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She Who Became The Sun | Book Review

Hello everyone! I recently ended up reading one of my most anticipated releases of the year and I am so glad to tell you It did not disappoint. So, here’s my review for it which I hope will convince you to read it too!

She Who Became The Sun
By Shelley Parker-Chan

Genre: Fantasy
Age Group: Adult 

Content/Trigger 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

Read my interview with the author

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.

MY VIEWS

She Who Became The Sun is a magnificent book which is a genderqueer retelling of the beginning of the Ming Dynasty. Beautifully written, this book captured me from the very beginning as it told us the story of two ambitious, determined and morally grey main characters who would do anything to achieve what they desired. 

“If your desire was the most important thing in the world, what wouldn’t you do to achieve it?” 

Zhu is a peasant girl who desires so much more than the world would ever give her. She is resourceful and cunning and somehow, finds a way out of every situation, doing whatever she has to do to achieve the greatness she desires so much. She has a fierce determination and unbreakable will and reading her spectacular journey kept me at the edge of my seat as she progressively does thing more and more unhinged in order to achieve that. 

Ouyang is the eunuch general of the Mongol army driven by his want to avenge his family by killing the ones who killed them. He can not forgive the atrocities done to him and his people and so, we follow him as he exacts his revenge no matter how much pain and hurt it causes him and those around him. 

This book is full of so much desire and want and longing and the pain and hurt intermingled with it as the characters try to achieve their goals, and all the damage they cause along the way. This story took my heart and cut it open, leaving behind the pieces for me to put back together on my own as I recover from the ending of the book. 

I also loved the exploration of gender identity and sexuality in this book, and how fluid it is and how it can change very easily. It talks about what gender really is and how you as well as others perceive, exploring it with Zhu and Ouyang, who both have such different perspectives and relationships with their gender identities. 

“I’m me, she thought wonderingly. But who am I?” 

The plot and the pacing of the book is wonderful as well. Suspense builds up slowly and gradually throughout the book leading up to two climax moments for both of our characters that had my holding my heart in my hands as the scenes played out brilliantly, with an ending that I didn’t expect which has me eagerly waiting for the next book. 

If you’re looking for a high-stakes book with war, political intrigue, discussions of power, desire and gender with an exceptional plot and complex, morally grey characters that has you enraptured and turning the page, this is definitely the book for you!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Have you read She Who Became The Sun? Do you plan on picking it up? If you’ve read it, what did you think of it?

– Jayati

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28 thoughts on “She Who Became The Sun | Book Review

  1. I read this a couple of months back and liked it. I was not in the mood for grim fantasy so my mood is to blame for me not loving it. I was fully invested in the characters tho and I am looking forward to read the sequel

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m so damn excited for this book but I want! the paperback! Your review is making me even more excited but unfortunately the paperback is still not available so I shall wait </3 Somehow, it feels like a book that I'd want to annotate and absorb as a physical copy.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I consider this review a win in spreading the She Who Became the Sun agenda ❤
    Jayati! You wrote a beautiful review ❤ I'm glad you liked it! YAY! So happy!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. THIS WAS ALSO ONE OF MY MOST ANTICIPATED READS OF THE YEAR! It was so worth it and was the queer historical rec that I didn’t know I NEEDED. I’m very enthusiastic (don’t know if you could tell haha). I agree with everything you said! There were so many brilliant parts I could mention, here’s my review if you’re interested in 🙂 https://hundredsandthousandsofbooks.blog/2021/10/16/5-star-book-review-she-who-became-the-sun/

    Liked by 1 person

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