She Who Became the Sun

hardcover, 416 pages

Published July 19, 2021 by Tor Books.


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4 stars (8 reviews)

To possess the Mandate of Heaven, the female monk Zhu will do anything

Mulan meets The Song of Achilles in 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.

"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 …

4 editions

A sweeping tale

4 stars

I find it difficult to rate this one because - while it doesn't end on a cliffhanger - it clearly is the first part of a longer story. I loved the scale - both geographic and chronological - of the story. It starts with Zhu in her village, starving, leads to her coming of age in the monastery and continues on with her military and political rise. The characterisations are well done and we get insights into their thinking and motivations. Zhu's development regarding ethical behaviour was a little predictable but not unrealistic. Lately, I've also found myself thinking about having a fate or choosing a fate while reading a different book. I'm looking forward to the sequel.

Epic in every sense

5 stars

I love this book for being an alternate history that's not fixated on Hitler. I love it for how carefully it weaves its fantasy into the real history it's anchored in - enough so that as soon as I finished reading it I had to read up on the actual Red Turban rebellion and see how many of the characters were close adaptations. I love it for how much desperate, furious, and yes sometimes joyous life its main characters have. I love it for how viscerally it evokes some incredibly hard times (though be warned, it's a heavy read because of that). I love it for how utterly unsympathetic all the "big people" are.

Around the middle of the book the weight of Fate on both the plot and multiple characters' obsessions started to feel stifling, but the more the narrator complicated that idea the more this stopped being a …


5 stars

This was amazing. I had not heard of this book until it was nominated for the Hugo Award, and as a Hugo voter this year, I am trying to read as many of the finalists as I can. This looked like a book that I would not normally enjoy, but I gave it a shot.

Wow! This is one of the most enjoyable novels I've read in quite some time. Parker-Chan addresses gender identity in a unique way that offers insights for the present day, despite the book being placed in 1345. The evolution of the actions Zhu will take to claim her fate are a fantastic lens through which we can see the character changing. While this book is classified as fantasy, the fantasy elements are minimal, and mostly understated. This book is part 1 of a duology, but it has a satisfying conclusion. Having said that, I will …