ARC Review: She Who Became The Sun // Irresistible and engrossing

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Title: She Who Became The Sun
Author: Shelley Parker-Chan
Series: The Radiant Emperor #1
Genre/s and tags: Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, POC, LGBTQ+
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication date: July 20, 2021
Content warnings: (from the author): Dysphoria, Pre-existing non-consensual castration, Misgendering, Internalized 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
Also, sex scenes (not too graphic)
Goodreads synopsis: 

Master of Djinn book cover

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.


Received an e-arc via NetGalley! Thank you Tor Books!
(This, of course, did not affect my overall opinion of the book.)

Hello book nerds! Coming at you today with a new book review! This book is one of my most anticipated releases this year! I have heard nothing but great things about it prior to reading my e-arc, and those people did not lie at all.

She Who Became The Sun is an irresistible and highly engrossing queer reimagining of the beginning of a dynasty, as well as a tender exploration of gender identity.

My thoughts on She Who Became The Sun

Is it weird that I claimed this book to be my new favorite when I was just 60% into it? It was that good, and I thought I wouldn’t be able to survive the ending! But here I am, and I can say that this book was incredible. Everything about it just completes it into an irresistible, engrossing masterpiece.

The writing style and prose is amazing. It’s one of the first things that I noticed and immediately loved. The author knows how to make the readers anticipate and crave for what’s going to happen next, especially with specific characters. As a result, I feel I like I was holding my breath every chapter. Also, I have to say, there is something so poetic and lyrical with the prose.

The characters, oh the characters. When I say the characters here in She Who Became The Sun are complex, have multiple layers, and do morally-ambiguous actions, but still make us root for them, oh I mean it. I especially loved our two main characters Zhu and Ouyang. These are two very similar and yet different characters, whose entwined fates drive the story forward. I feel so much for Ouyang and his inner battle, and I keep rooting for Zhu and her will to achieve her fate.

Also, now that I am talking about the characters, I want to say that I am so amazed how this book tackled gender identity. Both Zhu and Ouyang are genderqueer, and they both experience gender dysphoria and both struggle internally with the way people see them for their gender and their bodies. There’s something so raw and real about it and I can’t help but feel for them and their struggles/journey. I saw Zhu especially who seemed to have become more comfortable with her body at the end of the book compare to the beginning.

The plot and the politics of it all is so good as well! It’s a little complicated, but not in the way that makes you cluelessly scratch your head. Instead, it’s engrossing and intriguing all throughout. As a reader, it gave me a glimpse of the culture, environment, and the politics in China back in those years. We also see how power and influence works in their society, characters fueled by fate and their desires, as well as gender roles, misogyny, and toxic masculinity.

Overall, She Who Became The Sun is a queer reimagining fantasy novel you do not want to miss. It’s adventurous, it’s lyrical, it’s bold, and it’s riveting from start to finish.

Buy She Who Became The Sun

Amazon | Book Depository | Bookshop | Barnes & Noble


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4 thoughts on “ARC Review: She Who Became The Sun // Irresistible and engrossing

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