Shelley Parker-Chan: She Who Became the Sun (2021, Tor Books) 4 stars

To possess the Mandate of Heaven, the female monk Zhu will do anything

Mulan meets …


5 stars

This was amazing. I had not heard of this book until it was nominated for the Hugo Award, and as a Hugo voter this year, I am trying to read as many of the finalists as I can. This looked like a book that I would not normally enjoy, but I gave it a shot.

Wow! This is one of the most enjoyable novels I've read in quite some time. Parker-Chan addresses gender identity in a unique way that offers insights for the present day, despite the book being placed in 1345. The evolution of the actions Zhu will take to claim her fate are a fantastic lens through which we can see the character changing. While this book is classified as fantasy, the fantasy elements are minimal, and mostly understated. This book is part 1 of a duology, but it has a satisfying conclusion. Having said that, I will be eagerly awaiting the final volume.