Reviewed by Wendy Lipke
Sue Lynn Tan writes fantasy stories inspired by the myths and legends she fell in love with during her childhood. Born in Malaysia, she studied in London and France, before settling in Hong Kong with her family. Her romantic duology about the daughter of the Moon Goddess melds ancient Chinese mythology into an exciting story about a world including immortals, mortals, dragons and ambitions driven by hate in a Celestial Kingdom.
Heart of the Sun Warrior, which is the sequel to Daughter of the Moon Goddess, is told in the first person by Xingyin, daughter of Chang’e, the Moon Goddess, and the mortal archer Houyi. The UK book cover is adorned with stunning flowers and symbolism in striking colours illustrated by Jason Chuang.
The Chinese influence is very evident in this book through the names of the characters, the detailed descriptions of furniture, food, clothing, flora as well as including creatures such as dragons and the magnificent phoenix. The setting for this story is shown in a map at the beginning of the book to include the Mortal Realm below and the various independent principalities which make up the Immortal Realm, above. Transport is mainly via cloud. All the main characters have supernatural powers which are used to great effect during the various tussles for power.
In this second book of the duology, it appears that it is on the shoulders of this young woman, Xingyin, that the fate of her family and indeed the whole Immortal world rests. As an accomplished warrior, she can hold her own, but her main adversary is very accomplished and canny. She has many staunch friends who will fight for and with her, two of whom are rivals for her affections. By the end of the story, she must decide who her true love is.
When a mortal becomes immortal and threatens, through guile and magic, to overthrow the whole of the celestial world, Xingyin must try to engage all the various principalities to help overthrow this tyrant, but many of the leaders have a grudge against her family, so this will not be an easy task.
When she is forced to flee her home, 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 needs to forge a new path forward, seeking aid wherever she can. She knows she is against a ruthless tyrant who is determined to send his armies on an endless rampage of death.
This journey is told in three parts. Part 1 follows her life in the Celestial Kingdom where she knows there are those who wish her harm. She learns that ‘Fame was often accompanied with suffering, the thrill of glory came entwined with terror, and blood was not so easily washed from one’s conscience’ (4). She also knew that leaders rewarded those who served them well, but also that insults were paid in full.
Part 2 sees Xingyin and her mother fleeing to the Southern Sea as they return the body of their beloved friend. Yet they are uncertain of their welcome. In part 3, she must approach the Phoenix Kingdom, and the mother of children that her own father had killed. Then comes the fight to the death to see if this Immortal Realm survives and who will be its leader.
This story is full of adventure, friendships, jealousy, danger and magic. It is a tale of good over evil with many wise sayings found within the pages.
I enjoyed the storyline of this interesting tale.
Heart of the Sun Warrior
By Sue Lynn Tan