Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
In the city of Tova, the winter solstice is usually a time for celebration. But this year the solstice coincides with a rare solar eclipse, and rumors are brewing on the streets that something is going to happen. The new Sun Priest has positioned herself to bring unwanted change to her religious order, but there are factors within set to undo her efforts. Meanwhile, across the sea a ship captain has been commissioned to bring a harmless blind man to Tova in time for the solstice. But the man is not harmless…
“Usually,” Xiala said carefully, “when someone describes a man as harmless, he ends up being a villain.”
Black Sun and The City We Became are going to arm wrestle for a Hugo next year.
Hell, they’re going to battle for ALL the awards.
Prophecies are a breeding ground for opportunists. And an excuse for bad behavior.
How do I begin to describe this book?
Should I start with off with what I though it was about, when I first saw the blank posting on Goodreads, an epic fantasy based upon pre-Columbian cultures? When I saw the posting, the partial blurb and the cover reveal, some part of me was dead convinced that it was going to be about Indigenous Americans In Space!
That is not what the book is about. I’m still waiting for that book, but that I got here was something even more epic and fantastic.
This is a story featuring an amalgamation of cultures, inspired by pre-Columbian societies and written by an Indigenous author. This is an epic fantasy about the power of religion, belief, and the ways past traumas shape generational thought and culture. This is about magic. And change. And revenge.
Who am I to convince you that life is worth living? I’m a mess.
While I really, really loved Naranpa, the new Sun Priest, because of how she had escaped from poverty and risen above—and how she was ostracized because of it (and honestly, set up for failure by her predecessor)—and also because of her life-breathing ambition to remake the priesthood into something less ceremonial and more functional towards society, my heart was aligned with Xiala.
I loved Xiala. I want an entire book on her. From her mysterious exile from the all-woman, magical Teeks, to her past as one of the few women on the sea, to her various loves and triumphs and her bisexuality—I just loved her. She’s my favorite bisexual disaster.
I was less fond of Serapio, but I felt for him and all of the abuse he suffered as a child, and continued to suffer. From a mother who saw him as a pawn to fulfilling the Great Prophecy, to an emotionally abusive and neglectful father, to abusive teachers and more, he had a horrible life. However, I did like how his blindness was written, and his magic was so fucking fascinating. I wanted more!
Another highlight of this book was the diversity in sexuality and gender. There are prominent non-binary secondary characters, and there are minor non-binary secondary characters. There are trans characters! There are a ton of bi, lesbian and gay characters, and I think a character or two who was ace.
And finally—the world-building.
This is an entire world so beautifully woven together that I just wanted to sink to the floor and drink it all in. Logistics, cultural significance, clothing, religion, social norms, monetary features and food all came together to craft a world that was so fantastical and amazingly put together that I just wanted to scream with each new thing. It was so expertly compiled!
As I said before—this book is gonna pick up some awards. But it’s got stiff competition this year!
I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review