Fantasy, Historical Fiction

Review: She Who Became The Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

I have been eagerly anticipating this book, especially when it was compared to Mulan (my favourite Disney movie). After reading The Poppy Wars and falling in love with the series, I was looking forward to something along the same vein.

She Who Became the Sun (The Radiant Emperor, #1) book cover

She Who Became the Sun (The Radiant Emperor, #1)

by Shelley Parker-Chan

Published June 20, 2021 by Tor Books
Series: The Radiant Emperor
ISBN: 1250621801

Data from Goodreads

“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.

Review: Promising Debut But Not A Fave

Rep: LGBTQIA+, Asian 

There are so many things that I enjoyed about this book but equally, there were a few let-downs as well. Unfortunately, this means that I won’t be able to give this book the 5 stars I was hoping.

The Pros: What Worked For Me

  • The writing style was absolutely beautiful. The prose was lyrical and the description of the characters was stunning. I actually enjoyed reading the monologues as it was thoughtful in its analysis on fate and destiny.
  • I really enjoyed how the author brought into question ideas regarding fate and destiny. It gave the story so much depth; this was more than just a quick and fun read!
  • I LOVED how this novel showed the complexity of gender identities – the author created such complex queer characters and it was great to see their growth and development.
  • Zhu is one of my favourite MCs: she has such ambition and tenacity! It was a pleasure to read from her perspective and see her change throughout the story, I liked that Zhu was not your conventional MC; her intelligence and cunning was her biggest asset, and physical prowess is not the focus (which I was SO happy to see!)

The Cons: What I Didn’t Like

  • The story jumps in time … A LOT. This made it difficult for me to feel connected to the story, and created quite a few plot holes,
  • There are 0 battle scenes. I was actually disappointed by this because part of the story is about Zhu using her intelligence to win battles. I don’t want to just hear characters talking about battles, I want to see some of them!
  • Apart from Zhu, all other characters fell flat for me. Ouyang had the potential to be such a complex character and yet, he was so mired in bitterness that he became one-dimensional. In fact, all of the side characters lacked development and I was disappointed by that.
  • This novel was pegged as a historical FANTASY … and yet, there was barely any “magic” in the story. This was a big sore spot for me because I felt misled. The fantasy elements of this story entailed seeing ghosts and the emission of coloured fire. Neither of these points were explained well, nor did they play a significant role in the plot.

Overall, I had high hopes for this story but it let me down on quite a few fronts. I still want to give the sequel a chance because the potential is great, but for now, I’m giving this novel 3 stars!

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1 thought on “Review: She Who Became The Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

  1. I felt a lot of what you felt regarding this book. Ouyang did have soo much potential but his bitterness worked against him. Also feel the same for the magic. There was hardly any to constitute a magical system. Hope the sequel does better

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