She Who Became The Sun – Shelley Parker-Chan

There’s a new genre in town and it’s fast becoming my favourite: Queer Epic Historical Fantasy. A few months ago, I got to read and review Sistersong by Lucy Holland, which I love to bits (see my review on Grimdark Magazine here), and now UK Tor/Mantle Books were kind enough to send me an ARC of She Who Became The Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan. As usual all opinions are entirely my own.

Since I was a kid, I tend to pick up historical based novels in order to learn more about the feel of an era. And as I know basically nothing about Chinese history and legends, I couldn’t wait to read this queer retelling. Shelley Parker-Chan does for Chinese legend what Madeline Miller does for Greek mythology. This book is brilliant, and you all need to read it. (And isn’t the black and gold of the ARC stunning? I think I might also have to get both the UK and US finished copies, because both covers are gorgeous)

RELEASE DATE: 22/07/2021

STAR RATING: 5/5 ✶

SUMMARY: In a famine-stricken village on a dusty plain, a seer shows two children their fates. For a family’s eighth-born son, there’s greatness. For the second daughter, nothing.

In 1345, China lies restless under harsh Mongol rule. And when a bandit raid wipes out their home, the two children must somehow survive. Zhu Chongba despairs and gives in. But the girl resolves to overcome her destiny. So she takes her dead brother’s identity and begins her journey. Can Zhu escape what’s written in the stars, as rebellion sweeps the land? Or can she claim her brother’s greatness – and rise as high as she can dream? (from Mantle Books)

OPINIONS: So I finished She Who Became The Sun, and immediately wanted to read it again. It is a brilliant book, both in terms of content and writing. I really am falling for this new trend of queer historical epic fantasy, it is everything I want in a book. If you loved Disney’s Mulan as a kid and now you want to recapture what you loved about it, this is the book for you – the grown up version based on history. Zhu Chongba is the Mulan equivalent, but they are ambitious, ruthless and smart.

Zhu takes her brother’s name after his death, and becomes a monk, and a politically important person over time, thanks to their tactical prowess. They are the kind of character that, as a reader, you don’t know whether to love or hate. Ma, the wife, the only person who knows that Zhu was born a woman, is probably the only “good” character in the story. She is a cinnamon roll and I just wanted to hug and protect her. Together, they make a brilliant power couple, challenging each other and becoming powerful.

There are few books that I had such visceral emotional reactions to. Shelley Parker-Chan is definitely a writer to watch out for – her debut is brilliant, and I can’t wait to read more of their writing. Plot: compelling. Characters: strong and evoking emotional reactions. Writing: beautiful and poetic. She Who Became The Sun is a must read.

Add She Who Became The Sun to your Goodreads here, and pre-order a copy from Bookshop here (affiliate link).

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