Reviews

She Who Became the Sun, by Shelley Parker-Chan

livi_reads_stuff's review against another edition

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adventurous medium-paced

4.25

actualhouseplant's review against another edition

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adventurous tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0

allison28's review against another edition

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3.0

I wish I could like this book more than I do. But there was genuinely no motivation for the main character to aspire to greatness after she
Spoiler found out she wasn’t fated to death by the heavens. She had no reason to wish to rule or to fight in the war. She wasn’t fighting for a cause and her motivation seemed flimsy.

maiathemagical's review against another edition

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adventurous medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.5

In Shelley Parker-Chan's debut novel an orphaned girl from an impoverished village decides to take on her dead brother's name and claim his fate. The book is an exploration of power, identity, and masculinity wrapped in some rather enjoyable layers of political intrigue and warfare. I found the characters to be interesting and reasonably well developed, and the book went by quickly in a few medium-length reading sessions. While She Who Became the Sun didn't lead me to any huge personal revelations, nor is it the best piece of historical fantasy I've ever read, it was enjoyable to read a well written (and queer!) re-imagining of an interesting period of post-classical Chinese history.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention there's a
Spoilerlesbian fisting
scene, and it's kind of weird. I don't think I particularly like the way the author writes about sex, based on the couple of times it's come up.

kcs1993's review against another edition

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adventurous challenging emotional hopeful sad fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

4.5

bryony's review against another edition

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adventurous tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.5

hilloftara's review against another edition

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1.0

I preordered this, I was so excited! But it wasn't worth it, the story was boring, it felt like a lecture. The time jumps were weird, the many point of views unexpected and seemed entirely unnecessary. I also didn't like that we didn't see the main character become who she was, it's glossed over, she becomes a clever strategist without us being along to see it. She also had absolutely no personality.

I really disliked this book. It felt like a waste of time.

It was a retelling but apart from LGBTQ representation (which I did like) there was very little creativity or real novelization.

It contained huge amounts of useless info, cultural info that was never used again, planning that amounts to nothing, planning you're not allowed to know where you wish you did.

All in all this book was a massive disappointment and I will not be reading the second book.

Only Ma and the Abbot were interesting but not nearly fleshed out enough.

levendir1021's review against another edition

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4.0

3.5/5

Would you take an injured fox to your breast and not expect a bite?

I might have given this book an extra 0.25-0.5 stars because it is a debut novel and I have very high hopes for the future works of Shelly Parker Chan.
Edit: In hindsight, I most certainly have given this book an extra 0.5 stars because it is a debut novel.

While I do have mixed feelings about a few aspects of She Who became The Sun, I mostly enjoyed this book and its themes very much. However, this book is split into two storylines, and I prefer one significantly over the other.

We follow Zhu who is told that in her life she would end up being nothing and decides to take up her brother’s fate after he dies having been prophesied a life of greatness. She pretends to be a boy to be trained at a monastery, which is where the Mulan comparison comes in (the comparisons that have been made during the marketing campaign were, honestly, bad. This book has nothing of The Song of Achilles but the thing that really got me was the comparison to the Untamed. The only thing this book shares with The Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation is its Chinese inspired setting. Please do not go in expecting any of the romance elements that are central to those two books). Eventually, events unfold and she fights for her fate in the real world.
At the same time, we follow Ouyang, a eunuch general driven by vengeance and humiliation, who as a native Chinese man, serves and fights for the Mongols, who are currently ruling most of the land. He has been close friends with the prince of a Mongol warlord and their relationship is complex, to say the least.

While both characters are ruthless and very clearly not written to be heroes or even likeable, I found Ouyang’s storyline to be a lot more compelling. Even though both do things that make you want to scream at them, I couldn't help myself and ask - But why? – so often when it came to Zhu. She is obsessed with her fate and somehow seems to only see one way to get to her goal. She certainly doesn’t treat Ma much better than any of the people before her had, though it seems that that relationship is supposed to make her a bit more likeable? We do get to see Ouyang reflect, struggle and feel a lot more than her, also his relationships feel a lot better developed than hers and I am not under the impression that that imbalance was intentional. Everyone seems more human than Zhu, which is odd since she is the protagonist and we see her go through a lot but by the end, her relationships feel emptier than before, for example: what happened to Xu Da by the end? I hope the next book will take up these characters again because I really became attached to them.

The prose in this book shows so much potential, there were passages that truly stunned me because of how well written pr beautiful they were but also some that kind of fell flat for me. Descriptions that really gripped me and then others were all I could think: wait where are we now?
Often I just wanted more. As a character-driven reader, I can never get enough time with our characters. At times this was superbly done, I want to point at Ouyang here again. I think the main difference was that we had a lot more time to get to know him while we had a lot more ground to cover plot-wise with Zhu. Also, sometimes Zhu just knows how to do things and we have no idea if it was just luck or planned. The landslide, for example, was that just her trusting her fate or did she actually have a plan?

I love how Parker-Chan deals with the concepts of gender in this book though. It felt very new and like something that hasn’t been explored like this while fitting very smoothly into the plot. And as someone who has studied Chinese history, the approach to loosely retells a part of Chinese history is something I am still extremely excited about!

Overall, even though the book has some flaws and is by far not perfect, the story was gripping, and I am very much excited to pick up the next book as soon as it comes out.

wintersorbit's review against another edition

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5.0

This was arguably my most anticipated release of the year and boy did it deliver! I have some minor nitpicks, but ultimately I'm so impressed with the massive tale that Parker-Chan condensed into this novel. The novel's exploration of queerness, and especially genderqueerness, rings so incredibly true. This book is a Chinese historical re-imagining with a hint of fantasy, but it also combines the scale of epic fantasy with the intimate, emotional character exploration that typically belongs to fanfiction (which the author has written their fair share of, I loved listening to them talk about it in this interview.

frogpond_'s review against another edition

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adventurous dark tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.5