Sue Lynn Tan has blessed us twice this year. She made an incredible debut in January with Daughter of the Moon Goddess. Then Tan capped the year with the duology’s heart-wrenching conclusion in Heart of the Sun Warrior. No sequel slump to be found here! Tan finishes Xingyin’s tale expertly, and I have nothing but glowing opinions to share with you.
Xingyin has spent a year recovering from her many hardships and adventures in book one. Having secured a bit of peace for her mother, Chang’e, Xingyin is happily bidding her time on the moon and indulging in short visits with Liwei. Yet, even the moon is not far enough from the machinations of the Celestial Kingdom’s court. A new plot pulls Xingyin and all those she loves into harm’s way, and she can no longer hide away in her peaceful home. Xingyin must confront a malicious enemy that will stop at nothing to destroy the immortal and mortal realms.
Tan is a fantastic storyteller. She introduces a new threat and amps up the dread with every chapter. It seemed as if Xingyin was up against impossible odds, and every choice was a bad one. I thought book one tested Xingyin but nothing can compare to what she must go through now to protect the realm. She did everything in her power to avoid political games, but Xingyin’s entire journey makes her confront the situations she tried so hard to avoid. Xingyin is brought low in this book and it hurts. A lot. Yet, so many new facets of her character are revealed and I loved every new part of her. Tan constantly puts Xingyin in difficult situations and her questionable decision-making had me on edge throughout the entire book.
The world is large and magical and rich in Chinese mythology. It gives Tan room to explore it more in the future if she desires, but she spotlights a perfect portion of the lore and magic through Xingyin’s perspective. Tan shared each droplet of information purposefully and it expanded the story beautifully. I love how Tan uses mythology to examine the featured immortals on a personal level. Chang’e suffers from being separated from her love, but mortals often view her as a selfish woman who stole the elixir of immortality. Houyi is portrayed as a hero of the mortal realm, yet the sun goddess suffers when nine of her children are killed at his hand. Tan peels back the surface of these powerful stories and shows us real people living with the consequences.
Sun Warrior broke me, several times over. The heartbreak in this book is real, and I was not prepared. The romantic threads at the end of book one appeared tied off, giving Xingyin an opportunity to heal and pursue a relationship on better footing. But, unfortunately for my poor soul, Tan has other plans. She really came out swinging. I can barely hold my own through this intense adventure and on top of that I’m served a heaping of heartache. Tan expertly crafts Xingyin’s feelings which adds an extra layer of suffering throughout the entire story. It was an incredible experience and the culmination solidified the book’s perfect rating.
The Celestial Kingdom duology is phenomenal. It has unique characters, intricate storytelling, strong worldbuilding, and a beautiful romance to boot. I am sad to close the book on Xingyin’s story, but I will look to the future and be ready to read anything Sue Lynn Tan writes.
Rating: Heart of the Sun Warrior – 10/10
I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an unbiased review. The thoughts on this story are my own.