Spoiler Free Review: She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan


Title: She Who Became the Sun

Author: Shelley Parker-Chan

Pub. Date: July 20th 2021

Genre: Fantasy/Queer

Format: eGalley

Publisher: TOR Books

Pages: 416 pages

It’s 1345 and China is under Mongol rule. A famine is killing many, leaving villages with nothing in its wake. To be born male is to be deemed of value and families will sacrifice their daughters in exchange for food and safety from bandits. We’re introduced to a boy destined for greatness and his sister who is one of the few (if not the only) girls left in her village. A prophecy is issued and the boy is said to be destined for greatness whereas the girl would amount to “nothingness.” When a bandit attack leaves them orphaned, it’s the girl who takes fate/destiny into her own hands. Taking her brother’s identity, Zhu Chongba begins her journey to greatness. She is 10 years old when she goes to the local monastery with hopes of being allowed entrance as a young novice. She spends several nights at the monasteries gates amongst others who are also trying to gain acceptance, a monastery is said to never go without food. She is beaten and pushed away until eventually she’s the only one left and therefore allowed access. Head shaved and prepubescent, armed with her brother’s identity, Zhu Chongba begins her journey to power. Her ambition and drive will take her to unthinkable heights. For Zhu a life well lived is one of value and accolades, she sees clearly the role that gender plays in politics and uses that insight to rise through the ranks as Zhu Chongba. Driven by purpose, Zhu will stop at nothing to achieve the greatness the prophet once said her brother would attain. 

“Most strong-willed people never understand that will alone isn’t enough to guarantee their survival. They don’t realize that even more so than will, survival depends upon an understanding of people and power.”
― Shelley Parker-Chan

I wasn’t expecting to get lost within the power hungry pages of this book but from the moment I picked it up I was transfixed by our main character. In a famine filled world where everyone is fighting to live one more day, our MC has the innate ability to turn the tides in her favor. Zhu is fiercely determined to make her life mean something by any means necessary. With every connection she makes, she strategically advances towards the top. Her biggest enemy is Ouyang, a Eunuch General who has his own agenda and has targeted Zhu as the only one standing in his way. Shelley Parker-Chan gives us a revenge plot along with themes of destiny, gender, power and the ambition to defy that which your gender has predetermined. These characters are ALL morally grey and multi-faceted, often times I found myself rooting for each of their agendas as cut throat as they were. If you love Historical Fiction and/or intricately written political power plays, this can absolutely be your jam! If you enjoy reading characters that have been discarded and despite all odds rise to the top, then this book will more than tick off the box! This book is violent yet engrossing with its animated war scenes and will leave you in awe of our MC. I simply cannot wait for the next book in The Radiant Emperor series.

Content warnings (as provided by the author):
* Dysphoria
* Pre-existing non-consensual castration
* Misgendering
* Internalised homophobia
* Life-altering injury (amputation)
* Ableist language
* Non-graphic depictions of death by torture
* Major character death
* Offscreen murder of a child
* Scenes depicting extreme hunger/starvation
* Graphic depiction of a person burning to death


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5 thoughts on “Spoiler Free Review: She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan”

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