Awesome fantasy novel that fills its pre-Columbian Americas civilisation inspired setting with complex characters and twisted plots.
From the New York Times bestselling author of Star Wars: Resistance Reborn comes the first book in the Between Earth and Sky trilogy, inspired by the civilizations of the Pre-Columbian Americas and woven into a tale of celestial prophecies, political intrigue, and forbidden magic.
A god will return
When the earth and sky converge
Under the black sun
In the holy city of Tova, the winter solstice is usually a time for celebration and renewal, but this year it coincides with a solar eclipse, a rare celestial event proscribed by the Sun Priest as an unbalancing of the world.
Meanwhile, a ship launches from a distant city bound for Tova and set to arrive on the solstice. The captain of the ship, Xiala, is a disgraced Teek whose song can calm the waters around her as easily as it can warp a man’s mind. Her ship carries one passenger. Described as harmless, the passenger, Serapio, is a young man, blind, scarred, and cloaked in destiny. As Xiala well knows, when a man is described as harmless, he usually ends up being a villain.
“Crafted with unforgettable characters, Rebecca Roanhorse has created an epic adventure exploring the decadence of power amidst the weight of history and the struggle of individuals swimming against the confines of society and their broken pasts in the most original series debut of the decade.”
I received an ARC and reviewed honestly and voluntarily.
Content warnings include: child abuse (neglect, physical, mentions of sexual), graphic violence and gore, scarring and blinding, alcohol and drug use, imprisonment, abduction, corruption and betrayal, non-explicit sex on-page, superstition and religion, misogyny.
Black Sun has quite slow worldbuilding, it’s not confusing but some things could have been made a bit more clear, like how the different places are tied together and the details of the history. It also took me until after I finished the book and looked at the official map that I realized what it was the entire country/continent/area that was called Meridian.
That being said, I never lost track of the different POV characters, where they were from or what they were doing. So even though not a lot was explained, it was all perfectly well executed. I would have liked a bit more balance between the POV chapters in the first third of the book, though, because some characters get a lot more attention at first than others, and one even only being introduced pretty late. It becomes balanced later on, though, which the POVs rotation evenly.
I loved the little in-world document excerpts at the beginning of each chapter. I usually find those things really redundant in most fantasy novels, as I often don’t see how they add anything to the story, but here the short passages were always relevant to the chapter they preceed. They also added to the worldbuilding.
I also loved the casual inclusion of queer characters, though some places were more accepting than others. There was no outright queerphobia, though some sexism. I particularly adored the normalized nonbinary/third gender and neopronouns, and that in some parts a lof of words were not gendered where they usually are in today’s world.
There wa stons of political intrigue. So much betrayal and corruption and every character, be it major and minor, has their own agenda, and they often work against each other, both actively and without really knowing. There are POVs from opposing sides, and others who have no sides or stakes involved at all, and it was all interesting – if not always easy to read because at no point were any of the characters allowed to have a break or real hope for peace (inner and outer) on the horizon.
It’s not exactly a dark book, but both the personal fates of the characters as well as the overall plot is riddled with hardship and pain, though each in a different way. I particularly could have done without some of the more graphic scenes, especially the child abuse ones. The very first chapter packs a punch in the graphic direction and sets the tone for the rest of the book this way. The violence was not glorified, it just… was.
That being said, it was the ending that filled me with awe. It was both inevitable and unexpected, plain and extraordinary, a cliffhanger and deeply satisfying. I am definitely looking forward to the second book.