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ARC provided by the publisher—Saga Press—in exchange for an honest review.
Cover illustration by: John Picacio
Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Series: Between Earth and Sky (Book #1 of 3)
Genre: Fantasy, High fantasy
Pages: 464 pages
Published: 13th October 2020 by Gallery / Saga Press
Fascinating world-building and riveting narrative. Black Sun was my first venture in Rebecca Roanhorse’s works, and it certainly won’t be the last.
I’ve heard a lot of great things about The Sixth World, an ongoing urban fantasy series by Roanhorse, but I haven’t managed to get to them yet. When I saw this book being offered to review by Saga Press, I took a look at the cover, the blurb, and after hearing that this is a high fantasy, I immediately jumped at the chance to read and review it early. In other words, I knew absolutely nothing about the content of this book. And wow, I couldn’t be more pleasantly surprised. Black Sun was incredible, and if this is Roanhorse’s first foray into high fantasy, consider me a reader who’s willing to follow her career.
“The costliest mistake one can make is to underestemite one’s opponent through low expectations.”
Black Sun is the first book in Between Earth and Sky trilogy, and it is a high fantasy inspired by the civilizations Pre-Columbian Americas (how cool is this!?) The winter solstice in the holy city of Tova usually means a time for celebration and renewal. But there’s an exception this time. This year’s winter solstice Converged with the solar eclipse, and this is a rare Celestial event that dictates an unbalancing of the world. Xiala, a disgraced Teek—someone who has the power to calm waters through their Songs—receives a task to deliver a supposedly harmless passenger named Serapio by the time of the Convergence. This is a tale of destiny, celestial prophecies, sacrifice, and dark magic, and it’s one filled with individuals struggling to do their best to fulfill the role they’re given.
“Life is a series of false hopes. We all have misplaced hopes until we learn better. I did.”
Roanhorse has done an incredible job of crafting her characters here. Although there were four main POV characters to follow, Xiala and Serapio were unquestionably my favorites in the book. The majority of their POV chapters took place on the sea, and if you knew my reading taste, you would know that I tend to not like reading a fantasy book that takes place mostly on a boat/sea. I think of seafaring to be one of the most uninspiring settings in fantasy, and if possible, I prefer it to be done in shorter longevity. But this is one of many reasons why I think Roanhorse is a great author. She was able to keep me thoroughly immersed despite the seafaring setting that I usually disliked by creating well-realized characters with broken past and spectacular developments. I loved reading the gradual progression of Xiala’s and Serapio’s relationship, and Serapio’s flashback chapters were put to good effect; they enhanced his characterizations and motivations further. Also, Serapio is a blinded and scarred character; in the acknowledgment, Roanhorse mentioned the extensive research she did to make sure a character with blindness is represented rightfully. Whether she succeeds or not, it’s up to each reader to decide, but I personally found it’s praiseworthy that she’s willing to go that far.
“A man with a destiny is a man who fears nothing.”
This isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy reading the other two main characters, Naranpa’s journey and the difficulty she faced in maintaining her role as the Sun Priest in Tova was intriguing. I also loved reading Okoa’s POV, and seeing how these four characters fate intertwined with each other was darkly delightful. Roanhorse has an accessible writing style that flows nicely, and the great dualities in the scenes that occurred in the setting of land and water exhibited through the four characters wonderfully tightened the pacing of the narrative; suffice to say that I was never bored throughout this book.
“Many of you, including my own Knife, object to this appointment, but you must trust that in my old age, perhaps I read a future in the heavens that you cannot. You may think her a puzzling choice, and you would be right. But often greatness comes from unexpected places.”
There’s no long action scenes, but every moment of them was greatly done. Roanhorse’s prose was very easily visualized in my mind; the scenes that depict the whirlwind of slaughter and the leaking of blood from the eyes were so vivid in my mind. Seriously, the environment and the terrifying change in weather and atmosphere were also palpable. The dimming of the sun, the screaming of the wind, and the arrival of the obsidian sky when the avatar of the Carrion God’s shadow magic was executed felt insanely real. In addition to this, I also enjoyed reading about the world-building; it’s quite different from the books I usually read, and I appreciate how every epigraph that starts each chapter deepened the world-building of this series.
“Violence should only be used in defense, and even then, it corrupts. If you must kill your enemy, do it quickly and be done. To linger only invites humiliation of both the victim and the self, and there is no honor there.”
So yeah, I loved Black Sun. It was a short and compelling read, I finished it within two days, and I think this is one book that every fantasy readers—young or adult—would highly enjoy. I can’t believe that I picked up Black Sun randomly, and it ended up being one my favorite reads of the year. I’m looking forward to the next book already, and I will definitely check out The Sixth World series one day.
“If your stories are of the glory of war, then I will know you value power. If your stories are of kinship, then I know you value relationship. If your stories are of many children, I know you value legacy. But if your stories are of adaptation and survival, of long memory and revenge, then I will know you are a Crow like me.”
Official release date: 13th October 2020
The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
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