Black Sun (Between Earth and Sky #1) by Rebecca Roanhorse

Blacksun

My Five Word TL:DR Review : Rich worldbuilding, characters with depth

I had a great time with Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse. To be honest, I expected to like this one, I loved the first two books in the Sixth World Series after all, but, as we all know, high expectations combined with lots of hype can sometimes spell disaster. Fortunately this was not the case with Black Sun. This is a story that combines rich world building with well drawn characters all singing from their own hymn sheets and it just works so very well.

I’m going to be a little lazy here and steal part of the description from Goodreads, simply because it’s well written and so why reinvent the wheel:

“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

I mean, right there – Pre-Columbian America – who would not want to read a book with this setting? Seriously, this just feels so unique and not just that, it’s well written with descriptions that bring the place vividly to life.

On top of this we follow four pov characters with all the threads slowly converging during the course of the book. What is satisfying about this is it feels more like two storylines simply because of the geography with the story switching between time on the high seas and time in the city of Tova, and occasionally incorporating flashbacks.

As the book starts we meet Serapio as he undergoes a painful ritual performed by his mother. This is the first step in fulfilling the prophecy that predicts his destiny as Crow God. We then jump forward a few years, Serapio, now a young man, is about to journey to Tova to confront, well, not to be spoilery, to fulfil his mission in life.

Xiala is a mysterious sea captain known as a ‘Teek’. The Teek are feared and also revered for their abilities to sing to the sea and the sea creatures and smooth the passage of ships that travel upon them. Xiala is an outcast who now takes jobs as and when she can find them. Her latest job takes her onto the wider oceans (rarely travelled upon at this time of year due to the threat of stormy weather and the inevitable watery grave) where she is charged with transporting Serapio to Tova. A journey that must be completed within a certain period to coincide with the Solstice and solar eclipse.

Meanwhile, at Tova we meet Nara, recently appointed Sun Priest. She has new ideas and is enthusiastic about making positive changes. Unfortunately, it would seem that not everyone is equally enamoured with this recent appointment and Nara will encounter assassination attempts and behind doors machinations to remove her from this coveted position.

Finally, Okoa, member of the Crow Clan. Recently returned to the fold to support his sister following the somewhat suspicious death, of their mother.

Now, you do have to bear with things here because obviously with four characters populating the pages there’s a lot to take in, but it is well worth the effort.

I loved the writing, there’s something subtle and understated about how the author manages to combine so many elements and pull them together in a way that makes you hungry for the next instalment. On top of this she injects history, myth and lore with religion and rebellion and chucks in a little seafaring and light romance for good measure. To top it off, the characters are each so distinct with their own stories and histories to discover. And, what’s really superb is the tingly feeling that I have that Roanhorse has only just scraped the surface of what’s to come such as learning more about Nara and her family, particularly her brother, or Xiala and her abilities – or more to the point, finding out what she truly is. And, if this isn’t enough, for me, there’s an ambiguity here, that is very clever. For example, Serapio – is he one of the good guys or one of the bad guys. It’s difficult to tell at this point and it feels like the lines are muddied for a purpose.

Now, one thing I will say, and this isn’t a criticism so much as an observation, I couldn’t help feeling more attached to certain characters/storylines. Xiala and Serapio stole the show a little for me but I’m still open to the other storylines winning me over in the next instalment.

I think it’s probably time to start drawing this review to a close and in case you haven’t guessed, this was great and I definitely recommend it without a doubt.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publishers, for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion. I also bought a copy of the audio and I both read and listened – and I thought the audio for this was really good.

My rating 4.5 of 5 stars

Storm of Locusts (The Sixth World #2) by Rebecca Roanhorse

Storm ofWell, if there is a God of Good Books I need to make a prayer of thanks right now.  ‘Thank you for Storm of Locusts’.  I thought I loved Trail of Lightning, in fact I did love it, but Storm of Locusts blew my mind.  I am mush.  This continues with the fantastic world building, it explores further afield, it’s packed with imagination, the plot is intriguing, fast paced and absolutely compelling, the tension had me wringing my hands and the characterisation and friendships developed are just excellent.  I don’t even know how this could be improved upon to be honest – other than a third instalment that is.  And can I just say – check out that cover.

If you haven’t read the first book, I understand, I sympathise, we all have a lot of books to catch up with – however, I would strongly suggest you bump this series up to the top of mount tbr – you need this in your life – also beware of spoilers for Trail of Lightning.

We pick up a few weeks following the conclusion of the first book where we find Maggie being called onto a bounty hunt.  Unfortunately things don’t go according to plan.  There is death.  There is an unexpected commitment and there is the uncovering of a strange new ‘monster’ known as the White Locust.  As if the day hadn’t been bad enough the Goodacre twins show up, their young brother has gone missing and Kai seems to be implicated – at least he’s gone missing too.  Pear shaped! Ha!!  This day has rapidly gone to hell in a handcart and Maggie, not believing Kai”s complicity in recent events, undertakes to uncover the truth.

The story here is fast paced, there’s no shortage of action and for those of you who like high octane drama there’s a little bit of everything.  I love the originality displayed, We are once more treated to a story soaked in Native American culture that is absolutely fascinating and breathtakingly original to read about but much more than that, not only does this take the strong foundation from the first book but it builds a whole new level on top by the attention to the characters and the connections they build.  I’m sorry, I’m gushing, but I’m just happy and so it flows naturally, and haphazardly onto the page.

So, how can I convince you to pick this up – beg?  I will do it.  I have no shame.  Please read this series. Pretty please.  There will be cakes.

Seriously, the characters here are just excellent.  I love Maggie.  Of course she’s not always the easiest person to get along with, she has a bad track record when it comes to killing people (although she is trying to control that impulse) and to be honest she can be a little bit scary.  Her reputation has grown somewhat and people expect ‘badass’ from her.

What I found really refreshing, at the same time as a little gut wrenching, was the almost complete lack of Kai in this story.  I loved him in the first book – who didn’t? Right?  But, I think Roanhorse made an excellent decision here to distance him a little from events for a large part of the story.  It created not only a feeling of loss and a desire for Maggie to succeed but also a slight hesitation and a question of doubt.  Maggie felt it and so did I when reading this.

On top of this, we have a new character, Ben, who has her own clan powers that are quite unique.  Maggie has found herself in the unusual position of ‘caring’ about Ben – not easy as she’s also a rather feisty teenager – but great in developing Maggie’s own personality and giving her something else to think about that she’d not previously had to consider – the welfare of another person.

And, Rissa. I loved Rissa in this instalment.  She plays a great role, she really steps up and it was great to see the development of what could be a great friendship between these two characters.  Now I’m totally scared that something bad will happen to her.  *I’m making puppy eyes at Rebecca Roanhorse right now.*

Additionally there are locusts, cats and tricksters too.

I’m not going to mention too much more – particularly about the ‘baddie’ of the piece.  The White Locust is an enigma and one that ‘fit’s the world here.   On the face of it he doesn’t feel completely evil – but, nobody wants a storm of locusts on their tail and there is an element of crazy here – real ‘lost the plot’ crazy.

Basically, there’s a lot of love from me for this book.  It has this wonderful Mad Max, X-Men, end of the world strangeness going on and it’s an absolute blast to read.  Entertaining, fast paced, original, great writing, conflicted characters.  Shut up and take my money.

I highly recommend you give this series a try.

No criticisms.

I received a copy courtesy of the publisher, through Edelweiss, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

 

Trail of Lightning (The Sixth World #1) by Rebecca Roanhorse

Trail ofThe short and sweet version of this review is that I really loved Trail of Lightning and I can’t wait to read more of Maggie Hoskie’s adventures in this post apocalyptic world.  For a debut novel this is most impressive, gradual and layered world building, great pacing and characters that really do jump off the page.  For me, Roanhorse manages to introduce myths and legends in a way that breathes heart and soul into this world and not only that she makes you like the characters.  There may be gushing.

Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter.  As the story opens she is enlisted to help find a young girl who has gone missing.  This is a world where Gods and monsters roam with abandon and when Maggie finally catches up to the girl, high in the mountains, her abductor is much worse than she had anticipated.  A golem like creature, terrifying and difficult to kill but on top of that is the realisation that a powerful witch created this monster and Maggie needs to find out why.

I’m going to keep my description of the plot to the above.  There are plenty of reviews for this book that already do a fine job of outlining the storyline.

Why I loved this?  Threefold.  (1)  Characters that are flawed.  They make mistakes.  They feel real.  The story slowly reveals their histories and that makes them relatable.  In a nutshell they’re not perfect, but then who is.  I loved these characters. On top of that  great chemistry, between the two central characters. I’m not a romance reader (not a judgement call just personal preference) and yet I loved the relationship that began to bloom in this book.  None of that instalove that I find so irritating but a realistic build up of feelings that can’t be denied.

(2) Great worldbuilding.  This is a world where climate change has devastated the world and a cataclysmic event known as the ‘Big Water’ not only raised the water levels but at the same time released magic, gods and monsters.  Some of the clan members found themselves with certain abilities, related to the heritage of the person’s clan, in this case Maggie finds herself with certain powers.  However, most people don’t consider these powers a gift.  They’re more like a curse and in Maggie’s case they’ve lead to her living a rather isolated existence, shunned by most of the clans.  This is a fantasy world inspired by Native American myth and culture and it’s a world that I found fascinating to read about.  I was literally hooked to this book and in fact I was really disappointed when I reached the end.  I wanted more.

(3) The writing.  I don’t know how to put it into words other than to say the writing here just works for me.  There’s a perfect balance of creativity and description.  There’s a light touch and an expectation that readers will go with the flow.  For example Maggie.  She comes across as hostile, frosty even – she pushes people away and I guess at the start it makes her something of a puzzle.  I love that Roanhorse doesn’t try to rush in with explanations to make you like her immediately but instead leaves things to develop at a natural pace so that you can make your own mind up gradually.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, to be honest, I’m so enamoured by this book that I can barely recall anything and I’m not overly anxious to scrabble around to come up with things.  I think that the plot played second fiddle a little but, honestly, I think this is near damn perfect for me.

People, believe the hype.  In this case it’s all well deserved.

An incredibly entertaining novel, and an introduction to an author that I will definitely read again.  A gritty and fascinating world and a tough and yet at the same time vulnerable protagonist that I can’t wait to get to know better.

I bought the audio version of Trail of Lightning and it was brilliant.  I practically spent two full days with earplugs in ignoring my family until I reached the conclusion.  The narrator was Tanis Parenteau.