Tag Archives: #fantasy

The King of Koraha by Maria V. Snyder -a review

the king of korahaThe King of Koraha (Archives of the Invisible Sword #3) by Maria V. Snyder

Shyla fears for her life when the King unexpectedly summons her, but the true reason proves to be even more terrifying… The nail-biting finale of the award-winning fantasy series by New York Times bestselling author Maria V. Snyder.

‘You can join me or you can die.’

Hard on the heels of trouble in Zirdai city, Shyla Sun-Kissed and Rendor are ordered to report to the King of Koraha – a summons that is deadly to ignore. The King holds the key to Koraha’s existence, but a formidable new enemy threatens Koraha’s very survival and the King desperately needs Shyla and Rendor’s help.

Wielding a terrifying and unknown magical power that can convert opponents into devoted soldiers, the mysterious army is hellbent on usurping the crown. Shyla and Rendor are tasked with discovering who in the seven hells these insurgents are. And what their real endgame is.

Trekking through the punishing conditions across the searing surface of Koraha, and facing numerous unseen foes and untold danger, they must follow the clues to uncover the truth before it’s too late. The fate of the King and all the citizens of Koraha rests in their hands…

Published 1 December 2021|  Publisher: Harlequin Australia  |  RRP: AUD$19.99

Buy it at: Dymocks |  Booktopia |  A&R  |  Abbey’s  | QBD

My Blurb (4 / 5 stars)

Nearing the end of book 2, The City of Zirdai, I was confused because everything seems to be sorted but this was supposed to be a trilogy! Of course, if you’ve read book 2, you’d have come across the little tidbit at the end which brings us to this third and final book of the series, The King of Koraha. What is obvious to me is that I’ve been so focused on the little bit of this world, Zirdai, while Maria V. Snyder is concerned on the whole universe, Koraha. The problem that we encountered in books 1 & 2, in Zirdai, is not contained… it is part of a bigger problem which needed to be fixed. Who better than the Invisible Sword!?

Shyla and Rendor led the way to investigate this threat to Koraha. As always, Shyla inadvertently walked herself into trouble. This was a bit frustrating to read but a good laugh for after because really, it’s part of her charm. And I just love how her Invisible Sword friends (Rendor included) banded together to support her and each other. In the end, the story is brought full circle back to the first book as Shyla accepted that fact that “with great power comes great responsibility”.

The King of Koraha definitely will not disappoint fans; so many twists and turns as per Snyder’s trademark where each chapter ends with another question that readers will want immediate answers to, this is a unputdownable finale. With plenty of romantic moments between Shyla and Rendor, this turned out to be a very heartwarming read 😉

My thanks to Harlequin Australia for this paperback copy of book in exchange of my honest thoughts

About the author

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Dance of a Burning Sea (Mousai #2) by E.J. Mellow -a review

dance of a burning seaDance of a Burning Sea (Mousai #2) by E.J. Mellow

From award-winning author E. J. Mellow comes the thrilling second installment in the Mousai series, featuring a powerful sorceress who finds her loyalties tested by a ruthless pirate lord.

Within the world of Aadilor, there is a hidden place called the Thief Kingdom, where both magic and pleasure abound. There, the Mousai, a trio of deadly sorceresses bound by oath and blood, use their powers to protect the kingdom’s treasures.

Niya Bassette brings the potent gift of dance to the Mousai, but behind her tempting twirls, she carries a heavy secret—that the infamous pirate lord, Alōs Ezra, has been threatening to exploit for years. Now banished from the Thief Kingdom for smuggling, Alōs resurfaces in Niya’s life with a plot to hold her hostage, leveraging what he knows to extort a pardon from the Thief King.

But Niya makes her own deal with Alōs to guard her secret and guarantee her freedom—yet in doing so binds herself aboard his pirate ship, where she must navigate deadly waters, a bloodthirsty crew, and her own traitorous heart. Soon, a simmering attraction between her and Alōs threatens their delicate truce and makes for a tumultuous ride on the open seas. Far from her kingdom, Niya is entangled in a dangerous dance indeed.

Welcome to the world of Aadilor, where dark deeds can mask noble hearts and the most alluring of sways often ends with a burn. Care for a spin?

Published 19 October 2021|  Publisher: Montlake  |  RRP: AUD$22.99

Buy it at: Dymocks |  Booktopia |  A&R  |  Abbey’s   |  QBD

My Blurb (3.5 / 5 stars)

Pirates!! One of the most romanticised swashbuckling hero characterisation and yet, I also can’t help myself but swoon over a broody handsome pirate. I love a good piratical romance especially one imbued with a good dose of magic just like this novel is. Dance of a Burning Sea is a novel of secrets, betrayals, love, and forgiveness.

I enjoyed the first book of this trilogy, Song of the Forever Rains, which was Larkyra’s (youngest of the sisters) story and am curious about the rest of sisters. I am more curious about Arabessa but that’ll be the third & last book. While I am intrigued by Alōs Ezra, the pirate lord, I wasn’t particularly keen on Niya. Perhaps it’s because she will be one of those people I try to avoid IRL. She says it as she sees it plus she’s also a very angry character and I started to really enjoy the story.. I struggle quite a bit with angry protagonists so the first 30% of the book was a drag to me; a lot happen in this first third of the story so at least, Niya started to develop as a character. At the end of the book, she has matured so much to be unrecognisable… almost.

Dance of a Burning Sea is a hefty sequel (511 pages!!) and while I enjoyed this fantastical world, I found the romance to drag a bit (or maybe I’m just impatient) and I rather expect a big twist in the end which didn’t happen (like whatever twists throughout the book weren’t enough! lol) so I was a little disappointed. The romance ended up quite sweetly, however, so I am happy. Now, I absolutely cannot wait to get to Arabessa’s story!

My thanks to Montlake for ecopy of book via NetGalley in exchange of my honest thoughts

About the author

Find her on:  goodreads  |  websitefacebook  |  instagram  |  twitter

Midnight in Everwood by M.A. Kuzniar -a review

midnight in everwoodMidnight in Everwood by M.A. Kuzniar

In the darkness of night, magic awaits…

The Nutcracker for adults, perfect for fans of Robert Dinsdale’s The Toymakers, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus and Stephanie Garber’s Caraval

’It was a rainy day that the magic came, and once magic has entered your life, you stay in its glittering clutch forever’

Nottingham, 1906

Marietta Stelle longs to be a ballerina but as Christmas draws nearer, her dancing days are numbered. At the wishes of her family, she will be obligated to marry and take up her place in society in the New Year. But when a mysterious toymaker, Dr Drosselmeier, purchases a neighbouring townhouse, it heralds the arrival of magic and wonder in her life. Although Drosselmeier’s magic is darker than Marietta could have imagined…

When he constructs an elaborate theatrical set for her final ballet performance, Marietta discovers it carries a magic all of its own. As the clock chimes midnight, Marietta finds herself walking through a land of snow-topped fir trees leading to a frozen sugar palace silent with secrets and must find a way to return home.

In the darkness of night, magic awaits and you will never forget what you find here…

Published 27 October 2021|  Publisher: Harlequin Australia  |  RRP: AUD$29.99

Buy it at: Dymocks |  Booktopia |  A&R  |  Abbey’s  | QBD

My Blurb (4 / 5 stars)

A gorgeous cover and who doesn’t love story of The Nutcracker, Midnight in Everwood is a scrumptious delight combining dreams, love, and magic. A protagonist who loves to dance and dares to dream. A world full of glitter and luscious delectable desserts. Strong female characters who persevere and fight for their freedom.

Ballet resides in your bones; it courses through your blood. For a dancer, it is the very essence of our identity, stripped down to its rawest, most intrinsic parts; you cannot leave it behind no more than you could forsake your own soul. Feel it. Feel the exquisite pain that comes from the purest form of love, for that is what it means to dance ballet.

This tale is told from the perspective of the ballerina, Marietta Stelle, as she struggles between her dreams of dancing and her parents’ expectations of an advantageous marriage. An encounter with a mysterious new neighbour caused her to stumble into a truly magical world which at the start reminds me very much of Narnia. However, this world holds its own darkness disguised under a blinding crisp shiny surface.

A very easy read with a likeable protagonist who developed a backbone and an enchanting magical universe; Midnight in Everwood is a wonderful and dreamy read -perfect for that Christmas vibe.

My thanks to Harlequin Australia for this paperback copy of book in exchange of my honest thoughts

About the author

Find author on:  goodreads  |  twitter  | instagram

The Keeper of Night by Kylie Lee Baker -a review

the keeper of the nightThe Keeper of Night (The Keeper of Night #1) by Kylie Lee Baker

I am too dangerous to let live any longer.

It is written in the Book of Ankou, decreed by the High Reaper himself.

Death will come to find me…but I will no longer be there.

Half British Reaper, half Japanese Shinigami, Ren Scarborough has been collecting souls in the London streets for centuries. Expected to obey the harsh hierarchy of the Reapers, who despise her due to her mysterious mother and even more mysterious Shinigami powers, Ren conceals her emotions and avoids her tormentors as best she can.

When her failure to control her developing Shinigami abilities drives Ren out of London, she flees to Japan in search of the acceptance she’s never gotten from her fellow Reapers. Accompanied by her younger brother, the only being on earth to care for her, Ren enters Yomi, the Japanese underworld, to serve the Goddess of Death…only to learn that here, too, she must prove herself worthy.

Determined to earn respect, Ren accepts an impossible task — find and eliminate three dangerous Yokai demons. With help from only her brother and a new ally who might be less than trustworthy, Ren will learn how far she’ll go to claim her place at Death’s side.

Published 27 October 2021|  Publisher: Harlequin Australia  |  RRP: AUD$19.99

Buy it at: Dymocks |  Booktopia |  A&R  |  Abbey’s  | QBD

My Blurb (4 / 5 stars)

As I grew up reading a tonne of manga, I’m always keen for any Japanese inspired fantasy novels. The Keeper of Night is a beguiling tale, set in the beginning of the 19th century Japan, of a mixed race child seeking her place and identity in worlds that neither recognise nor welcome her.

The story is told solely from main protagonist’s, Ren’s, view, so readers are privy to all her thoughts; from her confusion as to her identity, her desperate dream to feel that she belongs, to her destructive intent to do and sacrifice all to be loved. By definition, Ren is a monster without any feelings but, in fact, she feels too much and darkness is ever encroaching. In her journey, she is accompanied by her half brother who loves her & wants the best for her and an enigmatic ally who appears to also wants her to have what she wants but why is he being so helpful?

I found author’s prose to be beautiful and I have really enjoyed this book. There was just something mesmerizing even if, now that I’ve finished and am reflecting upon the it, it was all very heartbreaking and very very dark. As a migrant myself, I can sort of sympathise with protagonist’s struggle in seeking her place of belonging though I obviously have no wish to do the things she did! That twist at the very end just crushed me. I look forward to its conclusion in the next book.

My thanks to Harlequin Australia for this paperback copy of book in exchange of my honest thoughts

About the author

Find author on:  goodreads  |  website  |  twitter  | instagram

Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao -a review

iron widowIron Widow (Iron Widow #1) by Xiran Jay Zhao

The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain.

When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected—she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.​

To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia​. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way—and stop more girls from being sacrificed. 

Published 28 September 2021|  Publisher: Bloomsbury Australia  |  RRP: AUD$18.99

Buy it at: Dymocks |  Booktopia |  A&R  |  Abbey’s  | QBD

My Blurb (4 / 5 stars)

But I have no faith in love. Love cannot save me.

I choose vengeance.

Kickass cover and a premise of a futuristic world inspired by Chinese historical personages and mythologies?! Bring it On! I was totally excited to start reading this book and before, I knew it, I have read for over an hour and 100+ pages have flown by. I was completely drawn into this world that has giant transforming robots and traditional Chinese fashion (I’m most fascinated by the hairdos!).

I hate the way I’ve contorted myself into what people think a girl should be, ready to please, ready to serve.

Yet I love the power it’s given me, a power that lies in being underestimated, in wearing assumptions as a disguise.

Each chapter was quite short but packed full of plot. The story just kept going and it was really hard to put down. The one thing that really surprised me in this first 100 pages was the protagonist’s anger. I knew she was after revenge (see book description) but she wasn’t just red hot with anger but she was blazing white with rage. Despite her tough exterior though, there were little peeps into her vulnerability and real person she is, if she just can be. These were developed a little further on in the book as she continued to fight for her right to live.

…there’s not a stratum of the world that doesn’t need girls. Maybe we’re devalued precisely because we’re so valuable. The world is too afraid of not being able to obtain and control us to respect our true worth.

And while our protagonist, Wu Zetian, fights to live, she also fights humanity’s enemies so she is surrounded my enemies without and within. Yet, there are some who truly cares about her and as she fights for herself, her ‘sisters’, and humanity, she drew those she loved closer to her. 

Love can be infinite, as much as your heart can open.

Iron Widow is a fast-paced immersive novel with twist upon twist (there is even a twist on the last page of the book!) that will keep you up past your bedtime. A truly gripping fantastical universe and I cannot wait for the sequel.

My thanks to Read3rz Re-Vu & Bloomsbury Australia for this copy of book in exchange of my honest thoughts

About the author

Find author on:  goodreads  |  website  |  twitter  |  instagram

The One Impossible Labyrinth by Matthew Reilly -a review

the one impossible labyrinthThe One Impossible Labyrinth (Jack West Jr #7) by Matthew Reilly

THE END IS HERE

Jack West Jr has made it to the Supreme Labyrinth.

Now he faces one last race – against multiple rivals, against time, against the collapse of the universe itself – a headlong race that will end at a throne inside the fabled labyrinth.

AN IMPOSSIBLE MAZE

But the road will be hard.

For this is a maze like no other: a maze of mazes. Uncompromising and complex. Demanding and deadly.

A CATACLYSMIC CONCLUSION

It all comes down to this.

For it ends here – now – in the most lethal and dangerous place Jack has encountered in all of his many adventures. And in the face of this indescribable peril, with everything on the line, there is only one thing he can do.

Attempt the impossible.

Published 12 October 2021|  Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia  |  RRP: AUD$39.99

Buy it at: Dymocks |  Booktopia |  A&R  |  Abbey’s  | QBD

My Blurb (4 / 5 stars)

It’s finally here!! The finale! Jack West Jr. is finally going to tackle the final challenge and of course, be the ultimate victor in this race. No spoilers but I think we all know who’s going to win in this novel, right? The good guy! Yep, this one is completely a roller coaster feel good sort of read. And coming right at the end of Sydney lockdown, #winning !!

As followers of series would expect, this last book in the series is chock-a-block full of action. If things aren’t exploding, it’s raining bullets. If you’re not being shot at, you’re running through a maze full of life threatening traps. I seriously feel like I couldn’t read fast enough; my eyes couldn’t keep up with how fast the action is taking place in my brain. The team is split into several groups and while, Jack’s team is the primary focus, there were switches in views. I do feel like it’s an action blockbuster movie that I’m “seeing” only in my head.

While I loved following their adventures; the twists on mythologies and each book always action-packed, I also find it to be a bit predictable in one particular way. That is, never believe that someone died unless their corpses are actually presented to you on the page lol. And in this way, I didn’t waste a tear at all.

All my life I’ve watched you and wondered what it is that makes you a hero. And I figured it out: it’s trying when nobody else thinks it’s even worth trying, when the odds really are stacked against you or when your friends and family are taken away from you.

That is why fans love Jack West Jr. and always, without fail, cheer for him and his team. And in centre of things, he fought for humanity so in the end, we all win. The One Impossible Labyrinth is an unmissable finale. Read It!

My thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia for this copy of book in exchange of my honest thoughts

About the author

Find author on:  goodreads  |  website  |  facebook  |  twitter  |  instagram

South of the Sun: Australian Fairy Tales for the 21st Century -a review

South of the SunSouth of the Sun: Australian Fairy Tales for the 21st Century

This is an enchanting illustrated book of fairy tales – but not the kind you read to children at bedtime.

They are strictly for the grown-ups. Often dark, the stories visit places where things don’t end happily ever after, where a single decision can haunt you forever.

But there are also tales to make you laugh out loud, stories of sweet revenge and scenes of sheer delight in the world of magic and the fey.

All the stories, lyrics and poems have something in common, a contemporary edge. Even those set in earlier times have a modern sensibility that reflects the 21st century and celebrates Australian landscapes, characters and voices.

Discover stories from emerging talent and leading award-winning Australian writers including Carmel Bird, Sophie Masson, Cate Kennedy and Eugen Bacon, along with artwork by foremost illustrators such as Lorena Carrington and Kathleen Jennings.

So if you’re ready – once upon a time …

Published April 2021|  Publisher: Australian Fairy Tale Society |  RRP: AUD$35.00

Buy it at: Serenity Press 

My Blurb (4.5 / 5 stars)

I was absolutely curious of just what “Australian Fairy Tales” could be. These would not be Dreaming Time as that is sacred to our First Nations but then what could it be?! The answer was a makeover of familiar tales; freshly dressed in Aussie fashion.

the cultural art of apparently mocking someone while still being warm and friendly. -The Lonely Mosque by Yvette Ladzinski

I loved how these tales were retold in such familiar and beloved setting with mentions of wattles, gum trees, red soil, etc and some with very exaggerated Aussie way of speaking. I especially adore the multicultural references included in these stories whether it be selkies of Irish descent or Vietnamese Pork Roll.

Some of the stories are as traditional as they get as cautionary tales. There was one story about a young girl walking on her own in a quiet ‘blackout’ zone and sending GPS (Grandmother Please Save) signal. But, there are also stories which were just flipped inside out where heroines are strong and aren’t afraid to flex their right to act and save themselves. I love these best!

Being the hero doesn’t make you brave. – The Last Bastion by Marianna Shek

There were just so many stories cleverly twisted to fit into our current world with its own social commentaries. There was a Pied Piper who was engaged to clear out certain creepy crawlies from Melbourne and my favourite of all of this whole book, Jack & the Beanstalk “because the NBN is rubbish”.

The giant didn’t stand a chance. The bureaucrats wrapped him up in red tape in no time at all. – Jack, The Beanstalk and the NBN by Lindy Mitchell-Nilsson

I honestly didn’t expect to enjoy this book so much! The beautiful setting, strong heroines, and “new” but old stories. They made me cheer for their courage, frown at how dark parts of our world is, but best of all, they made me laugh out loud for sheer cheekiness. I’d highly recommend this collection of stories to all!

My thanks to publisher for ecopy of book in exchange of my honest thoughts

Crown of Cinders (Wings of Fury #2) by Emily R. King -a review

crown of cindersCrown of Cinders (Wings of Fury #2) by Emily R. King

Going to battle against a Titan in the war of all wars, one woman is making history in an epic novel of ancient Greece by Emily R. King, author of the Hundredth Queen series.

May Gaea be with you…

Althea Lambros is growing into her power, wrestling with a burdensome heritage, and unwilling to concede to Cronus, the redoubtable God of Gods. For that, Cronus is making good on his promise. Calling upon the elder Titans, he’s bringing down his wrath on the world. Suffering quakes, tempests, fire, and hail, mortals are paying in blood for the war of the gods.

With the help of her friend Theo, Althea takes cover with her sisters, Bronte and Cleora. But they can’t hide forever. To mastermind the downfall of the evil king, Althea must recruit allies of her own before the aggrieved mortals surrender the sisters to Cronus in exchange for peace.

Is Althea formidable enough to win? It’ll take the help of her sisters and those willing to fight for the cause of the just. As the gods pick sides, Althea must divide heaven and earth to defeat the enemy and write the true history of the war to end all wars.

Published 5 October 2021|  Publisher: 47North  |  RRP: AUD$24.99

Buy it at: Dymocks |  Booktopia |  A&R  |  Abbey’s 

My Blurb (3.5 / 5 stars)

I’m not a huge fan of Greek mythology and usually avoids retellings of them but somehow, I managed to dive into Wings of Fury (book 1)… As usual, I wasn’t paying much attention to the description and just started reading. In the end, I decided that I really like Althea and I wanted to find out what happens next.

Crown of Cinders opens some time after the end of Wings of Fury, where 2 siblings are yet to be found but Cronus has begun to make his move to destroy these siblings yet again. A very fast read culminating in a climactic battle for world rule where a heartbreaking moment made me sobbed but yet, the ending made me unsure whether this is it or if there is another book coming. I feel that the story is mostly finished but I’m also annoyed at a certain character at this point so I’m not actually sure if I’d like another one or not.

On the other hand, I feel that this book is about a particular goddess for which I am not at all familiar with her ‘background’ as such so this was a lovely fill for me. She is a strong heroine who have had to fight for her freedom, her independence, her situation in life. I believe this is what author wanted to get across and she definitely had done that very well.

Your value is not in how others treat you but in how you treat yourself. We must believe in ourselves first or there is nothing anyone can say, Titan or moral, that we will believe.

My thanks to 47North for ecopy of book via NetGalley in exchange of my honest thoughts

About the author

Find her on:  goodreads  |  websitefacebook  |  instagram  |  pinterest  |  twitter

Cursed Beauty by Stacey O’Neale -a review

Cursed BeautyCursed Beauty by Stacey O’Neale

From USA Today bestselling author Stacey O’Neale comes a standalone YA fantasy retelling of Sleeping Beauty.

The day has come for sixteen-year-old Aurora to receive her witch mark. She should be thrilled. But unlike the rest of her coven, a centuries-old family curse has already decided her fate; the cost of her new power is her life.

After the ceremony, her grandmother offers her hope: Aurora can save herself and prevent her coven from dying by awakening a sleeping prince with the power to break her curse. Unfortunately, she must travel through the forbidden Shadowlands to reach him.

The enchanted forest is filled with magical creatures—friends and foes—including the mysterious son of a powerful wolf pack leader. Can she find the prince in time, and if she succeeds, will he choose to help despite having been placed under the sleeping spell?

Published 30 August 2021|  Publisher: Phoenix Reign Publishing

My Blurb (3 / 5 stars)

It’s all about the cover this time! I just adore that cover and seeing that its a twist on Sleeping Beauty where the girl does the ‘rescuing’ definitely got me to read this novella. There were a few other twists as well which I liked but won’t delve too much into to avoid spoilers.

I really liked the premise of “Princess Aurora” being the one to come to the rescue of a sleeping Prince. I didn’t quite like this witchy Aurora as she can be quite annoying in here tendency to act without too much thought. She’d really land herself in hot water, if her bff, Hazel, did not come to the rescue. I loved Hazel – always ready, always smiling, and overall just the stronger character of the two. In saying that, Aurora has her own strength which allows her to grab her fate into her own hands and twist it. The romance is also kinda cute though it’s totally not what I’d expect!

Cursed Beauty is a brilliant twist to the very well-known fairy tale, Sleeping Beauty. It features gender swap and other spins which really make me wish this was a full novel. I just feel that it is a little bit undeveloped as a novella but definitely with a potential for a novel.

My thanks to Phoenix Reign Publising & Xpresso Tours for ecopy of book via NetGalley in exchange of my honest thoughts

About the author

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She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan -a review

she who became the sunShe Who Became the Sun (The Radiant Emperor #1) by Shelley Parker-Chan

She Who Became the Sun reimagines the rise to power of the Ming Dynasty’s founding emperor.

In a famine-stricken village on a dusty plain, a seer shows two children their fates. For a family’s eighth-born son, there’s greatness. For the second daughter, nothing.

In 1345, China lies restless under harsh Mongol rule. And when a bandit raid wipes out their home, the two children must somehow survive. Zhu Chongba despairs and gives in. But the girl resolves to overcome her destiny. So she takes her dead brother’s identity and begins her journey. Can Zhu escape what’s written in the stars, as rebellion sweeps the land? Or can she claim her brother’s greatness – and rise as high as she can dream?

This is a glorious tale of love, loss, betrayal and triumph by a powerful new voice.

Published 27 July 2021|  Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia  |  RRP: AUD$32.99

Buy it at: Dymocks |  Booktopia |  A&R  |  Abbey’s  | QBD

My Blurb (4.5 / 5 stars)

The first time I heard of it was through a recommendation by Aussie author, Sam Hawke, but truthfully, the only reason I was really interested in this book is the girl-as-boy trope because it’s my absolute favourite. Set in China and somewhat structured to author’s love of East Asian historical dramas were added bonus because well, I had my own addiction of those dramas way back when. So I had an absolute blast imagining this book in my mind as if they are on screen; I hope that one day it will be adapted to screen!

…most strong-willed people never understand that will alone isn’t enough to guarantee their survival. They don’t realise that even more so than will, survival depends upon an understanding of people and power.

The novel opens with a young peasant girl who despite famine, poverty, and her parents’ expectation, was still living and surviving. She might be desperately hungry but so were everyone in the village. And then, one day, she was left on her own. She had no future to look forward to but she had a very strong desire to live and so, she assumed her brother’s identity, Zhu Chong Ba. In doing so, she believed she also subsumed his destiny, greatness. While those around her sees only what they want to see, is Heaven also fooled? To what extent would she go to to achieve this greatness?

What someone is means nothing about what kind of person they are. Truth is in actions.

There is a second perspective in this epic novel which is told from the opposite camp, the Yuans (Mongols). He was not a Mongol. He had no family left. He had been mutilated so that even as he held the highest & most trusted position in his warlord’s army, he was looked at as an aberration. He lived for one purpose only; his duty. But to what end?

Learn to want something for yourself. Not what someone says you should want. Not what you think you should want. Don’t go through life thinking only of duty. When all we have are these brief spans between our nonexistences, why not make the most of the life you’re living now? The price is worth it.

As these two characters pulled towards each other and pushed towards their own destinies, I was amazed at the parallels and contrast these two very different yet very alike characters. The author cleverly wove their stories seamlessly and with this second perspective, added extra dimensions to the story we otherwise would not have. It is also very savvy of the author to take on a reimagining of a founder of the Ming dynasty where the overall (major) arc is as per history but being able to twist it with a potentially true gender bender. I won’t say much more but just read it then do some research 😉

She Who Became the Sun is an epic historical fantasy reminiscent of East Asian historical TV dramas; just as author’s vision. The setting and sense of place feel authentic with ancestor worship and Heaven’s Mandate having critical places in these characters’ lives, the suffering of common people, the stress placed on duties and loyalties. Yet, it is a novel based on vengeance with twists of betrayals and sacrifices abound throughout the telling. It is also a novel of brotherhood and love. It is a complex novel that pulls readers in all directions as tensions, both on and off battlefields, wax and wane, we are irrevocably drawn to these characters to see them reach their destinies. 

My thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia for this paperback copy of book in exchange of my honest thoughts

About the author

Find author on:  goodreads  |  website  |  twitter  |  instagram