BOOK REVIEW: Black Sun, by Rebecca Roanhorse

BOOK REVIEW: Black Sun, by Rebecca RoanhorseTitle: Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
Series: Between Earth and Sky #1
Published by Saga Press
Published: October 13th 2020
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 454
Format: ARC
Source: Netgalley, Publisher
Buy: Bookshop(afflilate link)

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.

Before receiving access to a digital arc, I had been eagerly anticipating reading Rebecca Roanhorse’s Black Sun. I didn’t know much about it going into it aside from the fact that it’s high fantasy that isn’t European inspired. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some medieval-esque fantasy, but as it seems to be the “standard” in what’s out there, I want to read beyond that. The gruesome opening scene to this novel propels the story forward and kept me wanting to know how and why and what, and I devoured this in a matter of days.

This story is has the foundation of Indigenous mythology, and Roanhorse weaves culture and identity in delightful and refreshing ways. Nothing about this novel feels didactic; the characters’ genders, sexualities, and lives felt so immediate, real, and never forced. To be in a world in which you can be who you are and to have it accepted without a second thought is so refreshing, and I know this will resonate with a lot of readers who are trans and non-binary. While fantasy is often considered ‘escapist,’ this fantasy wants you to consider looking at your own world through a different lens. It especially made me want to learn more about precolonial indigenous mythology and literature.

The relationships and the conflicts among the characters against the backdrop of politics and celestial prophecies propel this story forward, and I’m already craving the sequel. I loved the matriarchal societies, especially the Teek, and I hope more of the Teek culture is featured in the next books in the trilogy. It’s one of those books in which I found every single character compelling, from the protagonists to the antagonists, because each “side” has credible reasons for behaving and believing in what they do, and to me that makes the conflict much more real, personal, and elevated.

I don’t want to talk about the details of this too much because so much enjoyment for me from this book came from the discovery of reading it. This is one of my top reads of the year, and I’m going to be talking about it and recommending it for years to come.

If you only read one high fantasy this year, make Black Sun your choice.

I received a digital arc from Netgalley/Saga for review! All opinions are my own.

BOOK REVIEW: The New Voices of Science Fiction, edited by Hannu Rajaniemi and Jacob Wiseman

BOOK REVIEW: The New Voices of Science Fiction, edited by Hannu Rajaniemi and Jacob WisemanTitle: The New Voices of Science Fiction by Hannu Rajaniemi, Jacob Weisman, Kelly Robson, Alice Sola Kim, Rich Larson, Sam J. Miller, Suzanne Palmer, Sarah Pinkser, E. Lily Yu, Rebecca Roanhorse, Alexander Weinstein, Vina Jie-Min Prasad, S. Qiouyi Lu, Nino Cipri, Jamie Wahls, Darcie Little Badger, Samantha Mills, David Erik Nelson, Jason Sanford, Amman Sabet, Lettie Prell, Amal El-Mohtar
Published by Tachyon Publications
Published: November 5th 2019
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 432
Format: ARC
Source: Netgalley

What would you do if your collective of tiny bots suddenly decide to mutiny? Would you find bioprinted steak delicious, even after it was signed by the artist? Is an 11 second attention-span long enough to bond with a cryogenically-revived tourist? Would you sell your native language to send your daughter to college?

The avant garde of science fiction has appeared, arriving via time machines and portals that may (or may not) work properly. In this space-age sequel to award-winning anthology, The New Voices of Fantasy, The New Voices of Science Fiction has launched the rising stars of the last five years of science fiction, including Rebecca Roanhorse, Amal El-Mohtar, Alice Sola Kim, Sam J. Miller, E. Lily Yu, Rich Larson, Vina Jie-Min Prasad, Sarah Pinsker, Darcie Little Badger, S. Qiouyi Lu, Kelly Robson, Suzanne Palmer, Nino Cipri, and more. Their wide-ranging tales were hand-selected by cutting-edge author Hannu Rajaniemi (The Quantum Thief) and genre expert Jacob Weisman (Invaders).

So go ahead, join the starship revolution. The new kids hotwired the AI.

The New Voices of Science Fiction is an excellent companion to The New Voices of Fantasy published by Tachyon in 2017. So often genre is lumped together, especially science fiction and fantasy, but, just like me, if you enjoyed The New Voices of Fantasy, you will almost certainly enjoy The New Voices of Science Fiction. All of the stories included in this anthology were originally published or written within the last five or so years? Some of the names are unfamiliar to me, but a lot of these names have come to critical acclaim within those last five years, so it’s an excellent introduction if you’re also wondering where to begin with the genre. Yes, the entire SF genre. A lot of the older “classic” science fiction feels dated in tone, terminology, and technology and can at times feel intimidating for someone who may be unfamiliar with the genre, and this anthology elevates the newer voices we should be paying attention to. And yes, there are foundational genre works that act as cornerstones, but sometimes we have to smash the past and build something new.

My favorite stories in this anthology were Rebecca Roanhorse’s “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience,” Amal El-Mohtar’s “Madeleine,” and Suzanne Palmer’s “Madeleine,” but all of them have something to consider and were all enjoyable to read. One of the things I loved most about this was that the writers included in this collection are so diverse, elevating a lot of different cultures, ideas, ways of looking at the world, and storytelling styles, and that is exactly what I hope for when I read any anthology, and this one ticked all of the boxes for me. This collection also made me want to go read the longer works by the authors included, and I realized I’ve had several books on my shelves already!

Thank you to Tachyon Publications and Netgalley for a complimentary review copy! All opinions are my own.