Review: She Who Became the Sun


Title: She Who Became the Sun 
(The Radiant Emperor #1)
Author: Shelley Parker-Chan
Genre / Themes: Historical fantasy / China / Gender  

Release date: 20 July 2021

Author's links: Website / Twitter / Instagram 

My rating: 3 Stars


“I refuse to be nothing…”

In a famine-stricken village on a dusty yellow plain, two children are given two fates. A boy, greatness. A girl, nothingness…

In 1345, China lies under harsh Mongol rule. For the starving peasants of the Central Plains, greatness is something found only in stories. When the Zhu family’s eighth-born son, Zhu Chongba, is given a fate of greatness, everyone is mystified as to how it will come to pass. The fate of nothingness received by the family’s clever and capable second daughter, on the other hand, is only as expected.

When a bandit attack orphans the two children, though, it is Zhu Chongba who succumbs to despair and dies. Desperate to escape her own fated death, the girl uses her brother's identity to enter a monastery as a young male novice. There, propelled by her burning desire to survive, Zhu learns she is capable of doing whatever it takes, no matter how callous, to stay hidden from her fate.

After her sanctuary is destroyed for supporting the rebellion against Mongol rule, Zhu takes the chance to claim another future altogether: her brother's abandoned greatness.


It's difficult for me to review this book. It's one of my most anticipated fantasy releases of 2021 because of the hype and the interesting premise. In the end I didn't work so well for me, I loved some things about it but also others bothered me. It's a moving story, unforgettable and thought provoking, days after finishing it, I am still thinking about it and processing it.

I would describe this book as historical fantasy with a lot of emphasis on battles and military tactics. The fantasy element is barely there in the first half and though it gains more attention in the second half, it still felt weak and underdeveloped to me.

On the plus side, I was intrigued by the leading characters of Zhu and Ouyang. Their parallel stories worked great to highlight their similarities and differences. One the strongest elements of the story is the exploration of gender identity and stereotypes and perception by society. I liked how the issues of appearance, perception were treated with care and understanding. It was process for Zhu - discovering who she is and accepting her fate/body/desire. For Ouyang, who is her opposite in a way, but also similar - his hatred of himself, the way other have made him be - it was there from the start and didn't really change but I felt it made sense.

I liked Zhu initially. Seeing her grow into herself, her determination, will to live and tenacity was something I admired. Towards the end though, I felt her desire for greatness became all-consuming, selfish. The whole idea of achieving greatness at any cost didn't sit well with me at all. It made her harder, cynical, unsympathetic in my eyes and could no longer root for her.

Another aspect of my disappointment with her is the way she treated Ma. She claimed she needed Ma's ability to care for others, her empathy and open-heartness, to balance Zhu's more cynical nature. At the same time Zhu never did listened to Ma, never took her advice and despite loving her she kept hurting her.

The overall progression of the plot and the manner of story-telling fell off to me. The pacing was even with long stretches of nothing important happening and then sudden burst of actions (often military action or other kind of violence). There are multiple POVs which on theory would make the story richer, but they made it messy instead. They were not as well developed as Zhu or Ouyang POVs and I was often wanted to skip them to return to Zhu or Ouyang.

There is probably a lot more to be said about this book - Ouyang and Essen relationship was fascinating and tragic; Lord Wang was an interesting character and wanted to see more of him; there is a child murder (off page) that still can't over; the power (and lack of) of women was also central in the story.

Overall, this a dark historical fantasy with lots of violence and flawed characters. It was intriguing but ultimately not a hit for me.

CW: Author's note on Goodreads + violence, graphic sex

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Review of Battle Royal by Lucy Parker


Title: Battle Royal (Palace Insiders #1)
Author: Lucy Parker
Genre / Themes: Contemporary romance / reality TV / Baking* Enemies-to-lovers 

Release date: 17 Aug 2021

Author's links: Website / Twitter / Goodreads

My rating: 4 Stars



Four years ago, Sylvie Fairchild charmed the world as a contestant on the hit baking show, Operation Cake. Her ingenious, colorful creations captivated viewers and intrigued all but one of the judges, Dominic De Vere, the hottest pastry chef in London. When her glittery unicorn cake went spectacularly sideways, Dominic was quick to vote her off the show. Since then, Sylvie has managed to use her fame to help fulfill her dream of opening a bakery, Sugar Fair. The toast of Instagram, Sugar Fair has captured the attention of the Operation Cake producers…and a princess.


Dominic is His Majesty the King’s favorite baker, the go-to for sweet-toothed A-List celebrities, and a veritable British institution. He’s brilliant, talented, hard-working. And an icy, starchy grouch. Learning that the irksome Sylvie will be joining him on the Operation Cake judging panel is enough to make the famously dour baker even more grim. Her fantastical baking is only slightly more troublesome than the fact that he can’t stop thinking about her pink-streaked hair and irrepressible dimple.


When Dominic and Sylvie learn they will be fighting for the once in a lifetime opportunity to bake a cake for the upcoming wedding of Princess Rose, the flour begins to fly as they’re both determined to come out on top.

The bride adores Sylvie’s quirky style. The palace wants Dominic’s classic perfection.

In this royal battle, can there be room for two?


I have read all of Lucy Parker's previous books and they have all worked brilliantly for me. This one was no different. Grumpy - sunshine is favourite trope of mine in romance, adding bakers and reality TV shows and it's almost too good to be true.

I went in expecting light-hearted and fun romance, with lots of rival bakers shenanigans. This was not the case, but it was still amazing.

This was a touching, slow burn romance with two MCs who are opposites on the surface but deep down both are fiercely loyal to the people they love, both have suffered serious trauma in their past which they have taken a different approach to dealing with. He is distant, straight-lacd, keeping his emotions in check, following the rules and avoiding making human connections. She is the opposite - flamboyant, rule breaker, wearing her heart on her sleeve. In fact they both crave a deep connection, but are scared to give in to their feelings.

This story is not s romcom despite cover suggesting otherwise. Grief and loss and neglect take up a central place in it. It's heaertbreaking, very vivid and moving. The focus for me on how people who have been hurt in the past learn and dare to let people in again. There is a lot of happening here, both involving the MCs and the secondary characters. It's overwhelming at times but still the romance, the journey of the MCs towards each other shines through for me.

I felt the presentation of the hero's struggle with touch and spontaneity was well done, it felt real and relatable. The consent was brilliant, and just with respect to sex, but to touch in general. The romance was dreamy with great sexual tension. I loved how they worked as a couple, there was a strong sense of partnership despite the professional competition. I loved how their rivalry progressed with no dirty tricks and backstabbing between them.

There is plenty of dirty tricks on the reality show the MCs judge though. It showed the backstage rather than the glamour and success of reality TV cooking shows. It came close to Masterchef than GBBO in my opinion but it was still entertaining to see.

I am still not a fan of romances based of real life royal families. There were made up elements that made it feel distant though I still prefer

Don't like real royals, fake titles are used but still it was too close to reality.

Overall, this is an engaging romance, with some fun elements but mostly dealing with serious/heavy topics. I had some issues here and there but in end I really enjoyed it and can't wait for the next book in the series already.

CW: grief, parental neglect, loss of a parent/guardian, stabbing attack, stalking

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