From the New York Times bestselling author of Star Wars: Resistance Reborn comes the first book in the Between Earth and Sky trilogy, 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
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.
Trigger Warnings: guardian/parental Abuse, emotional and physical, selling of children to pleasure houses, self harm, normalized homophobia from a jailer, blood, violence, gore, death, mourning of a loved one, ableism from a parent.
All my opinions are honest and based off the ARC.
Black Sun is the death metal of fantasy books.
Black Sun starts with a boy, and his mother telling him he will become a god, showing his eyes to the sun, blinding him. With that graphic beginning, this story unfolds that boy’s future and everyone interconnected to these lands. Carrying crows on his arms, wearing black robes, scars inner and outer, he is his people’s vengeance. The vessel of power for the crow god. Seemlessly interwoven with perspectives, we are told a story weaving these people together to reach a final blow. All start with Serapio, our poetic goth god.
When Xiala is broken from her jail cell, she’s hired by Lord Balam to take Serapio, now a man, to Tova to meet the sun priest.
Xiala is our bisexxi mermaid sprung from her jail cell to join the crow god’s vengeance ship.
A Teek captain, a gay, bejewled eyes and hair the color of plums, daughter of the sea! Xiala, and her voice that can be her revenge for man’s betrayal, charts the waters to bring our goth boy to his bloody future.
One of the things I love most about adult fantasy is the intricacy of what is going on in the world and balancing it with human relationships. Everything, every line, every description is detailed with such careful precision. Rebecca Roanhorse is no different. She just excels at bringing new ways of storytelling other authors could not even dream of.
I love the way she develops relationships between people, most especially if those relationships are romantic. That slow, molten, deep in the core transformation from friendly to rejecting one night stands to be with you. Drop me into Roanhorse’s world so I can have someone draw star maps on my hand so that I can think of them as I fall asleep. I want to be able to gaze at them in their wrath, with their crows, their dark sexy power, and question whether they are the villain or the hero.
As Xiala falls for Serapio, so did I. She falls for the pretty ones and so do I. His seemingly wrathful image hides his true form: a sweet and kind poet. Roanhorse does not make her book pinned upon stereotypes of disabled people. Serapio is diasbled. Serapio’s disability never becomes a point of issue for Xiala but he expects it to be. Roanhorse doesn’t paint someone that needs people’s pity or help. He’s front and center of the story. He is the agent.
Across the waters is the culmination of the politics. In Tova, politics are churning and boiling ready for consumption. Told in several POVs, Naranpa is the third perspective we get. She is Sun Priest but when an assassin tries to end her life the plot thickens. Faces she trusts may not be as honest as she thought. Everywhere, and every person around her, seems an illusion or a false face. She is Dry Earth clan amongst priests that are Sky Made clan. Clans are in conflict with each other. Vies for power. A clan seeks vengeance from their old god. The politics is dirty, bloody, maddeningly good.
I have been eager for more epic fantasy set in pre-colonial inspired Americas. One of the arguments I see a lot is that the Americas should be forgotten when it comes to fantastical inspirations because it’s the west but this fails to acknowledge the colonial violence that occured in these lands. Again. We’re anti-Columbus in this house.
Roanhorse is writing a fantasy world remembering the rich cultures of the past. Black Sun does not regurgitate tired tropes of Western inspired fantasy. That in itself makes this unique. Why? Think about it. How many epic fantasy books can you name that do not center the Westernized ideals of fantasy? How many do not center white people? How many are set in a pre-Columbian inspired world where there is a diversity of cultures, people with different skin tones, non-binary people, and trans women? The very fact that Roanhorse is thinking about what is not in the genre makes this different.
I have never read a book like this ever. It doesn’t even remind me of the way Western inspired fantasy books are told, if we’re going to compare this to stereotypical fantasy. That’s not to say that it isn’t inspired by the tropes. Roanhorse just thinks outside what other author’s have done with fantasy tropes. It’s not often I get to see a god, a goth boy, disabled and traumatized being the center of the story. Truth is that we don’t know if he’s the villain or the hero. That’s the question Rebecca Roanhorse presents. She doesn’t lay it all out for us like she’s our mother.
Lastly. Roanhorse sprinkles creamy toppings and fills her prose with such beautiful details and descriptions. A dress of panther skin and a cape of crow feathers falling all the way to the ground. A dress of iridescent serpent scales. A woman’s hair coiled into two horns atop of her head. Jade earrings that drip like green flames of fire a woman’s ears. THE SPEAR MAIDENS. I want to know more about them and their bone weapons made from the ice fields. Blood red and gory statues. Chocolate drinks that taste so delicious I wish to travel through the pages into Tova just to taste that chili and chocolate on my tongue. I want to drink with the gods.
Black Sun is breathtaking, like the blackest night bright with stars. It is fully immersive. This is not a simple fantasy but a complex one.
Please search out Indigenous reviewers perspectives on Black Sun as well! Mine is not more important than their opinions. If anything prioritize their opinions over non-Indigenous reviewers.