Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Black Sun is the first book of an epic fantasy series. Like many first books, it covers the beginning of the journey for multiple characters. There is a definitive two-sided conflict rising but there are a number of unaffiliated characters who become involved along the way either as a main character visits their past, or reaches out for assistance. The two main characters that "lead" the opposing sides do not meet by the end of this novel, but the sides do encounter their first clash.
The voice was engaging and shifted appropriately from character to character. One character in particular, Xiala, had a distinct voice that was well developed. Her personality was more clear and her motivations believable despite being one of the unaffiliated characters caught up in a personal conflict. There were only a few minor distractions in the writing style. I was tempted to start a tally of how many times I read the word 'had.' This could be because I have been self-editing some work and am sensitive to overused words at this point.
I did not have issue with the genderless, or third gender, pronouns. This is not the first work I have read that employs this and it does not take away from the story. (But I also feel like it did not necessarily add anything either. Maybe the author's personal attempt to 'normalize' alternate genders? Which is certainly a worthwhile endeavor, but it still felt like more of an afterthought. Like, by the way, I want to support people who do not fit into the two-gender illusion, so here's a shout-out.) Maybe this will be further developed later?
I enjoyed the similarities between native cultures in our own history and those in the book. I think good stories make us reach into our own experiences and pull out similarities and differences. The description of the different clans, or ethnicities, was effective and the use of magic and ritual certainly aligned with pagan and naturalistic religions I have studied. Seeing magic that does not only align with common Western beliefs was enjoyable.
Worldbuilding was perfect. I had a good image of the terrain, the people, their clothing, beliefs, and even their diets. None of it was overdone with boring descriptions or exposition.
The plot moved at a decent pace and the character's conflicts were relatable. Maybe one or two events felt forced like there was no other way out of that situation, so here is some magic. But overwhelmingly, that was not the case and it was mostly well used.
I felt like the ending was good as well. I did not feel like I was missing anything or like the story just suddenly stopped. Obviously, the main conflict is not over, and the characters have unfinished business, but the first part of the story ended well.
View all my reviews