She Who Became the Sun – interesting novel
She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan tells the story of the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty, Zhu Yuanzhang. But as the title suggests, Book is not about a boy named Zhu Yuanzhang who rose from his peasant roots to rule a unified China; it’s about a girl doing the same.
Zhu Yuanzhang was a true anomaly. Born to a peasant family in 1328, his hard work and perseverance eventually led him to become emperor of China in 1368. The country was in no shape to be unified: the Yuan dynasty had been founded only sixty years prior by Mongolian invaders, the Chinese people had grown accustomed to the luxuries of life under the Mongols and were not prepared for hardship, and there were countless warlords attempting to seize power from one another. Zhu did what no one had ever done before; he put all of his effort into unifying China as quickly as possible. He dressed as a beggar and walked from town to town, listening to the people’s problems and asking what they wanted him to do about them. He then took what he learned and returned home with a solution, which he then executed. The people, impressed by his work ethic and general inability to be corrupted (he remains China’s only emperor who did not execute a single member of his own family), followed him wherever he went.
She Who Became the Sun is focused around the story of the fourteen-year-old daughter of a duke named Qian Chu. The duke is killed in a revolution and Qian Chu’s daughter is subsequently kidnapped, but not before she can be replaced by a look-alike peasant girl who is given the title of “moon goddess.” The book follows the rise of both girls from their beginnings as commoners to Zhu Yuanzhang’s wives and eventually mothers to his sons. From the moment Qian Chu’s daughter (referred to as “the moon goddess”) arrives at Zhu Yuanzhang’s court, it becomes clear that she has ambitions, though they are not immediately known. She pays attention to everything around her and appears polite and respectful of her husband but distant.