ARC was provided by NetGalley and Saga Press in exchange for an honest review.
This review is being published before the release date (October 13th, 2020)
Content/Trigger Warnings: Ritual disfigurement, cult themes, poisoning, abandonment, mentions of homophobia, mentions of slavery, death, mass murder, suicide, death of a parent, loss of a loved one, grief, graphic violence, graphic injuries, beheading, trauma, mentions of human sacrifice, physical assault, brief mentions of prostitution, allusions to rape, mentions of anxiety, alcoholism
“A man with a destiny is a man who fears nothing.”
What a wild ride of a read! I have been sitting on my thoughts and feelings for a good chunk of time. I feel that anything I try to write in my review about this book will pale in comparison to the actual contents of this book. Truly, this is a fantastic read and as a reader new to Roanhorse’s writing, I’m very impressed. I also want to put emphasis on a few things before diving into my thoughts. For starters, please practice self-care when reading this book because there are a lot of content warnings (as you can see listed above). These content warnings start from chapter one and proceed throughout the book. The other thing to keep in mind is I’m not an “ownvoice” reviewer for this book. I’m Apache, a Native American reader and reviewer, but this book has pre-Columbian cultures such as Yutatec Maya, Tewan, and Aztec cultures, and I cannot speak about those cultural elements and representation. So please do your own research on those cultures and also read the acknowledgements page.
Set in a high fantasy world with a civilization inspired by pre-Columbian Americas, Black Sun follows four characters who have destinies all intertwined with one another. In Tova, the holy city, Winter Solstice usually means a time of renewal and celebration among all, but this year is different. This year’s winter solstice converged with the solar eclipse, a rare celestial event that dictates unbalance. Here, our story begins with Xiala, a disgraced Teek woman, who has been tasked with an important mission to cross dangerous waters to deliver a supposedly harmless passenger to Tova in time for the Convergence.
✨ Xiala – The bisexual (possibly pansexual), disgraced Teek woman our story begins with, is the hired captain of a ship and tasked with the important mission to deliver Serapio to Tova. Though she originally didn’t want to take on this mission for various reasons, she’s been given too many reasons why she should.
“She instinctively reached for her Song the way another woman would reach for a weapon. She no longer had a dagger at her waist, but even if she had, her Song would have come first.”
✨ Serapio – Stripped of his childhood and destined to become the Crow God, Serapio is placed upon Xiala’s ship, to seek passage straight to Tova for Convergence. Despite everything he’s been through, everything he’s been taught, his time spent on Xiala’s ship and in her company leaves his wondering of what life would be like if he didn’t have a prophecy to fulfill.
✨ Naranpa/Nara – The Sun priest, where we experience the more political side of this world. Nara is in a vulnerable position as the Institution is loosing respect, and will sooner learn there’s a lot more at steak in the game of politics than Nara originally believed.
“She wished that power allowed her to divine her own future, or the future of any of the priests. But it was forbidden, and that was one rule she would never break.”
✨ Okoa – A character that comes into to play later on in our story. Okoa is first introduced to us when we learn about the matron/leader of the Carrion Crow clan being dead. He is oldest child of the leader, who left home to train to become a great warrior. He swift learns that things might not be all it appears to be and returns home to get to the bottom of what has really been happening in his clan since he’s been away.
All of these characters will intertwine throughout this story of destiny, dark magic, prophecy, and sacrifice. They will struggle along the way, face hardships, and try to fill their roles the best they can. For some, they’ll think of what life would have been like if they weren’t walking the path they’re currently on.
“The costliest mistake one can make is to underestimate one’s opponent through low expectations.”
I love the way Roanhorse has crafted and built up her characters. None of these characters are good or evil, they’re simply morally grey. I say it all the time, I love morally grey characters. When characters have multiple layers to them, complex feelings, and backstories that make you crumble. Each pov for the four main characters was designed to build a bigger picture of where they came from, what their objective is, and the events that are currently taking place in that time frame. I definitely think two of the main characters were stronger than the other two and there’s also a lot of things we learn about in each pov that doesn’t have an answer, doesn’t clarifies on certain moments, and definitely leaves the reader wondering. I think the two weaker povs are designed to be more mysterious and I’m hoping we’ll see a little more insight in the second book in this trilogy because there’s some parts I need answers to!
One of the things I really enjoyed about this book was the world building. In high fantasy, I love the details of the world and the way it gets built up and this book hit a lot of marks for me. Roanhorse did an outstanding job on the world building. There’s so much detail in the world, the history, even with the character development there was such great detail. It truly feels like the author poured a lot into this book to deliver a world that the reader will never forget. Not to mention, the ending of this book, the cliffhanger that it was, fantastic and I’m still not over it. I’m still thinking about how this book ended.
I also have to talk about the representation throughout this book. We are given so much representation and the author does a phenomenal job. I mentioned with Xiala that she’s bisexual (possibly pansexual). As the reader, we learn Xiala has sept with women, but we also see a lot of feelings brewing between her and Serapio. It’s also hinted that Serapio is also bisexual/pansexual. During a flashback and briefly mentioned, Serapio has a relationship with one of his mentors and how special that mentor was to him. Of course, we see the feelings forming for Xiala and him wondering what it would be like to truly be with her. There’s also the past relationship between Nara and Iktan, which I believe was a female and nonbinary relationship. There’s also a transgender side character. We also have disability representation throughout this book. Serapio is blind, Xiala is missing limbs, and Nara’s brother walks with a limp. So if you wanted diversity, Roanhorse delivered in so many ways.
“If your stories are of the glory of war, then I will know you value power. If your stories are of kinship, then I know you value relationship. If your stories are of many children, I know you value legacy. But if your stories are of adaptation and survival, of long memory and revenge, then I will know you are a Crow like me.”
I also want to remind you, as the reader, to please practice self-care. I don’t think I can emphasize this enough. There are a lot of dark themes throughout this book and it starts immediately in chapter one. There’s a lot of heavy chapters because of the dark themes you have to read through. I’m very much a fantasy reader, I can devour a fantasy, especially a high fantasy, like it’s no one’s business, but this took me longer to read than I expected. There were times where I felt overwhelmed by a lot of the dark themes in this book. I’ve also had a few conversations about this because there were some readers who were genuinely concerned for their mental health. I think as of right now, I’m the only reader who has gone to the extent of being specific with the content/trigger warnings in this book. So please look over them, make sure you’re in the right head space, and take care of yourself while you read this book.
I think my biggest struggle with this book is the multiple povs. I say this so, so much. Multiple povs is not my strong suit with reading. I can handle three max, but once a book goes past that, it becomes a little dicey. That isn’t to say books with multiple povs are bad. For me as a reader, sometimes those povs can bleed together or feel like the book is dragging on more than it needed to. And it definitely affected my reading. So, between the multiple povs and the dark themes, I had to dock a star because it impacted my reading and enjoyment.
“I am the only storm that matters now, and there is no shelter from what I bring.”
Overall, I’m so grateful I got to read an arc of this book! I really enjoyed this book as a whole. I think Roanhorse did a fantastical job creating a world many readers are going to fall into, really enjoy, and there was so much that blew me out of the water. I’m really impressed especially as someone new to her writing. I think my true love lies within the characters because I can’t resist a morally grey character, it’s a weakness of mine! I have no doubt this is a book that’s going to take readers by storm and I have no doubt will end up on many top 2020 lists!
The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.