১৮ই জুন, ২০২৪ খ্রিস্টাব্দ, মঙ্গলবার, সকাল ৯:২৮

She Who Became The Sun

লেখক
সোমবার, ১১ এপ্রিল, ২০২২

This book is a historical fantasy and a reimagining of the origin story of the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty in China. Undoubtedly, the most interesting thing about this book is its complex, morally ambiguous, and fantastic characters. This story starts with a girl living in a poverty-stricken village where food is scarce, with her father and brother in the late fourteenth century Mongol ruled China. One day, the father brings them to a fortune teller, and the fortune teller says that the boy would achieve greatness while the girl’s fate is nothing. Later,
 
when a group of bandits attack their home, only the girl survives, and she takes the identity of her brother and escapes to a monastery. There, she spends her adolescent years disguising herself as her brother Zhu, and we get to see how clever and savvy she is. But when the Mongol army burns down the monastery, Zhu once again survives and joins the Rebel force. There she climbs up the ranks. A monk from a peasant and a rebel commander from a monk. She starts with her immense desire to survive, and it turns into her ambition to become great.
 
While pursuing greatness, we get to see her character development and newfound confidence, but at the same time, she becomes more and more bloodthirsty and ruthless. Zhu is a fascinating character, and her gender identity makes her even more intriguing. She is gender queer and the concept of non binary portrayed in the backdrop of historical China is amusing to read about. The author portrayed Zhu’s body dysmorphia too. She is a brave and clever character who will stop at nothing to get what she wants.
 
We follow another character’s perspective alongside Zhu’s. This character is named Ouyang, and he is the most interesting and complex one in this story. He is also a very much queer character. He is a powerful general of the Mongol army, but he is not ethnically Mongol. When he was little, his whole family was branded as traitors and killed. He was the only surviving one, but he was turned into a eunuch which was a shameful punishment at that time. He was a slave soldier who rose through the ranks to be the army’s general. While Zhu is driven by the desire for a fate where she is great, Ouyang is driven by his desire for revenge. His emotions are the most complex thing in this book. The self-loathing he carries and the hurt he carries within himself is hard to read about.
 
Neither Zhu nor Ouyang are wholly good people. Ouyang is self-centered and morally ambiguous. His character is fascinating, and at the same time, it is something inexplicable. While you read his perspective, you get to understand him. The amount of empathy and sympathy this character stirs up within you is immense. In this hyper-masculine world, everything is against these two characters, so they constantly have to prove themselves. As one is a woman in disguise of a man who must prove herself to be a strong man in this patriarchal world, the other is a eunuch and people don’t consider him as a “real man” or even consider him as a woman. Society in this time period looked down upon women like they were some lowly animals or weak creatures whose only usefulness was in producing male heirs. These two characters are both survivors in this toxic masculine world. The author explored this masculine world with sensitivity and did it intriguingly.
 
These two characters are the same at the same time they are not. They are similar people, but they are very different too. They are on the opposite side and have different opinions and beliefs to a point. But both only rely on and trust themselves. Every time these characters cross paths, it’s fascinating. These two characters represent so much of feminism and queer culture, it’s truly fantastic. One slightly negative thing about the story is that, at some point, Zhu’s obsession with greatness becomes a bit tiring. Ouyang seemed more compelling and his motives made more sense. The political intrigue in this book is also interesting. There are other characters-Baoxiang, Xu Da, Ma, Esen, whose relationships with these two main characters are interesting, amazing, and heartbreaking. Even though Madam Zhang had a small part in the story, her character was intriguing too. The writing style is beautiful. There are many lines that will stab your heart! The characters will stick with you for a long time. If you love morally grey and complex characters, you should definitely pick this book up.

-Ariana


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