She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan
Series: The Radiant Emperor #1
Release Date: July 20, 2021
Page Count: 416 pages
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.
She Who Became the Sun is the first book in the Radiant Emperor duology and it was absolutely mind blowing. It’s one of my most anticipated reads and was way beyond my expectations.
The writing drew me in from the beginning and then I was so engrossed by Zhu and her determination to not be nothing and strength to make her own fate. Zhu is a very complex character, her ambitions, drive and shrewness makes her one of the highlights of the book. Ma Xiuying is so different compared Zhu but I liked her a lot.
“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.”
Ouyang, the eunuch general and our other main POV character is on the opposite side of the battle and is another brilliant character. I loved him so much. One second he’d make you angry and frustrated and in the next he’d break your heart into a million pieces.
He had done what he had to do, and in doing so he had destroyed the world.
A queer epic fantasy that is hard to forget, with elements of revenge, fate, destiny, gender and identity against the backdrop of Ming Dynasty and a retelling of Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang’s ascension. Highly recommend and I cannot wait for the sequel!!!!
*ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review