Claim Your Greatness

‘She Who Became The Sun’ has complex characters and a compelling plot that makes it ‘a really beautiful book’, says Books Editor Abby Horton

Abby Horton, Books Editor

Books Editor Abby Horton will be regularly featuring on Wolfs Print, giving the student body book recommendations and book reviews (Art By: Ananya Basarkar)

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I recently finished Shelley Parker-Chan’s debut novel, She Who Became The Sun. This book came to me through a book subscription box and from the moment I saw the cover I was enthralled. I got even more excited when I  read that it was a Chinese historical fiction taking place in the 1300s. I read this book fairly quickly because once I got to around the halfway point I couldn’t put it down. I read most of the ending in class (don’t tell Mr. Sheh!) and finished it standing in Albertson’s while I waited for my mom to check out. Overall it was a really beautiful book with lots of complex characters and a compelling plot.

“The greater the desire, the greater the suffering, and now she desired greatness itself.”
― Shelley Parker-Chan, She Who Became The Sun


The Characters

She Who Became The Sun has two main characters: Zhu and Ouyang, with supporting characters Ma Xiuying, Xu Da, and Lord Esen. All five of these prominent characters were so vastly different, and it was fascinating watching them interact. When we first meet Zhu, she’s a little girl in a famine-stricken village, resigned to a life of nothingness. But as the story progresses we see her take the identity of her brother, becoming Zhu Chongba, becoming a monk, and then a Commander. Zhu is driven by a will to survive, and she’s the kind of ‘give no mercy’ heroine I love reading about. Zhu knows exactly what she wants, and she’s ready to do anything to achieve greatness. It was also really interesting watching Zhu struggle with her gender and her identity; this book (from my cis-gendered opinion) gives a great representation of gender dysphoria and body insecurities.

Ouyang is Lord Esen’s Eunuch General, and the two men have been friends since childhood, though Ouyang has secret plans that would jeopardize that friendship. I loved watching Ouyang struggle with deciding whether to choose his love for Esen or what he believes to be his fate. Ouyang is just like Zhu in the way that he will stop at nothing to get what he wants, and it’s thrilling to watch the both of them interact; each time they were together I was on the edge of my seat, waiting to know who would come out on top this time.

Ma Xiuying, Xu Da, and Lord Esen compliment Zhu and Ouyang so well. Parker-Chan did such a good job of creating characters that bring out each other strengths and weaknesses. Zhu inspires Ma to fight for the life that she wants, instead of following men’s orders with her head down, and Ma teaches Zhu compassion and empathy. Esen and Ouyang have such a strong bond, even though Esen is a Lord and Ouyang is his general. The love they have for each other is so beautiful and tender, even though Esen’s love is the love of friendship, while Ouyang yearns for more.

The Plot

The plot of this book was really riveting. I might be biased, because I really enjoy historical fiction, especially when it takes place a really long time ago as this book does. I really enjoyed how there were two main plots going on with Zhu and Ouyang, but they took place at the same time, and they were interwoven with each other so at some times we got to see Ouyang and Zhu’s stories come together. There was a lot of good action in this book, with multiple battles and fights happening throughout the story. I also really liked the romance in this story, which says something because I usually don’t get that interested in romance within books, but Parker-Chan did a really nice job of interweaving romance between the action so that it was enjoyable but not overwhelming.

The Writing

I really liked the writing of this book, especially the dialogue. Sometimes authors include lots of lengthy dialogue that gets incredibly boring, but I didn’t find any of that in She Who Became The Sun. All of the dialogue was interesting and important to the plot, and I didn’t find any of it lengthy or boring.


“Nobody will ever end me. I’ll be so great that no one will be able to touch me, or come near me, for fear of becoming nothing”
― Shelley Parker-Chan, She Who Became The Sun


Final Thoughts 

I really enjoyed this book; I initially gave it four stars, but upon thinking about it more I changed my rating to four and a half stars since I just kept thinking about the book and how much I loved it. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, as well as anyone who likes strong female characters and ruthless main characters that are willing to do anything to achieve their goals.