Publisher: Saga Press
Page Count: 464
Release Date: October 13th, 2020
Series: BETWEEN EARTH AND SKY, Book 1
Rating: 4/5 Stars – Really Liked It!
Note: I was provided a free ARC by the publisher in exchange for my fair and honest review.
Xiala is a down-on-her-luck ship captain who is approached with an offer that could change her life: Make sure a single passenger arrives in the city of Tova by the winter solstice, and she’ll receive a lucrative long-term shipping contract that will have her in comfort for the rest of her days. The catch, of course, is that reaching Tova that quickly means crossing open waters in storm season, a dangerous proposition. Xiala is magically gifted, however, and her abilities to calm the seas might see them through safely. Meanwhile, in Tova, the Sun Priest Naranpa is realizing that the balance of power between the four great houses might be in danger of overturning. She navigates political waters trying to retain control, unaware that an even greater danger might be coming from outside the city. This year, the winter solstice will be the same day as an eclipse – a day when the powers of the Sun Priest will be at their weakest.
BLACK SUN by Rebecca Roanhorse is a dark fantasy that is constantly driving towards its finale. The POV jumps between four characters: Xiala the captain, her mysterious passenger Serapio, Naranpa the Sun Priest, and Okoa, son of the Carrion Crow clan matron. As the book alters between the different POVs, it lets you know how many days until the winter solstice are left, constantly reminding you that Something Bad is coming and it’s drawing ever closer. But fair warning, if you HATE cliff hangers, maybe steer clear, because this is the kind of book one that ends with all kind of messy dangling plot threads waiting to be resolved in the sequel.
Xiala and Serapio are the stand out characters, Xiala in particular a person I was always ready to spend time with. She’s no-nonsense, but also a bit of a disaster, ready to hit the bottle instead of confronting personal problems. Like Serapio, she’s got a mysterious past that only gets teased out in this novel, and powers she doesn’t fully understand herself. Serapio, who was raised with one goal in mind, and one goal only, is a lonely figure that is drawn to the liveliness of Xiala, and I enjoyed watching that relationship grow and evolve. Naranpa and Okoa were good characters, but ones that felt like they’ll have a bigger role to play later in the series, particularly Okoa.
I also enjoyed the world of BLACK SUN, which was fresh compared to standard medieval fantasy settings. Roanhorse drew from “Pre-Colombian Americas” for her fantasy world, which could be felt in the dress of the people, the geography, and items the cultures valued in trade, and more. It also occasionally meant that ritual magic was a little bloodier than I was used to. It’s not a book that’s pervasively gruesome, however, so if the opening scenes have you a bit wary, the rest of the book won’t be like that.
BLACK SUN is a fantasy that moves at a brisk pace and immerses you in a world of mythology. With prophecies, magics that are spoken of only in whispers, and omens hinting at a doom to come, this is a tale that will keep you reading until the climactic ending. While I wish the story hadn’t ended so abruptly, that also means I’m very excited for the sequel!