She who became the sun

Shelley Parker-Chan

Book - 2021

"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 h...arsh 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"--

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FICTION/Parker-Chan, Shelley
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1st Floor FICTION/Parker-Chan, Shelley Due Jun 25, 2023
1st Floor FICTION/Parker-Chan, Shelley Due Jun 22, 2023
Fantasy fiction
New York, NY : Tor [2021]
First U.S. edition
Item Description
A Tom Doherty Associates book.
Physical Description
414 pages : map ; 22 cm
Main Author
Shelley Parker-Chan (author)
Review by Booklist Review

The first in a new, epic high-fantasy series, She Who Became the Sun begins with a young, stubborn second daughter who decides to trick fate by stealing her brother's identity. She was fated to nothingness, her brother to greatness, but now she survives under his identity as Zhu Chongba, a male novice at a monastery. As she enters adulthood a strong, capable, and cunning youth, she realizes she is no longer content simply to trick fate out of killing her. She wants to achieve greatness. Zhu strides into a world of rebellion against the Mongol leaders who have long been in power, and whose troops are led by a eunuch general with a piercing desire of his own. Parker-Chan's novel is an epic tale of the power of desire, the role of free will in deciding a person's fate, and the twisting machinations of power. Zhu is a powerful queer anti-hero, her means sometimes questionable, her desire overflowing. The side characters in her story and the plots and betrayals that swirl around the book's events are themselves intensely compelling, but it is Zhu's strength of will and passion that give this novel its spark.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Parker-Chan's fascinating debut, the first in the Radiant Emperor duology, gives the historical Red Turban Rebellion a grimdark fantasy twist. After bandits kill Zhu Chongba's father in 14th-century China, Zhu dies of grief without ever having fulfilled the destined greatness that was foreseen at his birth. Instead, his purposefully never-named sister takes on her brother's identity--and his fate. The new Zhu's tenacious will to survive and desire for glory leads her to become first a Buddhist monk, then a commander in the rebel army attempting to overthrow Mongol rule of China--and results in continual clashes with an antagonist to whom her fate is inexorably intertwined: the eunuch General Ouyang. For his part, Ouyang is not about to let a no-name monk distract him from a revenge plot a lifetime in the making, leading to a Machiavellian series of bargains and battles between the two. Though Parker-Chan's unrelentingly grim view of humanity bogs down the middle of the novel, her nuanced exploration of gender identity and striking meditation on bodily autonomy set this fantasy apart. Fans of Asian-influenced fantasy have just been given their newest obsession. Agent: Laura Rennert, Andrea Brown Literary. (July)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by Library Journal Review

DEBUT An imaginative retelling of the life of the founder of the Ming Dynasty. In Mongol-ruled China in 1345, the Zhu family lives in harsh and impoverished conditions. When the young eighth son Zhu Chongba is told his fate lies in greatness, no one knows what to think of it. Yet when bandits make orphans of him and his sister, it is the second Zhu daughter, fated with nothingness, who survives. With nothing to hold her back, she takes her brother's identity and becomes a novice monk, hoping to survive her fate. As the years pass, the daughter now known as Zhu Chongba realizes that she may also be able to take her brother's fate of greatness; with will and intelligence, she soon proves adept at doing whatever she must. When her monastery is burned for supporting a rebellion against Mongol rule, Zhu throws herself into her brother's path for greatness. The characters are bold and complex in this story of fealty, family, and self. Epic worldbuilding, high action, and ruthless shades of love and desire make the tale at turns tragic and inspiring. VERDICT Parker-Chan's debut is forceful, immersive, and unforgettable. This inspired queer retelling of Chinese history is an exciting read.--Kristi Chadwick, Massachusetts Lib. Syst., Northampton

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by School Library Journal Review

On his 12th birthday, a fortune teller tells Zhu Chongba his fate--untold greatness. When his sister sneaks back to hear her fate, she is told it is "nothing." When Chongba and their father die shortly after, his sister decides to tempt the heavens and claim her brother's identity and fate as her own. Concealing her gender, she joins a monastery, and then the Red Turban rebellion, rising from front line soldier to leader. As a novice, and then as a rebel, she repeatedly meets and clashes with the Yuan General Ouyang, a eunuch, who has his own plans and schemes separate from the rebels and the ruling forces. A genderbent, queer, light retelling of the fall of the Yuan Dynasty and the life of the first Ming Emperor (real-life Zhu Chongba, 1328--1398) is full of sweeping storytelling, gripping plot, and epic worldbuilding and doesn't require a prior knowledge of the history covered. Parker-Chan populates her tale with characters constantly caught against expectations and societal structures who each have their own way of fighting to survive and thrive in a world that rejects them and their desires. Teens will have much to relate to and think about, especially in Chongba's shockingly hard-nosed choices, and Ouyang's reflections on the futility of revenge. VERDICT An exciting and thought-provoking epic will have readers breathless and waiting for the next installment.--Jennifer Rothschild, Arlington Cty. P.L., VA

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.