She Who Became the Sun

Tor. Jul. 2021. 416p. Tr $27.99. ISBN 9781250621801.
On his 12th birthday, a fortune teller tells Zhu Chongba his fate—untold greatness. When his sister sneaks back to hear her fate, she is told it is “nothing.” When Chongba and their father die shortly after, his sister decides to tempt the heavens and claim her brother’s identity and fate as her own. Concealing her gender, she joins a monastery, and then the Red Turban rebellion, rising from front line soldier to leader. As a novice, and then as a rebel, she repeatedly meets and clashes with the Yuan General Ouyang, a eunuch, who has his own plans and schemes separate from the rebels and the ruling forces. 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. Parker-Chan populates her tale with characters constantly caught against expectations and societal structures who each have their own way of fighting to survive and thrive in a world that rejects them and their desires. Teens will have much to relate to and think about, especially in Chongba’s shockingly hard-nosed choices, and Ouyang’s reflections on the futility of revenge.
VERDICT An exciting and thought-provoking epic will have readers breathless and waiting for the next installment.

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