Book Review: “Black Sun” by Rebecca Roanhorse

“There was magic in the world, pure and simple, things she didn’t understand. Best get used to it.”

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’ve been meaning to read something by Rebecca Roanhorse for a while now. I actually own two other books of hers. So why haven’t I read her work until now? I don’t know. But I’m so glad I started with Black Sun because this book slaps!

These characters are fantastic. Xiala is brash and impulsive, but still holds vulnerabilities. Serapio is sweet and naive, but also vicious when he needs to be. Naranpa is idealistic, yet a realist. Okoa is loyal, but also unsure. Each character is so well-written and well-rounded, I felt like I was reading about real people.

The world-building is in-depth and transformative. Whether on a ship traveling the Crescent Sea or on the streets of Tova, each location, religion, and type of magic comes to life so vividly. While I feel like Roanhorse could’ve gone even deeper into each magic system, I still feel like I have a good handle on each people’s beliefs and abilities.

Moreover, Black Sun is a story with a really strong plot. Roanhorse doesn’t meander— she gets us exactly where we need to go next and never a moment too soon. It was exciting watching each character’s piece of the story become slowly more and more intertwined with the others’.

But honestly? The thing I appreciated the most about this book was how easily readable it is. I’m so used to dense, lengthy adult fantasy novels. Black Sun is so much more accessible. It stands as proof that you don’t need an overly complicated world, plot, or writing style to create a good story. I would recommend this book as a perfect entry into adult fantasy for YA readers. Black Sun gives you the mature themes and characters you crave, but doesn’t hold you at arm’s length.

My only real complaint is how quickly the novel wraps up and how lackluster the cliffhanger is. The lives of the characters we’ve fallen in love with do hang in the balance, but not quite in a way that feels impactful. I had also expected the ending action to have more, well, action. Things were a touch too easy, even if the battle isn’t truly done yet. I just wanted a little more umph from the conclusion.

Fortunately, the ending doesn’t detract from my enjoyment of this book. Despite hearing nothing but good things about it, I’m a bit surprised I love it as much as I do. I’m honestly not sure why. I had hoped I’d like it, but I didn’t know it would become a new favorite. But become it did, and now I cannot wait to get my hands on the sequel. And I’ll definitely be reading Roanhorse’s other books sooner rather than later. If you’re looking for a find fantasy story, definitely put this one at the top of your list!

OwnVoices pre-colonial/indiginous America inspired world, 2 nonbinary characters who use neopronouns, bisexual woman, ace spectrum-coded/blind man, & relevant past relationship between woman & nonbinary character

Child abuse, mild alcohol abuse, mention of forced sex work, & mild body horror

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Have you read Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse? What are your thoughts? Let’s discuss in the comments!

6 thoughts on “Book Review: “Black Sun” by Rebecca Roanhorse

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