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She Who Became the Sun Paperback – July 20 2021

4.3 out of 5 stars 2,984 ratings

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Praise for She Who Became the Sun

“The characters are bold and complex in this story of fealty, family, and self. Epic worldbuilding, high action, and ruthless shades of love and desire make the tale at turns tragic and inspiring... Parker-Chan’s debut is forceful, immersive, and unforgettable. This inspired queer retelling of Chinese history is an exciting read.” ―
Library Journal, starred review

“Parker-Chan’s gorgeous writing accompanies a vibrantly rendered world full of imperfect, fascinating characters. With every turn of the page, the book offers a new set piece, a new revelation, a new horror.... If you’re a fan of epic fantasy, you can’t miss this one.”―
BookPage, starred review

“Parker-Chan’s novel is an epic tale of the power of desire, the role of free will in deciding a person’s fate, and the twisting machinations of power. Zhu is a powerful queer anti-hero, her means sometimes questionable, her desire overflowing.... The plots and betrayals that swirl around the book’s events are themselves intensely compelling, but it is Zhu’s strength of will and passion that give this novel its spark.”―
Booklist, starred review

“In the book’s opening chapters, Parker-Chan masterfully balances poetry and tension, keeping the reader flying through the pages as they watch Zhu gain a foothold in life… this is an important debut that expands our concept of who gets to be a hero and a villain, and introduces a pair of gender disruptors who are destined to change China – and the LGBTQ fantasy canon – forever.”―
USA Today

“Gorgeous and sprawling masterpiece of historical fantasy.”―

“Striking.... The exploration of gender and sexuality, the sensuous romance, the vivid world-building, the flashes of tongue-in-cheek humor and human emotion set up against the epic plot. There are close, intimate scenes and climactic battle sequences that made me feel like I was watching a movie.... The book flare[s] with power.”―

“Magnificent in every way. War, desire, vengeance, politics – Shelley Parker-Chan has perfectly measured each ingredient of this queer historical epic. Glinting with bright rays of wit and tenderness, yet unafraid to delve into the deep shadows of human ambition,
She Who Became the Sun, like Zhu, is unquestionably destined for greatness.”―Samantha Shannon, author of The Priory of the Orange Tree

“Evocative and heartrending, Parker-Chan's debut is a poetic masterpiece about war, love, and identity…. It stabbed me through the heart then salted and set fire to the wound.”―S.A. Chakraborty, international bestselling author of The Daevabad Trilogy

“An exhilarating rise to power that takes you from palace to village to battlefield, in a world that is stunningly alive. Parker-Chan’s exquisitely wrought prose brings light and nuance to the novel’s immense themes of gender, power and fate. An instant classic.”―C.S. Pacat, USA Today bestselling author of the Captive Prince Trilogy

She Who Became the Sun is epic, tragic, and gorgeous. It will wreck you, and you will be grateful.”―Alix E. Harrow, Hugo Award winner Alix E. Harrow, author of The Ten Thousand Doors of January

“Parker-Chan unrolls the painted scroll of her epic tale with the control of a master storyteller, revealing a dazzling new world of fate, war, love and betrayal. Fantasy will never be the same.”―Zen Cho, award-winning author of the Sorcerer to the Crown series

“Zhu is a hero unlike any other - her propulsive desire to survive at any cost powers a glorious novel that encompasses grand betrayal, love, loss and triumph. An unforgettable debut.”―A. K. Larkwood, author of
The Unspoken Name

She Who Became the Sun is an intense and sweeping epic that blurs the lines between rebellion and revenge, between fate and ambition, exposing the inherent violence of gendered ideologies and the traumas they create in ourselves and the world.”―Tessa Gratton, author of The Queens of Innis Lear

“Shelley Parker-Chan's debut novel is a sweeping epic rendered in elegant prose. Arresting, beautiful, grand in scope and yet intimately poignant, readers will be drawn into this deftly written fantasy.”―Rowenna Miller, author of the Unraveled Kingdom series

“A gripping tale of rise to power, fate, betrayals and the bloody beginnings and endings of dynasties. Heartbreaking, stirring, haunting.”―Aliette de Bodard, Nebula-award winning author of
Seven Of Infinities

“Stunning, powerful and complex, there are no heroes in this tale, and people knowingly do terrible things. And you'll love them for it…. Parker-Chan is a major new voice in historical fantasy.”―Anna Stephens, author of the Godblind Trilogy

“Instantly enthralling. Zhu is canny, charming, and ruthless as she claims her own fate in a richly detailed world, challenging dynasties and gender in the process.”―Malinda Lo, author of
Ash and Huntress

“An absolute stunner... The story, much like the characters, is ambitious and clever and the depth of emotion Parker-Chan is able to tap into without ever becoming maudlin is astounding... There's war and violence and betrayal (oh the betrayal) and destiny both embraced and defied. Incredible work. Cannot wait for the next one.”―Rebecca Roanhorse

“A rich and deeply layered story.... It turns several centuries’ worth of stories and assumptions on their heads in the best way possible....
She Who Became the Sun is a historical fantasy that’s meticulously researched, its worldbuilding rich and thorough. This is the sort of story that will not only have you digging into the history of the Ming dynasty in your spare time but hoping that the real story might have actually gone down this way.”―Culturess

“A brutal book of war and famine,
She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan is a queer reimagining of the founding of China’s Ming dynasty that has no business being as poetic as it is. (That is not a dig. The prose in this book is beautiful.)”―The Geekiary

“An astonishing debut novel.... It is rich with Chinese history and culture, which is always refreshing in a sea of Eurocentric epic fantasy novels…. Parker Chan is following in the footsteps of her own characters. Carving a name for herself in history, and telling a story that might change the worlds of those who read it.”―
Comic Years

“Parker-Chan’s fascinating debut, the first in the Radiant Emperor duology, gives the historical Red Turban Rebellion a grimdark fantasy twist... Her nuanced exploration of gender identity and striking meditation on bodily autonomy set this fantasy apart. Fans of Asian-influenced fantasy have just been given their newest obsession.”―
Publisher's Weekly

“A bold, breathtaking historical fantasy debut seething with intrigue and action.... Vibrant and passionately inventive,
She Who Became the Sun gives the aphorism 'live life like your head is on fire' dazzling new meaning.”―Shelf Awareness

“A genderbent, queer, light retelling of the fall of the Yuan Dynasty and the life of the first Ming Emperor (real-life Zhu Chongba, 1328-1398) is full of sweeping storytelling, gripping plot, and epic worldbuilding and doesn’t require a prior knowledge of the history covered. VERDICT: An exciting and thought-provoking epic will have readers breathless and waiting for the next installment.”―
School Library Journal Reviews

“Compelling and intense. The political scheming here makes the
A Song of Ice and Fire series look like child’s play. This book is packed with action and adventure, and even the quieter moments thrum with tension. The writing is sharp, keen, and droll. Parker-Chan’s narrative style is a delight to read... While I’m at it, I might as well add [She Who Became the Sun] to my top ten books of 2021. We still have half the year to go, but it’ll be a tough one to beat.”―Locus Magazine

“The best epic fantasy book of the season.... Rich with historical detail, emotionally powerful, and brilliantly plotted,
She Who Became the Sun is a thrilling story of forging your own destiny.”―BookBub

“Easily one of the year’s best books.”―

About the Author

Shelley Parker-Chan is an Australian by way of Malaysia and New Zealand. A 2017 Tiptree Fellow, she is the author of the historical fantasy novel She Who Became the Sun. Parker-Chan spent nearly a decade working as a diplomat and international development adviser in Southeast Asia, where she became addicted to epic East Asian historical TV dramas. After a failed search to find English-language book versions of these stories, she decided to write her own. Parker-Chan currently lives in Melbourne, Australia, where she is very grateful to never have to travel by leaky boat ever again.

Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Tor Books (July 20 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 416 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1250837138
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1250837134
  • Item weight ‏ : ‎ 350 g
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 13.82 x 2.79 x 20.57 cm
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.3 out of 5 stars 2,984 ratings

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Shelley Parker-Chan 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 debut novel She Who Became the Sun owes more than a little to all three. In 2017 she was awarded an Otherwise (Tiptree) Fellowship for a work of speculative narrative that expands our understanding of gender. She currently lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her family.

Customer reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5
2,984 global ratings

Top reviews from Canada

Reviewed in Canada on February 13, 2022
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Reviewed in Canada on October 6, 2021
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Reviewed in Canada on August 10, 2022
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5.0 out of 5 stars The dreams of a young girl heralds the rise of a dynasty and the fall of the great Khans.
By Maureen Neuman on August 9, 2022
Ms Parker-Chan grabs hold of Chinese history by its glorious satin robes and dares asks the question .. what if ::poking her pentip at various historical figures:: these people had been female? Would the Ming Dynasty have ripped the reins of power from the Great Khans? Who would have been the power players? Would China have been the same place and had the same burgeoning culture? What kind of trip would that have been from childhood to imperial crown?

Faith is a player in this story. Not in the fervent God-fearing manner of which we’ve lately seen far too much, but in the belief that God, whatever its plans for you, trusts you to do the things that will bring you closer to its radiance. Indeed, this radiance also plays a part in the story, in a manner that adds a fantasy element to history.

Zhu, born female, is disgusted with her brother’s waste of destiny. He was to have been Great according to the local seer in a town where a hut with four standing walls was living in the lap of luxury. When things take an unforeseen and fatal turn, Zhu is determined to take up the mantle of prophesy and become Great. To do that, she needs to convince the gods, and everyone else, that she is her brother.

Events continually push her; she gains close friends who never suspect, as she plans and executes tactical manoeuvres that bring her closer to her goals. All along, she has an adversary who tests her time and again. He too has his own story, one that mirrors hers like the wicker in a basket, one path jumping over obstacles the other has ducked. Like the basket, the tight weave makes for a story that holds water when finished, given the surprising turn near the end.

The story and characters are ripped from the pages of history, but the author has done her research well. Her major characters, her minor players; all people who played the game of politics on the Steppes and in the cities of Chinese renown: behind closed doors in silken bedsheets, and in the brutal battles and games of the Horde.

With the world-building, the characters and the plot already laid out, what’s left? Magnificent story-telling. Nuances. There’s more than gender-flipping going on. It plays a large part of the tale, but it never gets in the way of the story. You never feel like the gender swap is being forced at you, front and centre. You cheer for Zhu and seriously distrust her opponent. You admire the sheer balls on the girl.

And in the end, she’s radiant.
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Top reviews from other countries

Kindle Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely absorbed by this.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 26, 2021
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5.0 out of 5 stars There are no words to describe how incredible this book was...
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 20, 2021
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6 people found this helpful
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Bethany Luke
3.0 out of 5 stars She who became the sun!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 25, 2021
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D. Beecher
5.0 out of 5 stars The best pairing of a protagonist to an antagonist I think I have ever read.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 7, 2022
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Shannon Arnold
5.0 out of 5 stars sooooo good
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 30, 2021
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