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 harsh 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.
Mini audiobook review
Just a few words about this novel that I listened to in audiobook.
First, considering that 3 stars means “I liked it” and that I didn’t like it, I give this one 2 to 2,5 stars.
This rating reflects my personal opinion and not the author’s talent to write.
In fact, that book gets many 5 or 4 stars and I am very happy others loved that story but sorry, I just didn’t.
Let’s begin with the opening of the book.
The first scenes are simply fantastic. I was hoping for something great.
The way the author describes the hunger affecting villagers, how “the girl” dreams of eating some cereals etc painted a very vivid portrait or a very poor asian country where people were dying of hunger.
Also the disappearances of all the girls in the village was telling.
To make it short, I was engrossed and had high hopes for the story.
That hope lived still when Zhu was in the monastery.
I loved reading about her determination, about her plot to stay inside the monastery just to have shelter, protection and food!
And then…something happened.
I can’t pinpoint what exactly but the pacing of the book felt disjointed.
Some battle scenes were over in the blink of an eye while other parts of the story dragged on.
I think what bothered me a lot was that I never realy knew Zhu nor was in her head.
Maybe because she impersonated her brother and tried to be him, without ever knowing who she truly was?
We read that she was determined to survive, then to thrive. That she had a rage to become someone and not “nothing”.
And indeed, her actions did the talking.
But I was never truly in her head.
She also did some morally wrong actions to serve her ambition, staying in character but that gratted my nerves.
Sofia’s review did a better job than me explaining all that bothered her (and that bothered me too). I invite you to go read her review < a href= “https://www.goodreads.com/review/show… review
Sofia is making a parallel with The Poppy War that is very interesting and I do agree with her that it’s troubling but more like a watered down version of RF Kuang’s story.
I too truly loved Ma but I also felt more connection with Ouyan, the eunuch general than with Zhu.
Again, that book gets many 4 and 5 stars review so I clearly am in the minority.
Don’t let my review discourage you and try to make your own opinion.
Last words: the narrator did a great job with that story!
As a third-year Ph.D. candidate, Olive Smith doesn’t believe in lasting romantic relationships–but her best friend does, and that’s what got her into this situation. Convincing Anh that Olive is dating and well on her way to a happily ever after was always going to take more than hand-wavy Jedi mind tricks: Scientists require proof. So, like any self-respecting biologist, Olive panics and kisses the first man she sees.
That man is none other than Adam Carlsen, a young hotshot professor–and well-known ass. Which is why Olive is positively floored when Stanford’s reigning lab tyrant agrees to keep her charade a secret and be her fake boyfriend. But when a big science conference goes haywire, putting Olive’s career on the Bunsen burner, Adam surprises her again with his unyielding support and even more unyielding…six-pack abs.
Suddenly their little experiment feels dangerously close to combustion. And Olive discovers that the only thing more complicated than a hypothesis on love is putting her own heart under the microscope.
Just a few lines as I don’t know what to add to what’s already been said.
Is the hype for that book deserved? Totally.
Do you get a brooding hero, prickly with everyone except with the heroine? Yes.
Is he drop dead gorgeous? Well with his eight packs and dark hair and rare smiles, I’d say yes!
Is the heroine a sweet scientist, totally clueless about her charm and living on her planet alias lab? Yes
Does the heroine has a big heart? Well considering she fake dated Adam so that her best friend didn’t hesitate to date her ex, I’d say yes!
Does the heroine sees herself as asexual? Yes?
Is the whole book platonic or fade to black? For a lonnng time you don’t have action between the sheets but once you do, you’ll need to take a cold shower.
There might be or not a sex scene with something physically impossible though or that at least left me baffled and wondering if it was possible! Did it affect my enjoyment of said scene? No! I still needed a change of clothes after LOL
Is it a slow burn romance? Absolutely. Veeery slow but also veeery charmin, and romantic, and cute and hot and funny and…
Just read it if you love romance, you’ll thank me later!
Thanks for reading!
Yes!!!! I 100000% felt the same way about She Who Became the Sun and I wanted to love it so much but just couldn’t. I felt no connection to Zhu and there was so much telling vs showing that it affected my enjoyment of the story. I will definitely check out the Goodreads review, I think it will be worthwhile especially since I also felt myself comparing this book to The Poppy Wars and found it lacking.
Pfew Vee I am so relieved that I am not the only one, even after that other review! And yes, check Sofia’s review, she truly nailed it!
Yay, so glad you enjoyed The Love Hypothesis. I think I’ve been recommending that one to pretty much everyone I know. 🙂
And you were right Suzanne!!!
I am glad that you enjoyed the Love Hypothesis, I haven’t read it because I am really nervous because its so hyped and I rarely react well to those haha
Maybe try it in a few months without telling anyone before finishing it Renee?? :-))
The hype around The Love Hypothesis is crazy! I know everyone loves it but for whatever reason it just doesn’t call to me. But I’m so glad it was a hit for you! And I’m laughing over your comment about the physically impossible sex scene. LOL
Maybe you’d be surprised Tanya 🙂
I also LOVED The Love Hypothesis, so glad you enjoyed it too and agree wholeheartedly with your review!
Thank you Lindsey!
I don’t read romance but I want to read The Love Hypothesis!
That one is a huge hit Tammy!
I love your review for The Love Hypothesis. I laughed quite a bit. All those observation = total truth
That one was a big hit Sam!
Oh no! I have She Who Became the Sun to read!
Maybe it will work out for you Caro!