Heart of the Sun Warrior is the second book in Sue Lynn Tan’s Celestial Kingdom duology, following up on The Daughter of the Moon Goddess (see our review of the first book here). This follows Xingyin’s story a time after the events of the first book, and has quite a different feel to it. Where The Daughter of the Moon Goddess was focused on Xingyin growing up, maturing and finding out who she is as a person, wrapped in a quest story, this second part of the story is far less plot-driven and more concerned with politics and relationships than quests. Xingyin, as the daughter of a goddess, comes with inherent longevity, so this does continue the personal growth arc and she matures further, which I appreciated in many ways.
Where I think Heart of the Sun Warrior may lose a lot of readers who come to read reviews on Grimdark Magazine – from the subset who may have picked it up in the first place – is that, even more than The Daughter of the Moon Goddess, this utilises the YA trope of the love triangle. Now, that in itself is not a bad thing, and I found that the way it was implemented here was very well done, especially how it ultimately resolved. But even more than the first in the duology, this is a clear crossover novel, and one that I feel will not resonate as much with readers of Grimdark. While there is still extensive betrayal and moral quandry, much of it is ultimately solved by mature consideration, or, in some parts, melodrama. And while that made me enjoy my reading experience, it is far more wholesome than what we usually report on here.
Personally, I found Heart of the Sun Warrior a quick and entertaining read, compelling and lyrical. As The Daughter of the Moon Goddess, it is steeped in Chinese mythology, and packaged in a gorgeously designed book, both on the outside with a beautiful cover and on the inside with careful design and thoughtful details. And Harper Voyager makes the most stunning ARCs in the industry as well, so I can’t stop staring at the beautiful object. The writing itself matches that. Descriptive and emotive, with a strong focus on evoking atmosphere and distinctive characters, these books are great reads for anyone who likes books steeped in mythology, heroines determined to put themselves and their own development first and a good dose of balancing political needs. I did find the pacing was a bit slow at times, leading to tension dropping off a bit – I think the story could have done with a bit of a trim around the edges, but it was a very solid four star read for me. I know I’ll be rereading the duology again and again, as for me, these are just lovely books that hit the right spots.