She Who Became the Sun

Tor. Jul. 2021. 416p. ISBN 9781250621801. $27.99. FANTASY
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.
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