I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review.
This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Released: July 20th 2021
Series: The Radiant Emperor #1
Published by Tor Books
“…thought provoking, emotionally intense and a comfort zone shattering experience.”~ Under the Covers
She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan is a genderqueer retelling of The Red Turban Rebellions, which gave rise to the Ming dynasty. Zhu Chongba is destined for greatness, while his sister is destined for nothing. After bandits come to their famine plagued town and orphan the two children her brother, Zhu Chongba, gives into grief and dies. Left to fend for herself, with nothing but her fiery will to survive, she chooses to take her brother’s name and his great destiny and embarks on a journey for greatness. That begins as a monk, but soon gives way to commander and more.
This title has been called “Song of Achilles meets Mulan”, which I find to be a flimsy description for such a unique and intense piece of literature. Does no justice to the emotionally intense and thought provoking work that Parker-Chan has elegantly crafted. I found parts to be a challenge to read, for no other reason than I have difficulty with descriptions of military strategies, which is a prominent feature in many chapters. I was always impressed with the genius ideas Zhu would conjur, which always ended with outstanding, and sometimes brutal, results.
Zhu battles both with the enemies on the battlefield and within as she struggles with her identity. She is driven by her will to survive and defy the heavens by doing whatever is necessary. Which at times shocked me at the lengths she would go. However, to see moments and instances that would ruin and break most in her world, they further elevate her to greatness and bring her closer to her goals. An awe inspiring feat, to say the least.
This is not a story for the faint of heart. Set during a fantasy tinged retelling of Mongul ruled China during the Red Turban Rebellions, it is an intense, violent and often dark story where the lines are blurred. Trust is rare, and hunger for power and revenge reign alongside each other. As previously stated, there are a lot of military strategies and complex political plots that can slow down reading for those, like myself, who don’t read those themes often. However, these themes were easier to follow than most.
I found She Who Became the Sun to be thought provoking, emotionally intense and a comfort zone shattering experience. Those who enjoy character driven historical fiction on an epic scale, with just a touch of fantasy, should not pass on this title.
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