Asian Australian writer Shelley Parker-Chan reimagines the founding of a dynasty in She Who Became the Sun, a bold, breathtaking historical fantasy debut seething with intrigue and action.
In 1345 CE China, a village in its fourth year of drought lies "flattened under the sun like a defeated dog." Once 11 in number, only three of the Zhu family survive: 11-year-old Zhu Chongba, his father and his 10-year-old sister. Because of his lucky birth order, Chongba is expected to achieve greatness, while the village fortune teller prophesies his sister's fate as "Nothing." When bandits kill their father, though, Chongba succumbs to grief and starvation. Hungry for survival, his sister (hereafter referred to as Zhu) decides to take his name, his clothing and his fate. Disguised as Chongba, she finds food and shelter as a monk but never forgets that to evade the nothingness of her true fate, she must achieve her brother's promised greatness instead. A civil war brings the opportunity she craves, but standing in her way is General Ouyang, a eunuch renowned for his beautiful face and military prowess. The last of his line, Ouyang pretends to faithfully serve the family who murdered his own while secretly plotting vengeance. Evenly matched in strategic brilliance and both outsiders in a society of rigid gender roles, Zhu and Ouyang are pitted against each other in a deadly battle of wit and will to determine their own futures and that of China.
Vibrant and passionately inventive, She Who Became the Sun gives the aphorism "live life like your head is on fire" dazzling new meaning. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads