Tag Archives: #historicalfantasy

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

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Review: Spellmaker by Charlie N. Holmberg

Spellmaker (Spellbreaker Duology #2) by Charlie N. Holmberg

Dead wizards, stolen enchantments, and broken promises force a young spellbreaker out of the shadows in the next thrilling installment of the Spellbreaker series by the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Paper Magician.

England, 1895. An unsolved series of magician murders and opus thefts isn’t a puzzle to Elsie Camden. But to reveal a master spellcaster as the culprit means incriminating herself as an unregistered spellbreaker. When Elsie refuses to join forces with the charming assassin, her secret is exposed, she’s thrown in jail, and the murderer disappears. But Elsie’s hope hasn’t vanished.

Through a twist of luck, the elite magic user Bacchus Kelsey helps Elsie join the lawful, but with a caveat: they must marry to prove their cover story. Forced beneath a magical tutor while her bond with Bacchus grows, Elsie seeks to thwart the plans of England’s most devious criminal—if she can find them.

With hundreds of stolen spells at their disposal, the villain has a plan—and it involves seducing Elsie to the dark side. But even now that her secret is out, Elsie must be careful how she uses the new abilities she’s discovering, or she may play right into the criminal’s hands.

Published 9 March 2021|  Publisher: 47North  |  RRP: AUD$24.99

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

My Blurb (4 / 5 stars)

Let’s face it, I’m just a sucker for beautiful covers so authors & publishers, it’s totally worthwhile to invest in eye catching covers. I’ve also loved the first book of this duology, Spellbreaker, so I really needed the closure both in the mystery and the romance. Spellmaker did not disappoint!

Spellmaker opens a few weeks after the end of Spellbreaker and Elsie is back at home with Ogden, working and her usual routine except of course, no secret messages/missions this time around. However, the villain who murdered master spellmakers & stole their opuses are still on the loose and isn’t willing to let Elsie go. First, Elsie is arrested by the authorities and only by Master Bacchus Kelsey’s wily petition that she’s freed. Then as attacks on master spellmakers are still happening, Elsie needs to see this stopped and to close this particular past of hers.

This alternate universe of Victorian England truly fascinates me and I’m so particularly drawn by Kelsey’s background (a bastard son of an English lord with a Barbados maid). While the romance and the mystery take the main stage, I appreciated the author’s seemingly effortless insertion of Kelsey’s struggle as a person who is not completely accepted into English society.

it is easy to miss the pain of being different when you fit in so well with the standard

I’m very happy with the way this book ends; the mystery was well done and the romance was well and truly in bloom. While readers mostly follow Elsie’s perspective, there were times where we are given Ogden’s & Kelsey’s but these happened without any warning of any sort so there were a number of times that I just had to re-read again because I just didn’t expect that and got rather confused. Aside from these unexpected jumps in povs, the story was well-paced and everything tied up very nicely at the end. You do need to read Spellbreaker first though before you tackle this one but I’d recommend this duology as a totally fun read.

Thank you 47North via Netgalley for the e-copy of this book in exchange of my honest thoughts

About the author

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Kindle Scout Nomination: Silk by Louise Cusack

I read and loved Louise Cusack’s fantasy trilogy, Shadow through Time, 4 years ago (wow, felt like I just read them the other day!) and since then, Louise has kept me updated with her works. I love it when I get emails from her! Sometimes, it’s just so hard to keep up with things as there are a million and one things happening. Louise’s current project is a fantasy series of which book 1, Silk, is up for nomination on Kindle Scout. I’ve never heard of Kindle Scout previously but I’ve happily signed up and nominated Louise’s book without even reading it. But… she has also generously provided me a with a copy of the manuscript [screams: I love you, Louise!] and I’ll share my thoughts with you all now.

silk-louise-cusack

 

Silk (Florentia: Book1) by Louise Cusack

In a lost world that da Vinci discovered and his patrons conquered, ruthless Medici kings have ruled for 500 years, amassing a huge empire. Silk, a young, idealistic diplomat, is forced to wed a brutal Medici prince to save her starving people. But when a handsome archaeological engineer from our world enters hers, she must choose between the heartless prince who can save her people, and the gentle inventor who has the knowledge to destroy them all.

 

Doesn’t the cover just look absolutely divine?!! Yep, I’m a cover slut but the description also sounds luscious! Whilst I’m not at all keen with love triangles, I was willing to gamble with this read and I really wasn’t disappointed. I really loved this spin of the Florentian world! Or is it really Florentian?! Silk is a mash-up of historical fantasy with alternate worlds and a dash of cyberpunk (well, it’s not actually cyberpunk but there’s advanced technology whilst the novel reads more like historical fantasy). It’s a rich-textured world with very interestingly conflicted characters. There were a couple of things which I did not particularly care for but there were only a couple of small things so I would dearly love to see this book selected for publication. Plus, I’d love to know what happens next and if I know Louise, I know it’s going to take me totally by surprise (and this doeth not often happen!).

Please NOMINATE Silk on Kindle Scout. Follow the link and you’ll also be able to read an excerpt.