She Who Became The Sun Review

She Who Became The Sun Review | Shelley Parker-Chan

The synopsis for this one caught my eye. I know nothing about the Ming Dynasty, and the premise is intriguing. I’d heard enough that my interest was piqued. A gripping and compelling tale with powerful writing complementing an intricate plot: here’s my full review on She Who Became The Sun.

Publisher: Pan MacMillan | Date: 2021 | Genre: Fantasy

Plot: 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.

I received She Who Became The Sun from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

She Who Became The Sun Review

She Who Became The Sun Review

She Who Became The Sun is a masterpiece in showcasing the power of good writing. It takes skill to create selfish characters unafraid of crushing enemies and friends alike – and make you like them! You’ve no idea who you want to win in this complicated web of politics and vengeance.


This is a character-driven book, with the focus on two main characters and how far they’ll go. They’re not heroes though; they’ll do anything to reach their endgame.

Zhu Chongba has a fate. One he’s trying to avoid, and one he’s trying to fulfil. He’ll go through anyone to get what he wants. But you’re on his side: he inspires loyalty and you want him to achieve his goals.

Ouyang has a blood-dept to repay: avenging his murdered family. While Zhu’s emotions remain hidden, Ouyang’s are so raw and vulnerable you want to shield him from the world, even as he takes his revenge on it. There’s no line he won’t cross, but you feel each of those agonised decisions along with him.

Both characters go down dark and twisted paths. But you somehow like them both, and I couldn’t decide who should win, just because I didn’t want either to lose!

If you want a fate other than what Heaven gave you, you have to want that other fate. You have to struggle for it. Suffer for it.

She Who Became The Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan


It’s the writing that makes this book work. It’s a twisted tale of politics, battles and ever-changing loyalties. I found some of the concepts a touch abstract, and got lost in the details more than once (the only reason this isn’t a 5* read from me).

But this a book where, realistically, you shouldn’t like either of the main characters. It shouldn’t work. Yet it does. You get swept into this world where power is everything and fulfilling one’s destiny takes you into the unknown.  The writing draws you into the world, and positions you clearly alongside the main characters.


The pacing felt a little slow at times. There’s a consistent tension throughout, and although it peaks at times, there’s not much change in pace regardless of what is happening.

The battles are on the side-lines – you’re rarely among the action. Instead, you’re holding court: a lot of names and personal goals come in quick succession, which can make your head spin. There were times where I struggled keeping up with who was who.

It works though; the slower pace keeps you invested in the characters. Understanding the depth of their desires is what makes them so likeable.

Final Thoughts

A thoroughly enjoyable book! A little long-winded in places, with some of the detail making me lose the overall picture of what was going on. But I couldn’t put it down, sometimes with a horrified fascination of just how far these characters would go. A definite recommendation for this one!

Does this sound like something for your TBR pile? Or maybe you’ve already read it – what did you think?

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14 thoughts on “She Who Became The Sun Review | Shelley Parker-Chan

  1. I don’t know much about the Mongol period but I love the sound of this book. Shades of Twelfth Night with a girl disguised as a boy, and I’m very much on board with the concept of such a strong protagonist. And yes, that’s some writing to make you root for an unlikeable lead! Great review, Lindsey, thank you 🙂

    Lisa |


  2. Would’ve never thought it would be a read I’d be interested in, but this was a stellar review. Thank you for sharing & I will be sure to check it out.


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