Book Review: Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
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: 5 of 5 stars
Series: Book 1 of Between Earth and Sky
Publisher: Saga Press (October 13, 2020)
Length: 464 pages
I am stunned! I mean, I always knew Rebecca Roanhorse would go places ever since I read her debut Trail of Lightning, and I have also gone on to adore the follow-up Storm of Locusts as well as the novel she wrote for the new Star Wars universe, Resistance Reborn. Her first crack at epic fantasy, however, was even better than I could have imagined! Black Sun is incredible, my favorite work of hers yet.
Told via multiple perspectives, the story takes place in a world inspired by the civilizations of the Pre-Columbian Americas. As the winter solstice descends upon the holy city of Tova, all the members of the Sky Made clans under the newly appointed Sun Priest would normally be preparing for the upcoming celebrations. But this year, the event would be coinciding with the solar eclipse, a sign of great disturbance. In Carrion Crow, disgraced among the clans, a fanatical group of renegades believe that it is a sign of the imminent return of their god who will take vengeance upon those who stripped them of their power generations ago.
Meanwhile in the city of Cuecola, exiled far from home, a Teek captain named Xiala finds herself taking on an unusual assignment. The job sounded easy enough when she agreed to it, involving the transport of a single passenger across the seas to Tova. As it turns out though, the passenger in question is a strange and unnerving young man—blinded, scarred, and rumored to have the ability to speak to crows. Called Serapio, his very presence makes Xiala and the crew uneasy, added to the fact that their benefactor has stipulated a nearly impossible deadline for their journey through treacherous waters. Anyone else would have said it can’t be done, but Xiala is no ordinary sailor. Her Teek heritage has bestowed upon her the magical power to use song to calm the oceans, to coax the waters into speeding them along. But of course, every voyage has its perils and unexpected destinies—some more than most.
Beautifully crafted and filled with lusciously detailed descriptions of exotic locales and memorable characters, Black Sun is as close to perfection as you can get. Fellow epic fantasy fans, these are the kinds of stories we live for, richly woven adventures that whisk us away to imaginative worlds full of complex magic. There’s also an effusion of cultures and religions colliding with layers upon layers of political intrigue, ultimately creating a web of perspectives that not only helps bind the narrative but offers deeper understanding into its themes as well.
But above all else, characters are at the heart of every good novel, and Roanhorse is an author who grasps this concept extremely well. Black Sun is completely character-focused, with the narrative alternating between our different POVs. Each one is a uniquely fleshed out individual, with well thought out personalities and backgrounds. Flashbacks are also occasionally used to provide past context, but these are always artfully worked into the present thread to flow seamlessly with the rest of the plot. My favorite character was hands down Xiala, followed closely behind by Serapio, and the two of them made this book very special, even if their relationship may have felt a bit rushed. However, watching this dynamic develop and grow between them was probably my greatest joy of reading this book.
If I’m being honest though, I could go on for hours about the things I loved about Black Sun. So many highly anticipated novels have disappointed me so far in 2020, but this one is the real deal, and not just because it has great characters and world-building. The story itself is genuinely entertaining and engaging, fueled by real motivations which are enacted in a relatable, human way. As a result, falling in love with this book was effortless, magical.
So, do yourself a favor—run, don’t walk, to pick up Black Sun. Then, make sure you have ample time in your schedule before reading, as you may find it impossible to stop once you start. I know that I personally found it hard to put this book down, and that doesn’t happen nearly enough with epic fantasy. Rebecca Roanhorse has proven once again her talent and versatility as a writer, and I am now an even bigger fan than before.