In One Word

In One Word, Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse is…

black sun

  • First published in 2020 by Saga Press
  • Format: Paperback – Published by Solaris in 2021
  • Reading Time: 21 gripping days

Arresting

  • A book with an oxymoron in the title was needed for the Popsugar Reading Challenge and this is another one that’s been on my TBR for a while. Inspired by Pre-Columbian American civilisations, Black Sun tells the tale of the days leading up to the day of Convergence, an event where the winter solstice and a solar eclipse combine. In the holy city of Tova, the winter solstice is a time of celebration but, this year, the Sun Priest is facing internal trouble that threatens to destabilise the whole city. Little does she know that further trouble is coming on a ship heading straight for the holy city to fulfil an ancient prophecy of a vengeful god returning to earth.
  • Really original world and magic system. We didn’t see much of the magic but we see the most of it from Serapio, who has picked up strange and rather creepy abilities, but also from Xiala, whose partial Teek heritage (this world’s equivalent of a siren) gives her power over the sea that is both valued and feared. Magic doesn’t seem to be too widely used and it is mostly reviled but what we do see is fascinating. I hope we see more of it in future books. I’m especially interested in a witch character that appears later but I won’t say any more than that for fear of spoilers.
  • Rather a lot of POVs but it never once feels confusing. The main POVs are Xiala, a hardbitten bisexual sailor driven to take on a seemingly impossible mission by hard circumstances; Serapio, a blind boy trained for a terrible destiny at a young age; Naranpa, the Sun Priest who wants to reform the priesthood but is coming against some very stiff opposition from complacent traditionalists and Okoa, a member of the Crows who finds himself hopelessly entangled in family politics and rival factions. All of these characters are memorable. Their stories are distinct and unique and, most brilliantly, none of them come off as completely good or evil.
  • Excellent to see fantasies that aren’t based on standard Western folklore. It’s got me interested in looking up the folklore than inspired it and I never found myself lost or feeling like I wasn’t getting something I should understand. It’s also great to see bisexual main characters and a gender neutral side character.
  • Sensational world building with a fully realised set of communities and a sense of history and mythology to Tova. Each tribe has their own customs and each have their own axes to grind against the others. The leading religion has become insular and corrupt. Any attempts to modernise it are met with stiff and violent resistance. The Crows, in particular, have an old grievance against the Sun Priest and the task of making amends to them feels impossible. The gap between the Sky Made and the other citizens is also a gaping chasm, adding another layer of bubbling tension. There are lots of other juicy little details like gambling games that I enjoyed too.
  • The three different plotlines all weave together very well. The story mostly follows a linear timeline with occasional interludes into Serapio’s past training and how he learns what his destiny is. Each story is unique enough to stand on its own but, woven together, they become much stronger. Like Avatar: The Last Airbender, some of them may have conflicting goals but that doesn’t mean you don’t root for them any less.
  • I did take a long time to read this but that was only because I kept getting distracted by other life events. The style is engaging and the story keeps going at a fast pace with plenty of plot twists to keep your interest.
  • Now, I was fully expecting Serapio to be a dark, creepy figure who rubbed Xiala up the wrong way. However, I was most pleasantly surprised to find that he was a more sympathetic and, at some times, even funny figure. I’m not sure if I like where the relationship went at the end but it didn’t feel too jarring.
  • Got to say, the ending ruined it for me. It felt very rushed and ended on what should have been a cliffhanger but felt more like the author had run out of pages. I liked the twist at the end. I was fully expecting something a bit more cheesy but I just felt the story could have continued on a little further to make it something that stands on its own rather than tailing off with a half-hearted sequel hook. That’s the only reason I’m not giving this full marks, though. I am definitely going to continue with the series and I can’t wait to see what happens to the brilliantly developed characters next.

Goodreads Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Did you agree with my rating? Can you think of a better word to describe it? Please let me know with a like, share or comment.

1 thought on “In One Word, Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse is…”

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