I am delighted to share my review today for She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker – Chan. This is the first book in The Radiant Emperor series and ios set in China in1345. It is a reimagined story from history and I adored this a lot. My thanks to Pan Macmillan and Mantle Books for accepting my request to review this title via NetGalley.
She’ll change the world to survive her fate . . .
In Mongol-occupied imperial China, a peasant girl refuses her fate of an early death. Stealing her dead brother’s identity to survive, she rises from monk to soldier, then to rebel commander. Zhu’s pursuing the destiny her brother somehow failed to attain: greatness. But all the while, she feels Heaven is watching.
Can anyone fool Heaven indefinitely, escaping what’s written in the stars? Or can Zhu claim her own future, burn all the rules and rise as high as she can dream?
She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan is a re-imagining of the rise to power of Zhu Yuanzhang. Zhu was the peasant rebel who expelled the Mongols, unified China under native rule, and became the founding Emperor of the Ming Dynasty.
The synopsis for this book mentions how it is based on Zhu Yuanzhang, a peasant born in 1328 who led the rebels who brought the end of Mongolian rule in China. This story is a reimagining or alternative version of Zhu and the rise to power.
So how is this reimagining? A young peasant girl decides she wants to live, she doesn’t want to be nothing, she wants to be something. In fact, she wants greatness and for all to know her name. The only way this can happen is she takes on the identity of her dead brother Zhu.
Set in the 1300s this is a story that I absolutely loved. I really like the idea of a woman having the nerve to rise to power especially in a time when women have no power or status, are possession and should bear the next generation of sons. Having a character that has the temerity and the nerve to make her own way in this male-dominated world was great.
As this is a reimagining of a historical period, it means the book falls into a category of historical fantasy, and to a point yes it is fantasy but it is also fabulous reading for those who love historical fiction. AS soon as I started this book and read the first couple of sentences I knew I was going to enjoy reading it. Those opening lines were ideal for drawing me in.
As this is set in the 1300s there is a lot of turmoil in the Mongolian/ Chinese areas, under the Khanate, Mongolia wanted to extend its reach and the size of the kingdom. China was a country that has had a lot of turbulent times, Mongolian rule is just one of those times.
The author created a fabulous set of characters who all have their own desires, some more honest than others but very few I would call trustworthy. The middle ages are about power, land, resources, armies, feuds and dominance. Sides and allegiances can be swapped in a blink of an eye. Families are even worse.
I did like that the author decided to choose a female to be the main protagonist, especially when women hold such a low status in this era. I really enjoyed following the journey from peasant girl to a monk and then the story that followed.
I adored everything about this book, it was also incredibly difficult to put down once I had started it. As this is the first book in The Radiant Emporer, I will be looking forward to continuing the story of Zhu in the next book.
I liked this a huge amount and it is one I would definitely recommend.
Many thanks for reading my review, a like or share would be amazing 🙂 xx