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.
I received a copy of this book through NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.
It’s been a while since I’ve picked up a book, only to find myself physically incapable of putting it down. Black Sun did that for me. Everything about this book, from the characters to the writing to the plot to the worldbuilding were so fascinatingly unique that Black Sun easily makes my Top 5 books of 2020 list.
What struck me first were the characters, and really one in particular: Serapio. Black Sun opens to Serapio being prepared by his mother for “godhood”, the specifics of which are yet unclear. But the almost grotesque, yet fascinating ritual he undergoes in that first chapter paints such a vibrant image that really sets the tone for the rest of the book.
Aside from Serapio, we follow the idealistic, moralistic Sun Priest Naranpa and bisexual Siren-like sailor Xiala. Whiel Naranpa finds herself embroiled in an assassination plot against herself, amidst a crowd of less-than-receptive priests to her populistic reforms, Xiala finds herself forced to deliver a mysterious passenger (guess who) to the holy city of Tova in record time. Of the two, I definitely liked Naranpa less, but that’s largely because I find myself ambivalent to the idealistic types. And also because Xiala’s storyline features Serapio and Serapio is just such an interesting character.
The pacing of this book is surprisingly fast, filled with action plot points and sharp twists as these characters attempt to accomplish seemingly impossible goals. Often, outcomes and revelations are left to context for the reader to interpret. At the same time, this book gives the most important, heavy hitting moments (the slow burn of gaining a new friend, the cutting betrayal of losing an old one) time to simmer and set in the reader’s mind. Overall, the writing in Black Sun is simply superb.
The worldbuilding in this book is inspired by pre-Columbian Americas. I fully admit I have very little knowledge of these cultures, with the majority of what I do know coming from the American school system. Simply put, these are cultures I am entirely unfamiliar with. With my unfamiliarity, I found the worldbuilding to be extremely fascinating. The worlds that we explore are both big and small, given that half the book takes place on a boat, but between the complex political landscape that is Tova and the little we do learn of Cuecola, a city to the south, Roanhorse has built a deep an intricate world that I’m excited to explore more of.
Finally, let’s talk about the ending (in a spoiler-free manner). Namely, the absolutely massive cliffhanger this book ends on. I was legit about to chuck my Kindle at the wall when I turned the page, only be greeted with the Acknowledgements page. You’re telling me that is the ending?? Excuse me??? Anyways, I am now anxiously awaiting book two.
Overall, I rate this book a 5/5. Every part of this book is just so extremely well crafted: the worldbuilding is in-depth and unique, the characters are fascinating, the plot is tight and fast paced. Just fantastic. Despite all the buzz, I never picked up Roanhorse’s debut series because I’m not a big Urban Fantasy person, but having read Black Sun, I’m strongly reconsidering.
r/Fantasy Bingo Squares:
- Novel with a Color in the Title
- Novel with Chapter Epigraphs (hard mode)
- Novel Published in 2020
- Novel Featuring Politics (hard mode)