3 Things About This Book
| Vicious, Visceral and Unforgiving | Explorations of Gender Dysphoria, Alienation, and What It Means to be Human & to Live | Complex and Realistic Characters |
A sprawling novel with a cast of complex and memorable characters, She Who Became the Sun is a brilliant reimagining of the Ming Dynasty’s first emperor (PS: If you’re not a fan of spoilers, avoid Googling the history of this emperor until you’re done reading the book). It begins in 1345 China of the Mongol rule, in a village where everyone is starving and doing their best to survive, and daughters are never of equal value to sons.
The story is vicious, visceral and unforgiving—a vivid tapestry of a tale that mainly involves two perspectives: the unnamed daughter’s and a eunuch general’s. They’re from different backgrounds, brought to their current situation by different sets of circumstances, and yet, they are parallel. Both have been reduced to living things, unworthy of being labelled human and certainly not equal to those ‘greater’. But, they do not accept this. They aren’t afraid to cast away those they care about and their morals and beliefs. They are willing to do everything possible to achieve their goals. Thus, bringing us the aforementioned vicious, visceral and unforgiving story. Bringing us this heart-wrenching, occasionally tender, and deeply felt exploration of gender dysphoria, alienation, and what it means to be human and to live.
However, I must admit that the shift from a single POV to multiple ones is a little jarring. As much as I appreciate the other characters and adore how they enriched the story, their perspectives were unexpected since there are no hints in the description. This unanticipated change is what made it jarring for me, though the actual flow from one POV to another is smooth.
That aside, I find little else notable objective issues. The elements of fantasy are refreshing touches to this otherwise war-dense historical novel. I especially love the inclusion of ghosts, which provides a more ‘visible’ display to a significant aspect of Chinese culture. I also love the queer romance. It’s not all sunshine and roses, and the hints dropped in the ending are magnificent. I cannot wait for the next book!
If you’re a fan of The Poppy War or Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, She Who Became the Sun is a read you cannot miss out on.