By: Sue Lynn Tan
Publisher: Harper Voyager Publishing
“Few wrote poems about the half-moon or immortalized it in paintings-devoid of the elegant arch of a crescent or the perfect wholeness of the orb. Clinging to both light and dark, and lost somewhere in between. It resonated with me, a child of a mortal and immortal heritage, in the shade of my luminous parents.” Sue Lynn Tan, Heart of the Sun Warrior
Heart of the Sun Warrior is the second book in The Celestial Kingdom Duology by Sue Lynn Tan. It is just as beautifully written as Daughter of the Moon Goddess, and picks up about a year later. This duology has been pure magic. Ms. Tan’s world building, use of magic, and well-developed characters creates a feast for the senses. From the peaceful home of Xingyin and Chang’e on the moon, to the more contentious, but beautiful, Jade Palace, to the Demon Realm, and so many others, the reader is drawn into these gorgeous worlds. We feel like we are flying on clouds like the characters in the book.
Ms. Tan’s characters are so well-developed. Xingyin and her mother, Chang’e, the Moon Goddess, are back on the moon, tending to lighting the lanterns every night so the moon glows down on earth. She is happy and peaceful there. Whenever we see Chang’e there is a sense of both peace and sadness to her. I would always imagine this serene woman, all in white, with an ethereal glow, lighting her lanterns every night. She also keeps watch over a glowing laurel tree, whose seeds can never be removed. Xinging always wanted to have some seeds to make her mother a bracelet. For Chang’e, there is also the sadness of loosing her husband and her love, Houyi, a mortal who gave up the elixir of immortality to Chang’e to keep her and their daughter safe. After reading this duology, I can never look at the moon the same again. I imagine Chang’e there with her lanterns, keeping the moon bright in the sky. Just like the Chang’e, the moon is a peaceful reminder that there is brightness in even the dark.
Prince Liwei, the man Xinging loves, visits often. Periodically, she is also visited by Wenzhi, the Crown Prince of the Demon Realm. In Daughter of the Moon Goddess, they served together to fight for the Imperial Army. She did not know who he was and they fell in love. When Xingyin thought that she and Liwei could never be together, she opened her heart to Wenzhi. He betrayed her trust and now she will not forgive him. When he visits the moon, she is angry with him, though he still loves her. However, despite what she says, she still has strong feelings for Wenzhi, and he is trying to make amends. Xingyin’s heart becomes more torn between Lewei and Wenzhi as the story unfolds. It is heartbreaking for her, but in the end, Xingyin always knows what she truly wants.
In Heart of the Sun Warrior, their peace comes to an end when Chang’e fails to light the lanterns on the celebration of the Celestial Emperor’s birthday. His new advisor, General Wu, a man with ill intent, convinces the Emperor that this is a deliberate slight to him and convinces him to imprison Chang’e and Xinging. They flee, but not before their beloved home is destroyed by General Wu’s troops. He is after the laurel tree seeds. The tree has powerful magic, regenerative and renewal properties that he wants to use to destroy the celestial realms. It is a race against time and realms for Xining and her companions to stop General Wu. While her mother escaped, the moon remains dark until she can come home to light the lanterns. I loved the different realms they went too. Each was so unique and so beautiful, and in some ways, terrifying for Xining as she would require something from a god or goddess that resided there. It was exciting and full of twists and turns that I never could have predicted.
“Lights flared, flames crackling in the distance. Tremors rippled through the ground, soil scattering over our boots. Shuxiao’s eyes went wide as she gestured ahead. Pale tendrils streaked the night like fingers clawing at the sky, smoky bitterness of ash entwined with the sweetness of charred cinnamon. My home…it was afire…I fell to my knees, choked gasps wrung from my throat.” Sue Lyn Tan, Heart of the Sun Warrior
The story is once again told from the first-person perspective of Xingyin. I loved seeing everything through her eyes. She is strong, fearless, smart and will do anything to protect her family. While there is the love triangle between her, Liwei, and Wenzhi, her motivation is for all the people she loves. Xinging is so protective of her mother and it was beautiful. I think the choice to tell it this way was wonderful. She is the main protagonist, and so much centers around her that we need to see it from her perspective. Her love, her turmoil, her anger, and all the emotions she feels as these events affect her, but even more so, her family and her friends. She is fearless as she embarks on the journey to save both the mortal and immortal realms from General Wu. In Xinging, Ms. Tan has created a beautiful character. Through her, we feel the love for her mother, he conflicted feelings for Lewei and Wenzhi, and through her eyes, we see all the details of the realms they visit. Above all, where her heart lies are with her family and those she loves.
“A familiar longing swept over me. During my years away from home, I had often felt adrift-a weed, sprouted in strange and hostile soil. I glanced around the hall, taking in the familiar furniture…Yet what mattered most were the people within these walls. Family, whether through blood or bond, who gave this place its heart. And that was more important than any tile or brick, whether gold, silver, or jade.” Sue Lyn Tan, Heart of the Sun Warrior
I was again mesmerized by Ms. Tan’s writing, which was so poetic in all of her descriptions. The little details she includes were amazing; the embroidered birds and dragons on the celestial robes that would fly across the material, the luminous forest on the moon, the beautiful gardens of the Jade Palace, the darkness of the Demon Realm, and all the different foods that were described so well you can practically taste them. It is a place you never want to leave. My favorite worlds were the moon. Ms. Tan’s words radiated the peace and tranquility of it. It wasn’t the elaborate and ostentatious Jade Palace, but a humble home of white pillars, lanterns of moonlight, and a beautiful forest that glowed white with osmanthus flowers. To be able to write all of these worlds with such beauty, woven together with the action of trying to stop General Wu from destroying the worlds, was simply brilliant. Heart of the Sun Warrior was just as engrossing as Daughter of the Moon Goddess, and I was once again swept away into in this magical story. A story I never wanted to end. I highly recommend both Daughter of the Moon Goddess and Heart of the Sun Warrior.
“For as long as I could remember, it had been her nightly ritual to wander the forest, weeping for my father-the only time she allowed her grief to unravel instead of wound tight in her chest. As a child I had been hurt by her seeming coldness when I interpreted her during those times, realizing only later it was because she did not want me to see her cry.” Sue Lynn Tan, Heart of the Sun Warrior
Heart of the Sun Warrior is the beautiful second novel in the Celestial kingdom Duology by Sue Lyn Tan. I was once again drawn into the beautiful world she created and it was like going back to see old friends. Ms. Tan’s world building is nothing short of gorgeous, as we visit vastly different places. From the peace of the moon, the more ostentatious Jade Place, the Demon Realm, undersea kingdoms, and the realm of the Sun Goddess, the details of each makes the reader feel like they are there along with Xinging. The story is once again told in the first-person narrative of Xinging. I think this was the perfect choice to see everything through the eyes of the main protagonist. Xining is dealing with quite a few things in this story. We feel her torn emotions over Liwei and Wenzhi, her love for her mother, her anger when their home on the moon is destroyed, and her resolve to save those she loves. Xinging is a strong female protagonist, and she does anything she must, no matter how difficult, to save the mortal and immortal realms. Once again, Sue Lynn Tan made this magical world that immerses the reader in beauty. There is action and the race to save the looming disaster, threaded seamlessly into overarching theme of family and love. The prose is like poetry, so beautifully crafted that I once again wanted to step into the worlds and just marvel at what Ms. Tan created in this duology. I can’t praise Heart of the Sun Warrior and Daughter of the Moon Goddess enough. I highly recommend them not just to fans of fantasy, but to all readers.
Summary (from NetGalley)
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 thanks to Harper-Voyager Publishing for approving an ARC and NetGalley for providing an eBook
Find out more about Sue Lynn Tan on her website: https://www.suelynntan.com/
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sue Lynn Tan writes fantasy novels inspired by the myths and legends she fell in love with as a child. Her debut, Daughter of the Moon Goddess, will be published by Harper Voyager in January 2022 – inspired by the beloved Chinese legend, of Chang’e flying to the moon upon taking the elixir of immortality.