She Who Became the Sun
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.
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.