BOOK CLUB: She Who Became the Sun

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[Total: 3 Average: 4.3]

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan is one of our new book club reads.

The Zhu family lived in a one-room wooden hut. Once there were grandparents, parents, and seven children. The drought has reduced the family to three. The “girl”, her next older brother Zhu Chongba and their father.

Zhu Chongba has always been considered the lucky child, this is confirmed by the village seer who sees greatness in his future. For the “girl” she sees nothingness.

Bandits attack the village and Zhu Chongba and their father dies. How can this be, as her brother’s destiny was to be one of greatness!?

Desperate to survive, the “girl” takes her brother’s name and identity and enters a monastery. Disguised as a male novice, Zhu learns just how ruthless she can be to survive.



The author has included a Historical Note in the front of the book. This helps to understand the China of the 14th Century. The feudal estates, the warlords, the bandits, and the peasant rebellions of that time.

The book follows historical events but takes liberties using fiction and fantasy.

“She Who Became the Sun” follows the “girl”, now named Zhu Chongba’s journey. She believes that by taking her brother’s name and lucky destiny that she will rise to greatness.

I enjoyed this book. Although it may not be a book for everyone.

There are graphic battles, villains, brutal deceptions and is full of complex characters. Plus a strong-willed female who will do absolutely anything in her quest to become “The Emperor”.

This book is the first in a series. I am sure I will be reading the next book to see if Zhu Chongba will achieve her goal.

Thank you to Beauty and Lace for the opportunity to read She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan.

4 stars.

Author: Shelley Parker-Chan
ISBN: 9781529043396
Copy courtesy of Pan Macmillan

A selection of our members are reading She Who Became the Sun. You can read their comments below, or add your own review.

7 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: She Who Became the Sun

  1. This is an historical novel set in China. It commences in 1345 in Zhongi Village where the Zhu family live in poverty.
    The girl in the family is 10years old and is called Chongba and her eleven year old brother’s name is Zhu Chongba only they and their father remain of a large family.
    Their father takes the children to a fortune teller where the father is told that his boy Zhu Chongba has greatness. The daughter Chongba sneaks back eager to find her fate and was told it was nothing.
    Bandits raid their property and kills the children’s father and later Chongba’s brother dies.
    She walks to outside the Wuhung Monastery and after four days of waiting in all weathers is admitted and duly takes on her brother’s identity and becomes Zhu Chongba.
    The book follows her(his) life as a monk and the challenges she meets in being her brother. She is always striving to achieve greatness.
    When the monastery is invaded she finds herself having to survive in the outside world still as her brother. She does so very well!
    There are wonderful descriptions and insights into history in this book.
    Thankyou Beautyandlace and Pan Macmillan for this enjoyable and interesting read.

  2. She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan, and published by PanMacmillan is an elaborate and vibrantly detailed story. It mingles ancient Chinese history with fiction and describes a complex hierarchical society in which to be born a woman is a serious setback, and in which politics, scheming, plotting and maneuvering are the only way to survive. Gender, power, ambition and destiny are key themes.

    The story follows the life of Zhu Chongba who starts life as a starving peasant girl with no future. Her beginnings are desperate, but Zhu is a survivor… and once she takes on her dead brothers identity and by default his destiny, Zhu seizes every opportunity to achieve greatness. Using intelligence, audacity and a keen observation of people and the world to outwit and endure against incredible odds, Zhu manages to pass herself off as a man. She goes from a monastery to the battlefield to life at court, and even marries, eventually rising in power during the turbulent time of the Ming dynasty.

    This is a very readable and well-paced story of epic proportions and is full of villains and tyrants as well as very relatable heros/heroines and emotionally colourful characters. And it is all set against the complex and politically charged background of 14th century China – a thoroughly engrossing tale!

  3. She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan is an interesting read. A fiction based on historical fact. Set in China in 1345 it is the story of a peasant family with a son who a seer has predicted will become great, whilst for the daughter an early death is predicted. A bandit attack orphans the children and the boy died. His sister steals his identity to enter a monastery. From there she decides she can become great, like the prediction for her brother,

    I enjoyed the story, there were some places where I got a bit confused with the characters, but overall an intriguing story. I actually did a bit of research after reading the book, and realised how much fact was involved in the story.

    Thanks to Beauty and Lace, and Pan Macmillan for the opportunity to read and review.

  4. She Who Became The Sun was to me a very hard read, as this is the first Chinese Historical work I have read, I struggled with the names.
    I did like the strong female lead who was ruthless to become what she wanted, but could not understand how she hid herself from everyone and was known as male. It didn’t sit right, even though how she hid herself was portrayed throughout the book.
    There were some epic battles and the history was intriguing.
    This book was definitely not for everyone and if you want a light read, choose another book.
    Thank you to Beauty and Lace and Pan Macmillan for the opportunity to read and review a book that I would not have usually selected.

  5. I adore a good historical novel and this one certainly ticked all the boxes for me!. It instantly transported me to the amazing life of the brave Zhu Chongba who crafts and fashions her own life path with sheer pluck and determination to survive in a harsh world and thrive against all odds. I loved the re-count of her early life in the monastry it was a fascinating glimse into what a regular monk”s life and training would have been in ancient China. Even the Villians are interesting and complex characters that reveal the intricate depths of human motivation and emotion. The accounts of the battles and armies in so much detail vivdly brought the landscape and characters to life. A fantastic read !

  6. She Who Became the Sun is a fascinating and complex tale. I found the first few chapters absolutely riveting. Then I was jolted out of it somewhat as there was a shift in the story telling. The characters are rich and complex and the protagonist has an exceptional story arc. It’s a story of sheer determination against all odds!! Thank you Pan Macmillan and Beauty and Lace for the opportunity of reading this story. I look foward to finding out what happens as the series progresses.

  7. Thank you Pan Macmillan and Beauty and Lace for the opportunity to read and review She Who Became the Sun.
    I have to admit I struggled with this book. It was a struggle to find a rhythm in the start and then just as I was starting to get into the story it would change dramatically and I would take a long time to catch up and learn the new characters.
    I’m saying that I admire any story with a strong female lead, even when they have to take on the male role to achieve their goals.
    It’s a time in history I am certainly interested to learn more about and this novel gave me a good start in that.

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