She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
And enter in the next highly anticipated and probably highly hyped novel of the year: a book whose blurb insists that it is a mix between Mulan and Song of Achilles.
The description is pretty dead-on.
That's some great news for people who want more and more Chinese history (or reimaginings of such) in their fiction diet. I've been blessed with reading Kim Stanley Robinson and Ken Liu, so I've actually rolled around in some lush tales lately.
This, however, is a re-imagining of the founding of the Ming Dynasty, and it's very much Silk-Punk without the fantasy (despite my classifying it as such). Even so, I'm ignoring most of that. The tale is the emperor, and for Zhu, a woman who is destined to have no fate, the real story is about spitting in the eye of fate.
I'm all on board for that!
The starvation, the difficulties of being a woman in China, the gender-bending just to survive, and later, becoming a monk-warrior is all very familiar to me. From The Good Earth to numerous kung-fu movies, it's tapping all of that pathos and grand adventure and giving us an epic *fantasy* that is detailed, sprawling, and, oddly enough -- inclusive. But that *is* to be expected these days even if I'm pessimistic about the past.
For pure enjoyment's sake, however, I can easily recommend this for the big adventure and our rooting for the underdog, even if Zhu gets a little dark by the end. It *is* the founding of a dynasty, after all, and these things get rather bloody.
Definitely a good summer read!
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