading this book so you can meet some great characters for yourself. You just might find your next gem! *I would like to thank Tor for offering me to read this book through, Netgalley. I’ve never been offered to read a book from Tor so I greatly appreciate it and that you to Netgalley. Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾 BLOG: https://melissa413readsalot.blogspot....

  12. 5 out of 5

    Melissa ~ Bantering Books

    Be sure to visit Bantering Books to read all my latest reviews. 3.5 stars It was a rocky start. And a rocky middle. But Shelley Parker-Chan’s historical epic fantasy novel, She Who Became the Sun, won me over in the end. At least enough to where I want to read the sequel. Set in an alternate China, She Who Became the Sun is a fantastical, genderqueer retelling of the founding of the Ming dynasty. The story follows the female monk, Zhu Chongba, from childhood to early adulthood, as she assumes her de Be sure to visit Bantering Books to read all my latest reviews. 3.5 stars It was a rocky start. And a rocky middle. But Shelley Parker-Chan’s historical epic fantasy novel, She Who Became the Sun, won me over in the end. At least enough to where I want to read the sequel. Set in an alternate China, She Who Became the Sun is a fantastical, genderqueer retelling of the founding of the Ming dynasty. The story follows the female monk, Zhu Chongba, from childhood to early adulthood, as she assumes her dead brother’s identity and fights to claim his destiny as her own. It’s a big story with big characters and a lot of big things happening in it. And I struggled with it. I struggled to connect with Zhu, to stay engaged in the story, and to NOT pick up a different book instead. Because She Who Became the Sun is just too big for its 400 pages. Being relatively slim in size for an epic fantasy novel, its shortish length cramps the development of the story and Zhu’s characterization. For starters, way too much of the plot occurs off page. We are blind to almost all climactic events, whether they occur during Zhu’s monastic life or during the war, and we hardly ever see any action. Momentous incidents at the monastery and battles between the Red Turbans and Mongols are skimmed over, with Parker-Chan never taking the time to tell the story of any of it. It’s as if important pieces of the puzzle are missing. And then there’s the problem of Zhu. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get inside her head. Very little of the narrative is devoted to her childhood and formative monastic years, and her skimpy backstory keeps the reader at arm’s length. And thanks to the stunted plot, Zhu comes across as flatly one-dimensional and less realized than the secondary characters. It’s extremely difficult to ever truly know her. Typically, I’m not one to think, “The longer the book, the better.” But in this case, I do believe She Who Became the Sun would’ve been better had it been longer. There’s just too much good story here and too few pages. It’s an opportunity sadly wasted. But I’m hanging in. Through it all, Parker-Chan managed to sufficiently hook me to where I can’t let Zhu go quite yet. I must see how her story ends. Fingers crossed the second half is a tad bit bigger. My sincerest appreciation to Shelley Parker-Chan and Tor Books for the physical Advance Review Copy. All opinions included herein are my own. Bantering Books Instagram Twitter Facebook

  13. 4 out of 5

    katie ❀

    i am utterly broken, but this was the easiest five stars i've ever given. rtc! i am utterly broken, but this was the easiest five stars i've ever given. rtc!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ellie (faerieontheshelf)

    She Who Became the Sun is one of my Top 5 Anticipated Releases of 2021, and the first of those 5 that I've read. And I'm utterly delighted that it did not disappoint at all. A historical retelling that follows a lowly girl as she steals her brother's name and illustrious fate to rise from peasant to monk to military commander (and in the sequel, emperor), it is a book that shines with Zhu's desire for the fate of greatness. full rtc to come when it's not 2am. (will say I'm not entirely sold on t She Who Became the Sun is one of my Top 5 Anticipated Releases of 2021, and the first of those 5 that I've read. And I'm utterly delighted that it did not disappoint at all. A historical retelling that follows a lowly girl as she steals her brother's name and illustrious fate to rise from peasant to monk to military commander (and in the sequel, emperor), it is a book that shines with Zhu's desire for the fate of greatness. full rtc to come when it's not 2am. (will say I'm not entirely sold on the use of The Song of Achilles as a comp title and I wonder why they used it, as the only similarities are that they're both loose retellings with strong military aspects . . . also pretty queer . . . also some trauma and heartbreak that made me cry . . . okay maybe I see it, a bit) - still, my comps for this would be The Poppy War (determined heroines, military aspects, both influenced by Chinese history), Sistersong (both reimaginings with leads that engage with gender identity), and And I Darken (another historical reimagining where a prominent male leader is reimagined as a woman). > 4.5 stars! * This contains SO MANY OF MY FAVOURITE THINGS that I’m vibrating of excitement - founding emperors!! - the Ming dynasty!! - (kinda) Ancient China!! - beautiful villain PINING AFTER A PURE PRINCE OH MY GOD - lots of long, billowing sleeves - it was comp’d to THE SONG OF ACHILLES so I’ll be crying in sorrow by the end I imagine - the author likes the untamed so they’re my favourite person now

  15. 5 out of 5

    Shelley Parker-Chan

    Hello friends, this contains content warnings for SHE WHO BECAME THE SUN. SHE WHO BECAME THE SUN is a book about gender identity (amongst other things). While the two genderqueer protagonists reflect aspects of my own experiences of genderqueerness, this doesn't mean these perspectives are necessarily affirming to any other LGBTQIA+ identifying persons. Please read the warnings if you're concerned, and take care of yourselves. Most violence occurs offscreen, and the level of depicted blood and gor Hello friends, this contains content warnings for SHE WHO BECAME THE SUN. SHE WHO BECAME THE SUN is a book about gender identity (amongst other things). While the two genderqueer protagonists reflect aspects of my own experiences of genderqueerness, this doesn't mean these perspectives are necessarily affirming to any other LGBTQIA+ identifying persons. Please read the warnings if you're concerned, and take care of yourselves. Most violence occurs offscreen, and the level of depicted blood and gore is in line with that of your average 15+ historical TV drama. It is an adult book, not YA. Content warnings: * Dysphoria * Pre-existing non-consensual castration * Misgendering * Internalised homophobia * Life-altering injury (amputation) * Ableist language * Non-graphic depictions of death by torture * Major character death * Offscreen murder of a child * Scenes depicting extreme hunger/starvation * Graphic depiction of a person burning to death If you have read the book and believe additional warnings would be useful to the community as a whole, please contact me.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Hillary

    3.5 stars History, gay romance, ambition, war, backstabbing and dead people everywhere 💀 This book was so elaborate, so complex, with exceptional historical representation and I’m shocked this is a debut. The talent™! The choice of putting these characters with contrasting personalities together was also very smart: I mean, a prince loved by everyone and a broody introverted general? That’s an easy win. A cold-hearted sarcastic resolute monk and a kind altruistic maternal woman? No need to say more 3.5 stars History, gay romance, ambition, war, backstabbing and dead people everywhere 💀 This book was so elaborate, so complex, with exceptional historical representation and I’m shocked this is a debut. The talent™! The choice of putting these characters with contrasting personalities together was also very smart: I mean, a prince loved by everyone and a broody introverted general? That’s an easy win. A cold-hearted sarcastic resolute monk and a kind altruistic maternal woman? No need to say more. I found the subtle discourse on gender identity to be just awesome. Having two characters on the opposite specter but dealing with their bodies and society norms in a similar way was pretty clever. You see two sides of the same coin which definitely makes you appreciate a bigger picture of the issue. When I started this book I had no idea what I was getting into. Part 1 has a very different feel from the rest of the book. During the period at the monastery you have the time to get to know Zhu while she grows up and I really enjoyed seeing the way she changed through the years (which I now know that was only the tip of the iceberg, so you have way more shenanigans to look forward to than that 😬). From Part 2 the book completely changes direction and goes deep into war and brutal politics. I love that at one point I started wondering if anyone would stay alive by the time the end would come around. Despite having liked this book, the writing and I.....let’s say we didn’t mesh well. It’s elaborate and complex, and it perfectly complements the historical setting, but it was too dense for my tastes. These are some issues I had during my reading experience: - The writing was very descriptive but I still had trouble visualizing places and characters in my head. - I wasn’t able to really warm to any of the characters because they felt too distant. - Some elements of the plot/world building are given for granted (in particular a thing that concerns Ouyang) and there’s nothing to do apart from ignoring that it’s not explained and getting used to it. Those are big plot points though, and not understanding where they come from is confusing and very far from ideal. - There are a lot of time skips after the first 50 pages and at that point the narrative started to feel kind of diluted for me because I couldn’t directly read about the struggles the characters were going through. This happens especially with battles: you rarely see them actually fighting, you only learn about the outcome. I’m pretty sure this is a duology and with the way this ended I’m really interested to see where the conclusion will go. Those last chapters were wild! “I can’t believe what Ouyang did,” she says staring into space. However I’m going to have to find the courage to pick it up because this one took me a month and it’s only 400 pages lol. I hope the next one has more magic, this first book was centered a lot on history rather than fantasy. I received an advanced reader copy through Netgalley. All opinions are my own. ****** I NEED 2020 TO BE OVER I’m blaming it on The Poppy War for making me this hungry for new fantasy takes on Chinese history... who do I have to bribe for this one?

  17. 4 out of 5

    Hamad

    This Review ✍️ Blog 📖 Twitter 🐦 Instagram 📷 Support me ☕ Actual Rating: 3.5 Stars “The body became used to exercise, particular sounds and sensations, or even physical pain. But it was strange how shame was something you never became inured to: each time hurt just as much as the first.” So this book is marketed as Mulan meets The Song of Achilles and as soon as I saw that, there was no way I was not gonna read it. Those literally are one of my favorite animation movies as a kid and one This Review ✍️ Blog 📖 Twitter 🐦 Instagram 📷 Support me ☕ Actual Rating: 3.5 Stars “The body became used to exercise, particular sounds and sensations, or even physical pain. But it was strange how shame was something you never became inured to: each time hurt just as much as the first.” So this book is marketed as Mulan meets The Song of Achilles and as soon as I saw that, there was no way I was not gonna read it. Those literally are one of my favorite animation movies as a kid and one of my favorite books as an adult. I was pretty excited when I got an ARC of this through Edelweiss thanks to the publisher. It is a given that it did not affect my opinions on this one! So when I started this, I immediately understood where the Mulan parts comes from and I was ecstatic! To give you more insight without spoilers: The story follows the Zhu’s family daughter, who is living in poverty and famine in 14th century China under the Mongol Rule. Zhu Chongba who is her brother is promised greatness in his future while the daughter has nothing in it. However, Chongba dies and the daughter takes on his name and identity as a male novice and tries to achieve his fated greatness too. The story actually started off on the right foot, the writing was beautiful, the setting is very atmospheric and I could see the famine and poverty that the author was narrating. I lived the story and not just read it! The story is divided into three parts and the synopsis and most of what I explained is pretty much only the first part, so much of the the events I expected and are actually predictable happen in this same part which means the pacing was faster than expected and that the story is bigger than I thought. “Haven’t you heard it only takes three people to tell of a tiger before everyone believes it?” The Second part is a bit different and it actually threw me off at first, just because I did not know we were following two characters (Once again the synopsis made it seem like that) and there was a little too bit of info dumping between characters and places so it took me a few chapters to get into the story again. Which reminds me of another important thing: The Queer part! I know Adult fantasy is mostly straight so it is always exciting to read adult queer stories. I found that the author answered a question on GR about the characters so I am gonna quote her: “There are two storylines, and each storyline has a genderqueer protagonist: one is assigned female at birth (but doesn’t identify as female), and the other is assigned male at birth and identifies as male (but is a eunuch with a gender nonconforming appearance). The AFAB character has a relationship with a woman, and the AMAB character has a relationship with a man.” So yeah, both of the MC are genderqueer! What confused me as a reader was the pronouns used for Zhu, sometimes she was referred to as she and sometimes as He and I am talking about third person narrative, not people using pronouns in the story. Also sometimes the characters were called by their names and sometimes by their family names and that also added to the confusion in my opinion. Zhu herself was well written and I liked that we followed her growth from a child to an adult and seeing how she matures within the circumstances she goes through. The story is a military fantasy story which I also did not know before I went into it so there were many smart tactics and strategies that Zhu came up with and made me impressed. “To win a hundred victories in a hundred battles is not the pinnacle of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the pinnacle of skill.” The Fantasy parts were minor and I even thought that the story could have done without those fantasy elements because they did not add much into the story. I do not think they were bad but I expected something different and the integration of fantasy in a different way probably like The Poppy War! The third part was cool because I was already comfortable with the story at that point, we knew the characters very well at that point and a lot of action & drama happens at that part which made it awesome! Summary: I think it is a good entry to the duology, the writing was beautiful, the characters were diverse and well written. I may have preferred the first part in the story and wanted it to continue that way but the second and third part were not bad at all. It had less fantasy elements than expected and more of a military side to it. I still wanna see how this story ends in the next book!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Books with Brittany

    2.75⭐️ RTC Ooof. I could not have been reading what everyone else was.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Samantha Shannon

    Magnificent in every way. War, desire, vengeance, politics – Shelley Parker-Chan has perfectly measured each ingredient of this queer historical epic. Glinting with bright rays of wit and tenderness, yet unafraid to delve into the deep shadows of human ambition, She Who Became the Sun, like Zhu, is unquestionably destined for greatness. Magnificent in every way. War, desire, vengeance, politics – Shelley Parker-Chan has perfectly measured each ingredient of this queer historical epic. Glinting with bright rays of wit and tenderness, yet unafraid to delve into the deep shadows of human ambition, She Who Became the Sun, like Zhu, is unquestionably destined for greatness.

  20. 4 out of 5

    William Gwynne

    To hear expanded thoughts and Ed's thoughts as well, on the channel, click HERE To hear a short pitch of this fantasy debut from Shelley Parker-Chan herself, to see if this is for you, you can click on a link here - The Brothers Gwynne She Who Became the Sun is an impressively well-written story. Wonderful progression of plot and character throughout, with multiple peaks and a shocking, satisfying conclusion to each storyline. I may be wrong, but it appeared to me that the focus in this story is th To hear expanded thoughts and Ed's thoughts as well, on the channel, click HERE To hear a short pitch of this fantasy debut from Shelley Parker-Chan herself, to see if this is for you, you can click on a link here - The Brothers Gwynne She Who Became the Sun is an impressively well-written story. Wonderful progression of plot and character throughout, with multiple peaks and a shocking, satisfying conclusion to each storyline. I may be wrong, but it appeared to me that the focus in this story is the characters, and how they are treated ultimately shapes their driving motivations and goals. We have two concurrent perspectives, both of which battle with the idea of reputation, the desire to be recognised, identity and power, all in a heavy political situation where our characters must commit previous acts in order to rise up, or most likely die in attempt to do the 'right thing'. We are thrust into the historical setting of China, during the latter period of Mongolian rule. This is essentially a historical story. with a few low-fantasy elements,ents thrust in to change the game slightly. Shelley Parker-Chan crafts a great balance between the historical detail and progression of events, alongside the characterisation which you would expect she has a lot more freedom over. In the foreword, it is said that the story follows a series of historical events, but adds characters and fills in gaps for the purposes of the story. Whilst this then does deviate from the authentic unravelling of this period, it has still strongly piqued my interest, and I now look forward to researching this time period at my own leisure. Full Review to Come

  21. 5 out of 5

    luce

    | | blog | tumblr | ko-fi | | This book OBLITERATED me 🙃 “Desire is the cause of all suffering. All Zhu had ever desired was to live. Now she felt the pure strength of that desire inside her, as inseparable as her breath or qi, and knew she would suffer from it. She couldn’t even begin to imagine the awful magnitude of the suffering that would be required to achieve greatness in the chaotic, violent world outside.” While I can see why She Who Became the Sun has drawn comparisons to Mulan (we ha | | blog | tumblr | ko-fi | | This book OBLITERATED me 🙃 “Desire is the cause of all suffering. All Zhu had ever desired was to live. Now she felt the pure strength of that desire inside her, as inseparable as her breath or qi, and knew she would suffer from it. She couldn’t even begin to imagine the awful magnitude of the suffering that would be required to achieve greatness in the chaotic, violent world outside.” While I can see why She Who Became the Sun has drawn comparisons to Mulan (we have Zhu ‘posing’ as a man), The Song of Achilles (we have a ‘close’ bond between two soldiers, one a lord the other a general), and The Poppy War (harsh backdrop + war/battles + main characters who do questionable things), what this novel really reminded of Mary Renault’s historical novels (like her Alexander the Great trilogy). But brutal. I mean, x1000 more brutal (so, think Mary Renault + you are being sucker-punched). “All of it had been nothing more than the mechanistic motion of the stars as they brought him this opportunity: the path to his fate. And once he stepped upon it there would be no turning back. It was an opportunity he wanted, and at the same time it was the very last thing he wanted: it was a future too horrible to bear. But even as he prevaricated and agonized, and shrank from the thought of it, he knew it wasn’t a matter of choice. It was his fate, the thing no man can ever refuse.” In this reimagining of the life of Zhu Yuanzhang, the peasant-turned-emperor founder of the Ming Dynasty, Parker-Chan transports her readers to Mongol-occupied imperial China. Famine, poverty, plagues From the very opening pages we are plunged into a harsh and unforgiving world. In 1345 the Zhu children, a boy and a girl from the famine-stricken Zhongli village are given opposing fortunes. The boy, Zhu Chongba, is promised ‘greatness’, his “deeds will bring a hundred generations of pride to [his] family name”. The girl’s fate? “Nothing”. Yet, after a bandit attack leaves them orphaned it is the boy who is unable to recover while the girl refuses to succumb to despair. After his death, the girl claims his name and fate. The ‘new’ Zhu Chongba refuses to accept her former fate and will do whatever it takes not only to survive but thrive. Zhu goes on to become a novice at the Wuhuang Monastery, and as the years go by the more her conviction that she will be great is cemented. When the unrest against Mongol rule grows Zhu, now a monk, joins forces with the Red Turbans, a group of peasant rebels. In her ruthless quest for greatness, Zhu will stop at nothing. Driven by the certainty that she will be great, Zhu slowly rises among the ranks of rebels, demonstrating time and again that to win a war one needs more than swordsmanship or physical strength. The more powerful Zhu becomes the more she craves, but how far is too far? We also follow Ouyang, a eunuch of Nanren blood, formerly a slave and now a general in the Mongol army (the people responsible for exterminating his family and enslaving him). Ouyang too is following what he believes to be his fate, even if he knows that this path will lead in pain (my pain, Parker-Chan, if you are reading this you broke my effin heart). As the narrative progresses, Zhu and Ouyang’s fate become irrevocably and terribly entwined. One is hungry for greatness, the other, revenge. She Who Became the Sun is an epic historical fantasy and probably one of the best debut novels I’ve ever read. While I was not familiar with this era/setting (predictably, the little I knew about Mongolia concerns ‘the’ Genghis Khan, aka Temüjin, and I knew next-to-nothing about 14th century China—I love wuxia films but they are not entirely reliable) Parker-Chan does a fantastic job in immersing her readers in this period of Mongolian/Chinese history. In that way, she brought to mind Renault who also excelled in evoking ancient cultures and peoples without making her readers feel overwhelmed or confused. Parker-Chan does not shy away from portraying the grim realities faced by people like Zhu and Ouyang. In addition to famines and plagues, we have battles between Mongols and the Red Turbans who seek to free themselves from their cruel rule. Rather than portraying either faction as inherently good or bad, Parker-Chan populates her story with characters who are all varying degrees of terrible (Ma, daughter to a Red Turban general, and Xu Da, Zhu’s monastery ‘brother’ are perhaps the only not-so-morally ambiguous characters). Zhu and Ouyang are no heroes. They are, to different extents and purposes, self-serving, and willing to commit acts of horrific violence to fulfil their fates (even if it means betraying their loved ones). Yet, given what we learn about them, in other words, their circumstances, readers will have a hard time condemning or judging them. Parker-Chan’s unadorned prose perfectly complements the severe world inhabited by Zho and Ouyang. For all its apparent simplicity, Parker-Chan’s writing packs a punch. We have emotionally charged dialogues, precise and clever descriptions about the characters (their motivations, fears, natures), and some fantastic fighting sequences. It just goes to show how talented a writer Parker-Chan is but I was gripped by scenes focusing on military strategy (something I am not usually all that wowed by). There are also surprising moments of humor that offer brief yet desperately needed moments of levity (Zhu’s ‘pious’ act was a delight to read). The narrative is otherwise fraught with tension. The fantasy elements were also very well-done. Although they are seamlessly incorporated into the historical backdrop they did add a certain atmosphere to the story. In addition to a gripping storyline and a detailed historical setting Parker-Chan also brings to the table a complex cast of characters. Their shifting allegiances and dynamics made the story all the more captivating. Zhu is no hero(ine). She is hellbent on getting what she wants (greatness) and while she isn't wholly morally reprehensible she is not afraid to get her hands dirty. Her relationship with Xu Da and Ma were wonderfully compelling, even heart-rendering. Aaaand, now I have to talk about Ouyang and I cannot even. Dio mio. This man is terrible but that did not stop me from loving him. I swear, I felt ‘all the feels' each scene he was in. The man is literally haunted. His tortured self-loathing reaches highs not even Adam Parrish would dream of. My heart broke for him, time and again. His storyline managed to be even more devastating than Zhu’s one. I am never going to shut up about him. Just thinking about him makes me wanna curl in a ball and cry. At its heart, Parker-Chan’s novel is about power, survival, and fate. Parker-Chan pushes Zhu and Ouyang to their limits, putting them in impossible situations and pitting them against each other (we have more than one scene where I could not for the life of me root for either Zhu and Ouyang, hoping against hope that they could just set their weapons aside and become best buds...I am delusional I know). In addition, Parker-Chan subverts traditional gender roles and notions of masculinity and gifts us with an A+ queer romance and a complicated relationship with a lot of yearning (when their hands brushed I was a goner). It took me 40 pages or so to really get into the story but once I was ‘in’ I was 100% invested in both the story and the characters. This novel is gripping, brutal, poignant, distressing and full of jaw-dropping moments. The betrayals and political intrigue made the novel all the more engrossing. I don’t often use the word epic to describe a novel but She Who Became the Sun demands it. ps : i am both terrified and desperate to read the sequel ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    When she hears a fortune teller promise her brother a life of greatness, ‘the girl’ is desperate to hear her own fate. Begging for a reading, she receives a terrible answer: nothing. Unnamed and unwanted, she is to disappear without a trace, no mark left upon this world. Until an unexpected tragedy opens the possibility of something more. In that moment, the girl with no future decides to seize her brother’s… along with his identity. But how long can she fool Heaven into thinking she’s the one w When she hears a fortune teller promise her brother a life of greatness, ‘the girl’ is desperate to hear her own fate. Begging for a reading, she receives a terrible answer: nothing. Unnamed and unwanted, she is to disappear without a trace, no mark left upon this world. Until an unexpected tragedy opens the possibility of something more. In that moment, the girl with no future decides to seize her brother’s… along with his identity. But how long can she fool Heaven into thinking she’s the one who deserves his great fortune? She Who Became the Sun reimagines the rise to power of Zhu Yuanzhang, the rebel leader who fought the Mongol-led Yuan dynasty and eventually went on to found the Ming dynasty in 14th century China. I don’t know enough about the period to identify how much of this was based on the history and how much was Shelley Parker-Chan’s fiction, save the wonderful genderqueer inclusions, but whatever the foundation, the author’s creativity is stamped upon every page. The book is a masterpiece. The novel's greatest power is in its unforgettable characters, each crafted with complexity and stunning individuality. Their authenticity flows from their refusal to be any one thing, each pursing their own agenda, each brilliant and flawed in their own ways. Identity lies at the novel’s heart, fed by conflict and competition. The question of who someone really is plays out in the two intertwined storylines, challenging the reader to understand the intricate layers of motivation and deception. Importantly, gender is handled with skill and sensitivity, made inclusive rather than showy. It’s not used to pantomime modern thinking, it’s an essential part of the novel's exploration of love and longing. It feeds into the narrative’s larger themes: self, family, duty. If there’s one challenge that faces all the characters, it’s this: to which of these things does a person have the greatest obligation? By the end, this question will be answered. And it’ll be written in blood. Zhu has a singular voice. Her determination to achieve greatness regardless of the cost is mesmerising in its intensity. Honestly, I’m still a little unsure about how the author made her so damn appealing. It’s been playing on my mind since I put the book down. Zhu chooses herself and she does it in a way that I rarely see done this well. There’s no exaggerated villainy here, she simply does what’s necessary to move forwards. That she suffers for it, and that others suffer more, is no more than the fair cost of her fate. She’s willing to pay it. She’s willing for others to pay it. If that doesn’t sound dangerous as hell, I don’t know what does. And she’s far from being the only problematic character in the book. Even though it’s hard to chose a side, there’s definitely a favourite for everyone. It’s not something I usually think about at all but even as I was reading this I could tell that there would be a whole load of incredible fan fiction and fan art inspired by this book. These are characters you love and love to hate (with a passion). I can't wait to see what other readers make of it. This is the first book in a duology and when it’s done, it has the potential to be best-of-the-best level epic. Anyone who has the chance to read it early, do so. For the rest, know that at least one great thing coming in 2021. ARC via Netgalley

  23. 4 out of 5

    Alix Harrow

    well, shit. gorgeous writing, aching tragedy, acres of yearning, miles of ambition, true histories mixed with true magic--this book wrecked me and it will wreck you too.

  24. 5 out of 5

    literarylesbian

    (3.5 rounded up) While I enjoyed much of the last third of the books, the first half or so fell flat in my opinion. The switches in POV made it really hard to get through this book because I simply didn't care about a lot of the characters, but I started liking them more towards the end. Overall, I thought the story was interesting and I really ending up liking the romance. I also appreciated the gender non-conforming lesbian representation! While this book did have some drawbacks, I'm still reall (3.5 rounded up) While I enjoyed much of the last third of the books, the first half or so fell flat in my opinion. The switches in POV made it really hard to get through this book because I simply didn't care about a lot of the characters, but I started liking them more towards the end. Overall, I thought the story was interesting and I really ending up liking the romance. I also appreciated the gender non-conforming lesbian representation! While this book did have some drawbacks, I'm still really looking forward to reading the sequel.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Katie.dorny

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Well this fell as flat as a pancake. All the queerness couldn’t save this either. Currently between 2.5 and 3 stars. Following our girl Zhu as our Mulan reincarnation in residency; this book promised a mind blowing reimagining of the story and the Ming dynasty but just transformed it into a boring melodrama with a psychopathic anti-heroine who you can’t root for. The rest of the characters generally blurred into one with little to no difference in boring characterisation. Apart from the hella ga Well this fell as flat as a pancake. All the queerness couldn’t save this either. Currently between 2.5 and 3 stars. Following our girl Zhu as our Mulan reincarnation in residency; this book promised a mind blowing reimagining of the story and the Ming dynasty but just transformed it into a boring melodrama with a psychopathic anti-heroine who you can’t root for. The rest of the characters generally blurred into one with little to no difference in boring characterisation. Apart from the hella gay angst between Ouyang and Esen who just also happen to be enemies to brothers to they desperately wannabe lovers. The story and timeline also jumped all over the place with no real reason or thought behind it. It left me feeling disconnected and struggling to immerse myself in a plot that was disjointed. Further, add a fake marriage into the cards for fun and watch that add another unnecessary layer. Her wife Ma deserved better but was left as a ploy to assist the men of this book whilst the author tried to present she was more than that before pushing her back in her assigned box. Why are queer women still suffering in 2021 hmmm? Happy ending I THINK NOT APPARENTLY. Overall this just didn’t work for me on a multitude of levels and is one of my big let downs of the year. If you don’t go too deep into it it’s a fantasy that passable but look beyond the gloomy exterior of the pretty cover art and problems start to appear quickly. 10 Feb 2021 - IJUST GOT APPROVED FOR AN ARC HOLY SHIT 2021 KEEPING QUARANTINE INTERESTING

  26. 4 out of 5

    Henk

    Epic, convincing, with multiple sides and characters to root for and as much drama and blood feuds as the Illiad Pure emotions are the luxury of animals and children. Enjoyed this a lot, very epic, with both the gender bending and the Chinese background executed effortlessly and convincingly. She Who Became the Sun tells the reimagined rise of the Ming dynasty (for anyone interested: https://courses.lumenlearning.com/atd...). Starting of viscerally with hunger and deprivation, including some horrid Epic, convincing, with multiple sides and characters to root for and as much drama and blood feuds as the Illiad Pure emotions are the luxury of animals and children. Enjoyed this a lot, very epic, with both the gender bending and the Chinese background executed effortlessly and convincingly. She Who Became the Sun tells the reimagined rise of the Ming dynasty (for anyone interested: https://courses.lumenlearning.com/atd...). Starting of viscerally with hunger and deprivation, including some horrid choices people need to make in respect to their children, the main character takes over the role of her dead brother and his path to greatness. This might give some Mulan vibes, but the road to greatness is paved with a lot of uncomfortable decisions and there is no change to keep one's hand clean. Also Shelley Parker-Chan her writing gave me some vibes of Avatar The Last Airbender, with references to a spirit world. Starting with a power move against her tutor in a monastery, the protagonist is soon drawn into the conflict between the failing Mongol dominated Yuan dynasty and factions of Han Chinese that strive to reclaim control over the Middle Kingdom. Soon the main character finds themselves in a viper nest, and needs to pull off inventive ways to gain the upper hand to better equipped and larger armies. Using the spirit world and modern inventions as weapons, and being constantly underestimated as a monk. Against them a general of the Yuan, eunuch and also a kind of third gender with a infatuation to his master, has its own schemes, leading to truly epic confrontations and scenes befitting Kill Bill. There is immolation, flaying alive, book burning, accidents with jittery horses, banishment, people ripped apart by 5 horses, the brutality of the pre-modern world is not sugarcoated in any way. I did start to wonder a bit what the whole ideology/philosophy of the great Yuan is, besides offering stability. But overall the conflict is depicted in a spectacular fashion and one can root (or at least understand) both sides. There is so much callousness, between everyone: ambition and the possibility to shape one’s one fate through sacrifices to one's very soul seems the key motives in this book. While reading I had most affinity with Lord Wang his rants on the importance of economic sound administration, and in general I feel that many of the side characters are very well drawn, with only Ma the pure and innocent being a bit annoying. This would be a great anime or a series like Game of Thrones, while being a very solid book. Looking forward to part 2 and any adaptations of this great story. Bad ass quotes: It wasn’t something she wanted so much it was an escape for what she feared. You may have ended this, but you haven’t ended me. He had a wound as heart. Feeling safe meant feeling hidden. What someone is, means nothing about what kind of person they are. I presume you understand how much I dislike you? I did what I had to do. They regarded an asset, not a person. Even the most glorious future if its desired has suffering at its heart. He served his purpose. You said you would be different.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Charlotte May

    3.5 ⭐️ I was gripped in the beginning but started losing interest by the end. Rtc ***************************** I wanted to be petty and not read this book. I was offered an ARC by the publisher and was then promptly ghosted. I wanted to sulk and think “screw you then.” However: 1. Much as I like to kick off in my head. I’m not really a petty or grudgy person irl. 2. Not the authors fault their publishers are out of order. 3. This book does sound flipping great. 4. My library has a copy available so 3.5 ⭐️ I was gripped in the beginning but started losing interest by the end. Rtc ***************************** I wanted to be petty and not read this book. I was offered an ARC by the publisher and was then promptly ghosted. I wanted to sulk and think “screw you then.” However: 1. Much as I like to kick off in my head. I’m not really a petty or grudgy person irl. 2. Not the authors fault their publishers are out of order. 3. This book does sound flipping great. 4. My library has a copy available so why the heck not?!

  28. 5 out of 5

    charlotte,

    On my blog. Rep: Chinese & Mongolian cast, nonbinary lesbian mc, lesbian mc, gay mc, bi mc CWs: violence Galley provided by publisher I described this book as “the kind of book where it’s a complete understatement to say it wrecked me. This book does not just wreck you. This book pulls out your heart with a pair of tweezers, stomps all over it, sets it on fire and, when it’s done, hands it back to you and says come back for the sequel!! And all you can do is say thank you.” in a recent rec li On my blog. Rep: Chinese & Mongolian cast, nonbinary lesbian mc, lesbian mc, gay mc, bi mc CWs: violence Galley provided by publisher I described this book as “the kind of book where it’s a complete understatement to say it wrecked me. This book does not just wreck you. This book pulls out your heart with a pair of tweezers, stomps all over it, sets it on fire and, when it’s done, hands it back to you and says come back for the sequel!! And all you can do is say thank you.” in a recent rec list , and I think that’s the best place to start for this review. She Who Became the Sun is a book that will tear you to shreds and leave you thinking about it for days, weeks, even months. The story follows Zhu who, in a bid to escape the destiny that has been foretold her, takes up her (dead) brother’s and becomes a monk. Parallel to this narrative, we also follow Ouyang, the famous eunuch general, and part of the Mongolian army. Their two paths criss-cross throughout as Zhu and Ouyang cross metaphorical swords. There is so much to love about this book, not least the characters. It’s a book about ambition, really, Zhu’s and Ouyang’s (in many ways they parallel each other, while acting as foils to one another) in particular, but also Esen’s, Ma’s, and many others in between. It’s also a book about characters who will use everything at their disposal to achieve their ambitions. I would hesitate to say they are morally grey, because that would imply there are individuals with morals around them (Ma, perhaps, being the exception). But they are the kind of characters you can still latch onto. It might be more accurate to say they form their own set of morals and work by those and, as such, you can always see how the decision makes sense. It’s the kind of book where you’re rooting for everyone, even though you know it has to end in tragedy. The book also lives fully up to the label of epic. It’s epic in its descriptive sense and also in scope. It spans an entire empire (and the beginning of the end for that empire) and it’s intense, high-stakes action all the way through. I think this is where multiple POVs is a huge benefit, because you can see the repercussions and ripple effects of actions across the expanse of the world. It’s part of the reason you find yourself wanting everyone to win (or at least, I did), and contributes to its general feeling of epicness. I would be remiss not to at least mention the ending here (in a non-spoilery way, of course). I think it’s a testament to Shelley Parker-Chan that I read this entire book expecting something bad to happen at the end, and yet I was still surprised when it did. It’s the kind of ending you think you’re prepared for, only to find out just how wrong you were. You were not prepared, you could never have been prepared in any possible universe. It leaves you just a little bit shell shocked, in the best way. So, if you’re hearing a lot of hype surrounding this book, and aren’t sure whether you can trust it, let me reassure you that yes. Yes, you absolutely can. It lives up to every bit of hype and even more.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Virginja ↢ 99% imp

    3.5🌟 ”Nobody will ever end me. I’ll be so great that no one will be able to touch me, or come near me, for fear of becoming nothing.” Long review incoming! She Who Became The Sun (SWBTS) is one the most talked-about debuts of 2021. Digital and physical arcs have been distributed widely with great success: I have yet to find a SFF reader completely unaware of this title, and those who read the arcs have nothing but praises, going as far as saying this is the best debut of the year. Whil 3.5🌟 ”Nobody will ever end me. I’ll be so great that no one will be able to touch me, or come near me, for fear of becoming nothing.” Long review incoming! She Who Became The Sun (SWBTS) is one the most talked-about debuts of 2021. Digital and physical arcs have been distributed widely with great success: I have yet to find a SFF reader completely unaware of this title, and those who read the arcs have nothing but praises, going as far as saying this is the best debut of the year. While I have many kudos for the author, I don’t think the book is as outstanding and ground-breaking as some people make it. Shelley Parker-Chan is a undoubtably one of the most talented debut author of the last few years. Her writing style is very fluid and beautiful; she weaves melodious metaphors and creates very powerful images to strengthen the characters’ voice and prospectives. Parker-Chan’s refined vocabulary and lush expressions don’t come across as pompous, they enrich the writing but don’t slow down the steady pace of the story. She connects feelings to physical sensations and makes them resonate with the readers even more. At one point she described ambition as a leap into the void: you can see from afar what is promised, but the path is uncertain, and the final outcome will only be known after the fall. I do really love this type of writing. ”History twisted and turned like a snake. When you were in the moment, how could you tell which way it would turn next?” SWBTS’s greatest asset is its exploration on gender and the well-crafted, complex queer characters. The main protagonist is girl destined to nothingness, but when her brother Zhu Chongba dies, to survive she steals his name and his foretold fate of greatness. Zhu is so determined to reach her goals and ambitions: to trick Heavens into bestowing her the fate of the real Zhu Chongba, she goes as far as to completely abandon her femininity. The author does a wonderful job in showing Zhu’s conflict with her gender; Parker-Chan blends the issues of gender with the ambition of greatness is a truly unique character arc, the one of its kind in the latest fantasy publications. Before starting the book, I thought Zhu would be a hollow husk filled only with survival instinct and rage. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised: the girl in the first chapters is a far cry from the the person Zhu becomes later. Her determination to live is still there, however she opens up, becomes cheerful, wily, cunning. Furthermore, really I appreciated that the plot didn’t require Zhu to learn how to fight. Zhu’s strength in not physical, it resides in her mind and her soul. ”He had a wound for a heart, and that made him a more dangerous opponent than anyone here realized.” The second most prominent point of view character is Ouyang. Known as the eunuch general, he scaled military ranks and became the right hand of one of the most powerful Mongol princes. Ouyang is a bleak, melancholic character, the polar opposite of the optimistic Zhu. He was forced to serve the family that mutilated him and fell in love with prince Esen, the son of his tormentor and the very person he should hate the most. The core of his arc is the conflict between what he wants (love and appeasement) and what he needs to do — the typical theme of tragedies. He is a indeed tragic character, deeply wounded, beaten by his fate and with no comfort in the world. I liked the concept behind Ouyang’s character, Parker-Chan really brought the bleakness into the pages. However, even if the execution was strong, he was so focused on his personal tragedy that he came across as one-dimensional. There are instances in which Ouyang proves to be an extremely complex character, but for the most part the only thing that emerges from is chapters is his resentment, towards fate and himself. His chapters were suffocated in their bitterness. I’m not saying he shouldn’t be bitter, but a character cannot be completely identified by his traumas. Seeing how his story developed, I don’t see room for anything other than bitterness is the future, either. I’m very upset because if Parker-Chan had given him something more to latch on to, really anything, this book would get another half star just for his character. ”Desire is the cause of all suffering. The greater the desire, the greater the suffering, and now she desired greatness itself. With all her will, she directed the thought to Heaven and the watching statues: Whatever suffering it takes, I can bear it.” The core theme of SWBTS is fate. Fate is probably one of the pillars when talking about fantasy; the theme of desire vs expectations rings true to anyone is modern society: how can I beat my odds and get what I want? How can I escape my situation, even if everyone tells me is a one way road? The book does an extremely great job at presenting the individual conflict, which - as the blurb suggest - is the main conflict of Zhu’s storyline. However, the author included another bias toward fate: reluctance. If Zhu’s arc is centered around claiming a fate that is not hers, Ouyang’s is all about him accepting what the Heavens demand him to do. SWBTS dives deep into the war between ambition and destiny, entwining the stories of these two polar-opposites. Many scenes and inner monologues are centered around the conflict between the two, and let me tell you, it was a delight to read. Zhu and Ouyang clashing with their ideals elevated the narrative to a high peak, making it unique in its genre. ”Don’t look down as you’re flying, or you’ll realize the impossibility of it and fall” I have many praises for the book, but there are two things that didn’t really work for me: some narrative decisions and the side characters . They arewhat ultimately degraded it to an average read. SWBTS is inspired by the ascension to power of Zhu Yuangzhang, founder of the Ming dynasty. The first chunk, devoted to Zhu’s teenage years, was the one I liked best. However, when the plot pulls away from te restricted environment of the first chapters, things get strange. Not necessarily in a bad way, but... strage. I’m not familiar with Chinese history, but it’s safe to assume that, when there is an ascension involved, there are a great deal of battles involved. Parker-Chan decided that the armed conflicts don’t deserved the spotlight, unless no actual fighting is involved. Every battle scene is cut. Not in length, oh no: I mean completely cut from the narrative, along with most the planning behind them. Granted, not everyone likes reading about messy melee fights. Granted, the focus of the book is fate, not war. Still, it seems the author couldn’t be bothered by writing armies clashing and decided to deploy shortcuts. Zhu and Ouyang are both very skillful strategist, but we never see them actually carrying out their schemings on the field. I love when strategist use their brain to avoid bloodbaths, but you cannot erase all the sieges, open field conflicts, fighting scenes because you don’t like them. Plotting wise, SWBTS presents some really strong plot lines, along with extremely powerful scenes. I only need mention a certain Battled on the River and most readers would remember it with awe. Problem is, it’s brilliant when combats are cut short because of good planning, or because the author wants to write only the best bits. But it’s all useless if, to get to that particular awesome moment, we had to speed trough all the build-up. ”Why insist on chasing the shadow of something lost, when you could make something new and even greater?” Without war scenes or scheming sessions, most of the pages are occupied by rather uneventful scenes of people talking about fighting, without ever seeing them do anything but talking. I really liked some of the politicking in the book, but it sounded empty without seeing the direct results on the field. In the moment I didn’t mind because Parker-Chan is really good at what she does. Dialogues are brilliant; every conversation, every thought seems to bear a huge weight on the story, even when it doesn’t. The book so very readable, but it can’t shine because of its second great weakness, the side characters. A thing that really irked me is that the author wrote chapters from the POV of minor characters but never gave them a clear outline. Most of them are severely undeveloped, the author has not many excuses since the named characters can be counted on two hands. Zhu’s part of SWBTS was the one that suffered the most due to the weak supporting cast. All the side characters from her perspective are anonymous, forgettable. They are walking tropes, build on clichés with little depth to them. The root of the problem is the amount of things told instead of shown. Characters go through entire arcs outside of the page, even those with great introductions are later pushed out of the narrative and reduced flat. Ouyang’s side of the story faired better, but only because there were less characters to focus on, and their stories were given the proper amount of pages. Last sore point of this debut is the “magic”. I say “magic” in quotes because it consists of two things: seeing ghosts and emitting innocuous colored fire. That’s it. I didn’t read this book because of the the fantasy elements, I thought it would only be alternate history with no supernatural element. But this was disappointing. One of the main characters sees ghosts and does nothing about it for the whole book. Dead people float around them constantly and they do... nothing. Why? Why introduce them but walk around and watch things happen? SWBTS will not make into my best of the year, but I think Shelley Parker-Chan has a bright carrier ahead of her. I would love to read some historical fiction by her. ———————————— Prereview - Non western setting - own voice - girl disguised as boy - MULAN!! (aka my favorite children movie of all times) - the author likes the untamed Where do I need to sign to sell my soul?

  30. 5 out of 5

    ☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣

    OMG. Now, this is one efferveescent book. The MC is a veritable epitome of the will to live. The will, no, the WILL: Q: Useless girl. Some new hardness inside her answered: I’ll be better at being you than you ever were. (c) Books: Q: Zhu bowed low over her desk, ignoring the way the book’s sweet smell made her stomach twinge with interest. (c) Great writing: Q: Her breath plumed against a crisp blue dawn. (c) Q: In the pause that followed, Zhu listened to the empty sound of the trees in the courtyard and f OMG. Now, this is one efferveescent book. The MC is a veritable epitome of the will to live. The will, no, the WILL: Q: Useless girl. Some new hardness inside her answered: I’ll be better at being you than you ever were. (c) Books: Q: Zhu bowed low over her desk, ignoring the way the book’s sweet smell made her stomach twinge with interest. (c) Great writing: Q: Her breath plumed against a crisp blue dawn. (c) Q: In the pause that followed, Zhu listened to the empty sound of the trees in the courtyard and felt that emptiness creep into her, little by little, for all she fought and wept and raged against it. (c) Q: For all that Esen’s features were as smooth and regular as a statue’s, his passions ran too high for serenity. Ouyang always felt a twist to see him like this: bright with anticipated pleasure, the blood of his steppe warrior ancestors pumping through him. There was a touching pureness to it that Ouyang envied. He had never been able to inhabit a moment of pleasure as simply and purely as Esen did. Just knowing that it was transient—that any moment would be drained of its sweetness and vividness once it became memory—made it bittersweet to him even as it was happening. (c)

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