She Who Became the Sun

She Who Became the Sun
She Who Became the Sun
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Release Date
July 20, 2021
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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 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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2 reviews
A harsh, beautiful story that punches you right in the heart
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A daughter and a son live with their father in a small, dying village in 1345 China. The son, Zhu Chongba, is predicted to have a fate seeped in such greatness that generations upon generations will know his name. The daughter, however, is predicted to have a fate of nothingness. When bandits attack their village, both the father and Zhu Chongba end up dying. The daughter, rejecting her fate of nothingness, takes on her brother’s name and identity and enters a monastery. Years later, Zhu’s monastery will be destroyed, sending Zhu on a path to claim the greatness she was once denied.

3 Reasons to read SHE WHO BECAME THE SUN:

1.) The plot: SHE WHO BECAME THE SUN spans across several years. The beginning half is primarily focused on building Zhu’s character and showing her experience at the monastery. This is a plot that asks the reader to be patient but rewards the patience with an explosive final third act that weaves everything together. It is well worth the time to get comfortable in Zhu’s dynamic world.

2.) The theme of fate: Fate plays a large role in this story. The threat of an empty fate is what prompts Zhu to take her brother’s, but we also see other characters get tangled in their own fates. It isn’t so much asking if everything is pre-destined but more exploring of how far people will go to claim the vision they have of their own fate and what sacrifices they are willing to make.

3.) The gritty world-building: Zhu’s world, 1345 China under Mongol rule, is not easy for anyone, but especially not so for a girl. What I love about Parker-Chan’s framing of this hard world is that no detail or scene is gratuitous. There is no unwarranted gore or violence that some war-centered novels have. Every slap, strike, and stab have a reason and serve a clear purpose. It is also refreshing to see a story like this that doesn’t include sexual assault.

SHE WHO BECAME THE SUN is a harsh, beautiful story that punches you right in the heart.
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