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.
Before I even knew what this book was about, I had seen so much hype for it online. It seemed like everybody was excited for it! My excitement really kicked in when I found out that the two main characters were genderqueer, and then I found out the synopsis, and I was just a pumped about this book as everybody else. A girl who refuses to be nothing; she assumes the role of a boy and takes on her brother’s fate: greatness. Heck yeah, I really wanted to read this book. Trigger warnings
Wow, what a fantastic, vast, and truly amazing book.
This is everything that I want out of an Adult book. It burns instead of blazes, dragging the plot along to create a friction that’ll spark into a flame. It’s a book that builds, and that is one of the things that I loved most about it. What it built was something truly incredible.
The world, for one, was one of those things. It is so vast, and only a small portion of it was explored in this book. There are so many things at play here, and many avenues to consider. Though, the information never felt overwhelming. It just felt like everything was so smartly and geniusly crafted.
I want to praise this book for it’s political intrigue, but that doesn’t feel like a strong enough world. Yes, it does feature political intrigue, but the intricacy and skill in it is just mind blowing. Politics don’t swirl around the characters, or the world, they are truly immersed in it. The maneuvering, the mind games, the hidden agendas, the climbing through the ranks. All of it was masterfully done.
One of the things I loved most about this book was the burning desire. For greatness, for revenge, for compassion. It builds and it grows and it drives. It causes horrors and it causes pain, but it also causes hope and love. It’s what drives the characters, and it’s what drives the story. I feel like it’s at the heart of the book, and just dang, wow.
Also, this book is really freaking queer. Like, super, super queer. It’s fantastic.
Overall, this book was brilliantly written. Seriously, I have so many good things to say about it. The slow burn, the characters, the yearning for greatness, for revenge, for compassion, for power, the intricacy of the politics and power plays, the blood and the violence and twists that left my jaw on the ground. It’s an amazing book, and I really loved it.