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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June 2021 Reading Wrap-Up

Who else is falling short of TBR goals simply because you’re having one HOT person summer?!?! Well June threw a wrench in my reading goals in the best of ways so there’s no complaining here but I am back on track with my July Possibility Pile. I only read 4 books in June but they were quality reads (one of them is a bit iffy as the days go by lol) I traveled with and enjoyed. I haven’t really been in the Fantasy reading mood lately, leaning instead into Romance & Contemporary Fiction. That being said (Ha!), this weekend during my post work-out soak I started She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan (The Radiant Emperor #1) & already I’m MIND BLOWN (hits shelves 7/20/21) by the vivid imagery and the main character’s self awareness. Drop some love down below in the comment box with what you’re currently reading/watching/listening to ❤ ❤ ❤

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Dial A For Aunties by Jesse Q Sutanto – ✨3.5 𝓢𝓽𝓪𝓻𝓼✨If you can manage to suspend all disbelief, Dial A for Aunties will take you on a WILD hilarious ride! I listened to the audiobook on Librofm and I’m so glad I did, the narrator did such a phenomenal job of making this family feel real. We follow Meddelin Chan who goes on a blind date & somehow accidentally ends up killing her date. When she calls her mom freaking out, her mom calls in the Aunties who quickly come to help cover up & hide the body. Meddelin and her family all are in the family business of weddings & they end up concealing the body on the island where the wedding is taking place. This is a romantic comedy that is laugh out loud & over the top! What I loved? the beautiful descriptions of Chinese-Indonesian culture specifically wedding traditions. Also, the amazing support this family offers one another to ensure they’re all successful in their family business. Lastly, the AUNTIES!!! their in-fightings had me chuckling and shaking my head on more than one occasion. Overall a good time!

Survive the Night by Riley Sager – ✨3 𝓢𝓽𝓪𝓻𝓼✨ Unlike many of my friends who’ve read all of Sager’s backlist, this is only my second read by this author. It’s undeniably a page turner with a unreliable narrator. It has a very dreamlike feel that makes you wonder if the narrator really is hallucinating. I’ve changed my rating several times since reading it & not for the better, it sits at 3 stars because I couldn’t detach from it and ended up binge reading. Would you get in a car with a perfect stranger all the while knowing a campus killer is on the loose? Our MC Charlie is trying to leave campus for good after the murder of her roommate. A chance meeting at the campus ride board leads her to Josh Baxter. Josh who is on his way to care for his sick father and offers Charlie a ride. Set mostly in the car on dark roads, this story will have you flipping pages into the night. Charlie is an unreliable narrator & things get interesting when she begins to think she’s in the car with her roommates killer. It’s a game of cat and mouse that plays throughout the night and you really start to fear for Charlie. The problem is, some pieces don’t fit no matter how you try to make them and doing so will make the writing seem forced…that’s how I felt about the way all was wrapped up.

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid – (My Review) ✨4 𝓢𝓽𝓪𝓻𝓼✨This book hit on a more personal level for me, it didn’t dethrone TJR’s The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo but it does hold a special place in my heart. Overall, this is a story of childhood/sibling trauma and breaking free from the toxic cycles as adults. I love books that remind us how perfectly imperfect we can be, especially when you’re a parent because so often that role is one to look up to. When you fall from that pedestal you’ve been placed on, how you get back up or don’t…can possibly affect your children later on down the road. Nina (the oldest) in some ways was repeating relationship patterns her mother got caught up in. This story is told in past & present tense, in the past we follow Mick Riva and his wife as they struggle through infidelity and drug/alcohol abuse. In the present, it’s all about the Riva kids who are famous because of their father and are hosting their yearly party. Over the course of 24 hours we see them deal with their personal relationships & demons. I docked it one star because of the climax and how much I didn’t really care for it…that is to say, the party itself was just not it for me. it only detracted from what I really cared about and that is the characters themselves. For the most part we see Nina’s character development and then it’s surface level with the other siblings. I’m hoping we get a book following Kit who intrigued me so much! *fingers crossed*

Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé – (My Review) ✨5 𝓢𝓽𝓪𝓻𝓼✨Save the best for last! One of the better debuts I’ve read this year, I honestly couldn’t put it down! This year has been really hard for me to find YA I enjoy which has me being way more selective with what I pick up. Ace of Spades had a little of Gossip Girl mixed with Jordan Peele’s Get Out mixed with Alyssa Cole’s When No One is Watching, check out my recent review in the link above.

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*Confession* I binged all 5 seasons of Workin’ Moms in 48 hours SMH #NOREGRETS I FELT SEEN! LMAO! The title really does say it all, we follow these four ladies as they juggle life with being modern career women. They all have such different approaches that it makes for a very unlikely group of friends but also, I think that’s what makes it work. Everything from marriage to raising tweens and having healthy supportive female friendships is explored. I had a GREAT time, laughed a whole lot and also shed some tears along the way. Come on season 6! 

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PIXAR! why do you always leave me ballin’ my eyes out?!?! Luca and Alberto’s friendship really is top tier, I was smitten with their adventures on land. We follow these two sea monsters as they explore a fishing village that doesn’t like and actually hunts sea monsters for cash rewards. This is a story of acceptance and being judged by those who fear what you are. Disney has received some backlash for Queer baiting as many (including myself) wondered if there was more to Luca & Alberto. Regardless of what was intended, I found their human connection to be beautiful and a story that everyone can appreciate.


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