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She Who Became the Sun

(The Radiant Emperor #1)

4.36  ·  Rating details ·  380 ratings  ·  301 reviews
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
Kindle Edition, 416 pages
Expected publication: July 20th 2021 by Tor Books
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Shelley Parker-Chan Hopefully you don’t mind if I answer this one! There are two storylines, and each storyline has a genderqueer protagonist: one is assigned female at b…moreHopefully you don’t mind if I answer this one! There are two storylines, and each storyline has a genderqueer protagonist: one is assigned female at birth (but doesn’t identify as female), and the other is assigned male at birth and identifies as male (but is a eunuch with a gender nonconforming appearance). The AFAB character has a relationship with a woman, and the AMAB character has a relationship with a man.(less)

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Average rating 4.36  · 
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chai ♡
Mulan meets The Song of Achilles

me, vibrating at the rate of a jack hammer: I am only moderately excited about this book

Feb 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing
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ARC provided by the publisher—Tor Books—in exchange for an honest review.

4.5/5 stars

She Who Became the Sun has the bravery to pitch itself as The Song of Achilles meets Mulan and actually live up to it.

If you’re active on bookish social media, you should know that She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan is one of the two most hyped books published by Tor Books this year; the other one being The Blacktongue Thie
Apr 05, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
forget ‘the song of achilles’ comparison you just read in the synopsis/publisher pitch. just pretend you never saw it because it will be doing you a disservice. this is not that kind of book.

this is more similar to ‘the poppy war.’ its a dark, brutal, unforgiving tale about characters who will do whatever they can in order the achieve what they believe is their fate.

there is no soft, wholesome love in these pages. there are antiheroes who use people and connections in order to serve their purp
Jan 26, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arcs, love
↠ 4.5 stars

This was pitched as Mulan meets The Song of Achilles, and it was that and so much more. A glorious epic in every sense of the word. Fate is a tricky thing, and after hearing a fortune teller give reference to her brother's destiny for greatness, the girl expects to hear very much the same. However, her own destiny is revealed to be just that: nothing. While her brother is fated to rise up and leave his mark upon the world, she is expected to fade from view, unremembered. Starving and
may ➹
4.5 stars

well....... now I know why this is compared to The Song of Achilles

Althea | themoonwholistens ☾
Dec 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: dark and intense adult epic high fantasy
✧ you can find this review and more on my blog

This is the queer epic fantasy we all needed.

Before reading, I didn’t know what exactly to expect with “Mulan meets The Song of Achilles” but it is just that, while being so painfully aware of it’s own setting that reminds me more of The Poppy War with its brutal nature. Accompanied by a unique perspective, charming yet complex cast, lyrical prose, and immersive writing style that hits all the right emotions.

— overall thoughts: 4.5 —
content warni
katie ☾
i am utterly broken, but this was the easiest five stars i've ever given.

This was probably my most anticipated read of 2021, and I was bitterly disappointed.

She Who Became the Sun reminds me of Mulan and The Poppy War, with none of the humor of the former and none of the weight of the latter. Zhu was like Rin, if Rin had less ambition and less personality. There were two characters named Chaghan and Altan, which reminded me of TPW. And a certain character lost a hand, just like in that series... But maybe I'm looking too much into it.

The only character I liked was
Rebecca Roanhorse
Feb 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
An absolute stunner. Move this to the top of your TBR pile and buckle up. First, a note about the comps. Comps are funny things, and the industry loves them, and some readers love them, too, but I'm not sure the comps on this one (Mulan and Song of Achilles) do this book justice. Yes, there's a girl who disguises herself as a boy and becomes a general but not out of duty or honor or any of that noble but somewhat boring motivations. She does it because she covets. She wants. She sees a destiny m ...more
Ellie (faerieontheshelf)
She Who Became the Sun is one of my Top 5 Anticipated Releases of 2021, and the first of those 5 that I've read. And I'm utterly delighted that it did not disappoint at all.

A historical retelling that follows a lowly girl as she steals her brother's name and illustrious fate to rise from peasant to monk to military commander (and in the sequel, emperor), it is a book that shines with Zhu's desire for the fate of greatness.

full rtc to come when it's not 2am.

(will say I'm not entirely sold on t
Dec 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
When she hears a fortune teller promise her brother a life of greatness, ‘the girl’ is desperate to hear her own fate. Begging for a reading, she receives a terrible answer: nothing. Unnamed and unwanted, she is to disappear without a trace, no mark left upon this world. Until an unexpected tragedy opens the possibility of something more. In that moment, the girl with no future decides to seize her brother’s… along with his identity. But how long can she fool Heaven into thinking she’s the one w ...more
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Actual Rating: 3.5 Stars

“The body became used to exercise, particular sounds and sensations, or even physical pain. But it was strange how shame was something you never became inured to: each time hurt just as much as the first.”

So this book is marketed as Mulan meets The Song of Achilles and as soon as I saw that, there was no way I was not gonna read it. Those literally are one of my favorite animation movies as a kid and one
3.5 stars

History, gay romance, ambition, war, backstabbing and dead people everywhere 💀

This book was so elaborate, so complex, with exceptional historical representation and I’m shocked this is a debut. The talent™!
The choice of putting these characters with contrasting personalities together was also very smart: I mean, a prince loved by everyone and a broody introverted general? That’s an easy win. A cold-hearted sarcastic resolute monk and a kind altruistic maternal woman? No need to say more
Mulan meets Song of Achilles.

Thank you so much for the ARC, Tor!!!

I am extremely excited to start this one.

Spoiler Alert: I will not be waiting until July.
Alix Harrow
Jul 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
well, shit.

gorgeous writing, aching tragedy, acres of yearning, miles of ambition, true histories mixed with true magic--this book wrecked me and it will wreck you too.
Jenny Lawson
May 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is a longer sort of read and it had SO MANY characters, which I usually find very confusing, but I was super invested and it was totally worth the work. Fascinating characters and wonderful world-building.
/ / Read more reviews on my blog / /

This book OBLITERATED me 🙃

Desire is the cause of all suffering. All Zhu had ever desired was to live. Now she felt the pure strength of that desire inside her, as inseparable as her breath or qi, and knew she would suffer from it. She couldn’t even begin to imagine the awful magnitude of the suffering that would be required to achieve greatness in the chaotic, violent world outside.”

While I can see why She Who Became the Sun has drawn comparisons to Mulan (
Jan 04, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2021, lgbtq
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Shelley Parker-Chan
Oct 08, 2020 added it  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
Hello friends, this contains (spoilery) content warnings for SHE WHO BECAME THE SUN.

SHE WHO BECAME THE SUN is a book about gender identity (amongst other things). While the two genderqueer protagonists reflect aspects of my own experiences of genderqueerness, this doesn't mean these perspectives are necessarily affirming to any other LGBTQIA+ identifying persons. Please read the warnings if you're concerned, and take care of yourselves.

Most violence occurs offscreen, and the level of depicted bl
CW (The Quiet Pond) ✨
When I finished this book, I just laid on the floor and just felt gravity and the implications of this book's ending crush my bones to dust.

Because! uh! WOAHHHHHH.

- In this reimagining of the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty, this story follows a girl, who is destined for nothingness, who takes her brother's destiny of greatness, and her ascension and rise to power.
- This book is... heavy, in the way that if you love heavy and intense books, you'll love this. If you love detailed historical
Feb 11, 2021 rated it really liked it
It is 4 AM. My 1 remaining brain cell and I will head to bed and regroup in the (later) morning for my preliminary review.
Anna Stephens
May 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I can't believe this book isn't out until next year, because YOU ALL NEED TO READ IT. Complex and realistic, beautifully realised, it tells of various characters' plans and schemes to get what they want - no matter the cost.
The characters themselves are complicated and messy, driven by their desires to achieve their ends despite the pain it causes themselves and others. It's fair to say they're nearly all terrible people doing terrible things, but Parker-Chan manages to make you not just root f
She Who Became The Sun is the stunning debut novel and the first of the The Radiant Emperor duology by Shelley Parker-Chan, and what a way to start. With such an interesting premise and pitch - Song of Achilles x Mulan, this easily became my most anticipated read of 2021 and it did not disappoint.

Set in the 1350s Ancient China, SWBTS is a genderqueer reimagining of the life of Zhu YuanZhang, the rebel leader who helped bring an end to the Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty, and later on established the Min
Will be writing a full-length review on this soon because holy crap, this book knocked my socks off. The sheer happiness that I feel right now at one of my 2021 most-anticipated releases meeting my expectations and then some is UNPARALLELED.

In the meantime, my favorite things about this book are:
➽ Genderqueer protagonists with incredibly nuanced explorations of their identity
➽ A cold-as-ice general yearning for the prince he serves
➽ War tactics aplenty
➽ Protagonist who starts out genuinely wanti
Dec 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy_2020
4.75 stars

She Who Became the Sun is a stunning debut filled with charming characters, a fantastic and visceral historical setting with a fantastical twist and complex nuanced politics. We follow 4 main characters:

Zhu – Zhu is such a delightful character to follow, she strikes the perfect balance of cheeky, driven and resourceful. She is also very interesting study on gender, I believe she is non-binary, the author uses she/her pronouns when narrating but Zhu often refers to herself as he and ha
ness ♡︎
Feb 28, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arcs, favorites
[arc provided by the publisher]

she who became the sun is a masterfully crafted reimagining of the rise of the rebel leader—and the founding emperor of the ming dynasty—zhu yuanzhang to power in 14th century china. the story follows two captivating and prominent characters on opposite sides of the spectrum. although this book is based on historical events and figures, the author’s creativity in creating a whole new unique world is stamped upon every page.

it may not come as a surprise to some that
Feb 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing
CWs: violence, mass murder, mentions of death by torture, off-page murder of a child, amputation, scenes of extreme hunger/starvation, gender dysphoria, misgendering, ableist language, homophobia

Rep: Chinese/Mongolian cast, genderqueer sapphic MC, genderqueer gay MC, wlw side character, mlm side character

4.5 ⭐

I’m so full of feelings right now! This book just blew me away and I barely have the words to capture its beauty but I’m going to do my best.

She Who Became the Sun is a historical epic s
Cassidy Washburn
That... that was f*cking amazing

As I turned the final page of this book, I wondered to myself how I was possibly going to put into words my love for this novel. She Who Became the Sun is a politically driven alternate history about the rise of the first emperor of the Ming dynasty. It features some of the most morally gray characters I have ever read in literature, of which their actions and relationships had me constantly turning the page. It is a bold voice for the LGBTQ+ community. Absolute p
♠ Tabi⁷ ♠



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Shelley Parker-Chan (she/they) is an Asian-Australian former diplomat and international development adviser who spent nearly a decade working on human rights, gender equality and LGBT rights in Southeast Asia. Named after the Romantic poet, she was raised on a steady diet of Greek myths, Arthurian legend and Chinese tales of suffering and tragic romance. Her writing owes more than a little to all ...more

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“I can do this. I can learn. I can survive.” 1 likes
“She was always going to be expelled into that world of chaos and violence—of greatness and nothingness.” 0 likes
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