Audiobook Review: The Seventh Sun by Lani Forbes
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Series: Book 1 of The Age of the Seventh Sun
Publisher: Blackstone Audio (February 18, 2020)
Length: 10 hrs and 23 mins
Narrator: Stacy Gonzales
Set in a fantasy world heavily inspired by the legends and traditions of ancient Mesoamerica, The Seventh Sun is a coming-of-age novel by debut author Lani Forbes featuring a rich blend of history, magic, and mythology.
One of the two protagonists is Ahkin, a young prince who thought he had years to learn the sacred rituals which would prepare him for the day he will succeed his father and lead the Chicome people. But as the story opens in the early hours of an ill-fated morning, he is interrupted by a nervous servant who tells Ahkin that his powers are urgently needed to call the sun. It appears that the emperor had passed away suddenly in the middle of the night, and according to tradition, his wife must now also sacrifice herself and follow her husband into the underworld.
And so, within moments, Ahkin finds himself losing both his parents and becoming the emperor, responsible for the wellbeing of every life who lives under his rule. As it is his royal blood that controls the sun, it is his duty to spill a few drops of it each morning to bring about its life-giving rays and please the gods, preventing the coming of another apocalypse. In order to ascend the throne, Ahkin must also marry, choosing a wife among the daughters of the empire’s minor kings, each descended from the gods and are hence blessed with their own unique powers.
This is where our second protagonist, Mayana, comes into play. Her birthright is control of water, but unlike her family, she doesn’t believe the gods demand sacrifices in return for peace and prosperity. However, when she becomes one of the six young princesses called to the palace, Mayana knows she must keep her blasphemous beliefs to herself in order to survive. Only one woman can become Ahkin’s wife, with the rest to be sacrificed to bless the match. In order to ensure she will be the one chosen by the matchmakers, she’ll need to play the role of devout subject and hope to catch the young prince’s eye and keep it. But as she grows closer to Ahkin, and as he begins to develop deeper feelings for her, Mayana knows she won’t be able to keep her secrets forever. As empress, she would be called upon to take part in the bloody sacrificial rituals she doesn’t agree with. How can she rule the empire if she doesn’t believe in its traditions, and what would Ahkin think of her when he inevitably finds out?
To start, The Seventh Sun was a novel full of surprises for me—some good, and some admittedly not so good. On the whole, while I thought it was impressive for a debut, it was also not without its share of “first novel problems” including unstable pacing and issues related to telling not showing. The story itself was interesting, but predictable in a way that you can probably zone out through much of the novel’s middle sections without missing out on anything too important, and in fact, that’s exactly what happened to me with the audiobook. The other issue related to this is the writing style and storytelling. Although I knew this would be a coming-of-age novel, what I did not expect was for elements in it to skew so heavily YA. The plot boils down to a competition between the six young women, who are put through multiple trials with only one winner to emerge while failure will mean death (like we haven’t seen a variation of this scenario in YA a million times before?) In play is also the ever-annoying miscommunication trope, in which two people claim they are on so in love, but of course never tell each other anything.
But there are positives. The world-building is strong, and though the book synopsis describes The Seventh Sun as being based on the legends and history of the Aztec and Mayans, I would say it’s the author’s own flourishes (and here she does take a lot of artistic liberties) that make the setting of her book and the magic of her characters memorable. The final chapters were also a bit surprising, and though I was disappointed to discover that there would be no clean ending to tie everything up neatly, I enjoyed finally getting a few twists and certain developments I didn’t see coming.
Though I wasn’t completely blown away, I saw a lot of promising things in The Seventh Sun that will make me strongly consider picking up the sequel, if nothing else because the ending took the story in a direction I completely did not expect, and I would be curious to see what will happen to Ahkin and Mayana. The audiobook narrated by Stacy Gonzales was another reason for my increased interest, because she made the characters come to life and their emotions feel real. When the next book comes out, should I decide to pick it up, it will definitely be the audio format again because of her fantastic performance.