ARC Review: Heart of the Sun Warrior by Sue Lynn Tan

Author: Sue Lynn Tan
Series: Celestial Kingdom Book 2
Age Category: New Adult/Adult
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Publish Date: November 15, 2022
Print Length: 480

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Official Synopsis

The stunning sequel to Daughter of the Moon Goddess delves deeper into beloved Chinese mythology, concluding the epic story of Xingyin–the daughter of Chang’e and the mortal archer, Houyi–as she battles a grave new threat to the realm, in this powerful tale of love, sacrifice, and hope.

After winning her mother’s freedom from the Celestial Emperor, Xingyin thrives in the enchanting tranquility of her home. But her fragile peace is threatened by the discovery of a strange magic on the moon and the unsettling changes in the Celestial Kingdom as the emperor tightens his grip on power. While Xingyin is determined to keep clear of the rising danger, the discovery of a shocking truth spurs her into a perilous confrontation.

Forced to flee her home once more, Xingyin and her companions venture to unexplored lands of the Immortal Realm, encountering legendary creatures and shrewd monarchs, beloved friends and bitter adversaries. With alliances shifting quicker than the tides, Xingyin has to overcome past grudges and enmities to forge a new path forward, seeking aid where she never imagined she would. As an unspeakable terror sweeps across the realm, Xingyin must uncover the truth of her heart and claw her way through devastation–to rise against this evil before it destroys everything she holds dear, and the worlds she has grown to love . . . even if doing so demands the greatest price of all.

My Review

I received a free, digital, advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. My review is my own and reflects my honest opinion about this book. This review contains spoilers from DAUGHTER OF THE MOON GODDESS.

Sue Lynn Tan’s debut novel, DAUGHTER OF THE MOON GODDESS, was a delightful read full of adventure and sacrifice. But this sequel shines even brighter than its predecessor. Without a doubt the overarching theme of HEART OF THE SUN WARRIOR is love accompanied by sacrifice and hope. And with each of these things comes growth, which which is evident in the characters as well as the author.

One of the first things I noticed was the elevated eloquence of Tan’s writing. It was already lovely in the first installment, but I felt that it flowed more smoothly here, that more confidence exuded from the pages. Though quotable material isn’t a requirement for a good book, I found myself highlighting a lot of beautiful passages or 1-2 sentences of wisdom. The calm confidence I noticed in the writing extended to Xingyin, who came into her powers and showed the Immortal Realm not to underestimate her. (Which I suppose could be analogous to Tan coming into her own after writing the first book.) Xingyin is more confident in herself and her abilities, which is evident in her responses to the challenges she faces. I really loved seeing this aspect of her personality on full display.

On the moon Xingyin has been recuperating her life force and enjoying her and her mother’s newfound freedom. This allowed her time to heal as well as attempt to sort out her feelings about Liwei and Wenzhi. Unfortunately, though, she uncovers a deception years in the making that threatens to destroy both the Immortal and Mortal Realms. As each sinister goal reveals itself, it becomes a herculean effort to persuade the monarchs of each kingdom to be selfless. Each favor comes with a price and Xingyin tensely navigates the conditions of support.

Where love is the dominant theme of the book, vengeance is its counterbalance. In a realm where time is aplenty, death is the ultimate retribution. And immortals hold long grudges which can be all consuming when one has no love and therefore nothing to lose. But, in a tale as old as time, love runs deeper than its inverse and, coupled with hope, knows no bounds. It is Xingyin’s love for her friends and family, and their love of her, that spur them to succeed at seemingly impossible tasks.

All of these events heighten her confused feelings for Liwei and Wenzhi. Surprisingly, I haven’t read many books that included love triangles. Personally, I thought Tan wrote this one very well. I appreciated the maturity of the characters, the occasional barb, and their ability to recognize when to put aside their differences. Xingyin’s processing of her conflicted feelings was adeptly conveyed. At the crux of them is whether people can change and being true to oneself. But sometimes one doesn’t realize how one truly feels until it’s too late. Tan made some difficult decisions with some characters and I commend her for it. It was sad. I cried. But the ending was perfect.

Although I placed most of my attention on the plot and character development, the clothing descriptions were divine. I’m not incredibly familiar with traditional Chinese dress, but I still loved imagining all of the vivid designs. My only tiny quibble with this book is that I felt some of the interactions were a bit too stoic. I would have liked to see more heartfelt conversations, but that’s clearly a personal opinion.

I overwhelmingly suggest HEART OF THE SUN WARRIOR, the epic conclusion to the Celestial Kingdom duology. There is character growth abound, a lust for vengeance, and a fight for the survival of the world. One can go far with power alone, but reach new heights with the strength of hope and love, in all its forms.

Rating: 4.5
Content warnings: blood, death, battle scenes
Reading format: Kindle e-book

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