Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse is a book I had wanted to read for a very long time. I was extremely intrigued as it was inspired by indigenous mythology and culture. I had read fantasy novels that focused on African mythology, but never had I read anything based on indigenous mythology. I was gripped right from the opening chapters and the ending had me like “Nooooooo I want more!” Also, let’s not forget how beautiful the cover is! It’s definitely one of my favourite covers ever😊.
The story is told from the POV of 3 main characters. Firstly we have Xiala who we find locked up in jail after an incident. Luckily she is able to get out of prison by Balam. There is a catch however, Lord Balam of House of the Seven a Merchant Lord wants Xiala to take a mysterious passenger to the city of Tova before the winter solstice comes to fruition. By doing this Xiala will receive a large sum of money and a lucrative 15 year contract that’ll allow to live it up forever. One issue is that during their passage towards Tova will be during the storm season. Luckily Xiala is magically gifted, she has the ability to calm the ever unpredictability sea through her songs. Her character adds a lot of mystery as she comes from a a cultural background of being Teek.
However, being Teek comes at a price as there are those who strongly dislike the Teek culture and see them as abnormal. Others see them as prized items. It’s pretty dark at times.
“Catch a Teek and carve her throat bone out, and it would guarantee a good catch in deep waters, they said.”
Then we have Naranpa who is a Sun Priest in Tova. She is very much an outsider and many doubted that she would reach the heights she has reached. She is from a poor background i.e. Maw begger girl. This has left those who didn’t want her to succeed feeling envious and angry. Naranpa must deal with political unrest, backbiting, back stabbing, and also those who wish to assassinate her.
“Because her father had been right. The truth was that as much as she loved the city, the city did not love her back. It had little use for a Maw beggar girl; some use for a clever ser vant who caught the attention of the aging and eccentric Sun Priest”
She does have one ally thankfully and that is Iktan, Iktan is the Priest of Knives and bodyguard of Naranpa. They were also entangled in the past, if you know what I’m saying.
The stranger on board the ship travelling across the Crescent Sea to Tova is the mysterious Serapio. We are actually introduced to him right at the beginning of the story and boy is it a wild introduction 😅. Serapio’s clan, The Carrion Crow and Serapio’s mother want revenge on The Watchers who wronged their clan. Serapio’s destiny is on a path in which he will become a fully fledged god known as The Crow God Reborn. This is the prophecy that was set up for him at a very young age. In preparation he is given extensive, often harrowing training by three people in order to prepare him for what’s ahead. Although he is blind, he has the ability to use his crows to see and he can kick ass when needed. However as a result of all of the training, he has lived a life of lonliness and isolation. This changes when he meets Xiala aboard the ship. We slowly discover what the prophecy is and flashbacks of how he prepared himself for it. Like Xiala, Serapio is a mysterious figure who we slowly begin to understand as the story goes on.
One of the novels biggest strengths I felt was the incredibly complex and interesting characters. I’d say my favourites were definitely Xiala and Serapio. Xiala was hilarious and I loved her wittiness. I loved how Xiala and Serapio bonded as the story went on and their parts were definitely the most intriguing and exciting. Both of them are very mysterious characters and it was really enjoyable seeing the fog over their lives get lifted. Due to being a Teek, Xiala’s kind are for some reason looked down upon. Mainly I guess for being different to And you know humanity, they can’t handle diffefent. This is why I loved it when Serapio meets Xiala as they both begin to open up to each other and have an understanding of what it’s like to be different. Their connection was so strong and seeing their relationship grow was great.
“A man is like a clam,” her mother had once told her. “Let him open on his own, and he will give you a pearl.”
When considering Naranpa, her side of things are definitely more towards political elements. She is part of a religious group known as The Watchers who basically hold the balance in ensuring their is balance above and below. She has to deal with the fact that the 4 houses of Tova may be on the brink of collapsing. There is a lot of bad vibes towards The Watchers due to The Night of Knives where many people from Carrion Crow were killed.
“The priesthood had thought the Night of Knives a necessity at the time, a brutal rout of the heresy growing in Odo. Calling for the Night of Knives had been Kiutue’s predeces sor’s doing and, Naranpa guessed, one of the reasons Youtube himself strove to diminish the power of his own position.”
The tension is further increased with the pending arrival of Serapio travelling across the Crescent Sea who attends to arrive before the winter solstice. As a character Naranpa was ok but I just felt she was a bit uptight. But I understand because she’s come from the bottom up. She obviously doesn’t want to go back to the life she once lived. It’s also important to consider someone is trying to kill her!
There is another character who we are introduced to called Okoa. We don’t really learn about him until further on into the story. I did think be was super cool I really hope we learn more about him in the second book.
Another reason why this novel shines is due to the intricately crafted world. Again the use of Indigenous and Native cultures really shines in this novel. You can tell Rebecca has put in so much effort and love into this world she has created. It’s such a captivating world that you can picture it in your mind as if you’re there. There is also a lot of diversity in terms of sexuality. You have Xiala who is bisexual and Iktan who used pronouns such as Xe and Xir.
Overall, a spectacular first book to a series I can’t wait to continue reading! The representation was great, the characters were superb, and the world building shines bright! I am super hyped to read book two and can’t wait to get my hands on it. I do believe that if the second book reaches the same heights as book two then this will definitely be one of my favourite series ever. Thank you Rebecca Roanhorse for writing such a spectacular novel that blew me away.