I have been a fan of Rebecca Roanhorse since I read Trail of Lightning. With Black Sun, she cements herself as one of the most exciting voices in contemporary SFF. I have both a book review and some graphics for everyone today, ahead of the excitement for Black Sun’s release next week!
Disclaimer: I received this audiobook through the Libro.fm ALC program. I love Libro.fm with my entire heart, but this is an honest review.
To be frank, I am not sure if I can quite verbalise how much I love Black Sun with mere words. I have spent most of this week in a complete daze as I left my few remaining brain cells with The Meridian, its expansive world, and its multifaceted cast of characters. From the very first chapter, where a boy is ritualistically transformed into a god – under the vivid visuals of a sun being devoured by a crow – this book has gripped me by the throat and absolutely refuses to let go.
The world in Black Sun is intricately constructed, with Roanhorse’s masterful writing conjuring up of images of a sacred city nestled among the clouds, an unknowable and capricious crescent-shaped sea, the black wings of a murder of crows blotting out the sky. The Meridian draws inspiration from pre-Colombian Indigenous cultures across the Americas, palpable in the foundation of their society: the many clans that make up the holy city of Tova, to their food and clothing which are detailed with pride. I love the way the pieces that construct this world are slowly introduced to us by the varying perspective of its four narrators. While we learn intricacies like their currency, religions, and the political environment of Tova; it never feels like exposition overload.
Black Sun is a marvel with its effortless inclusivity and diversity, and it’s exemplary of why I feel privileged as a fantasy reader in 2020s. Romantic and sexual tension in this book involve people of all genders, and some of the characters in parts of this world use neo-pronouns (primarily xe/xer). Aside from loving the representation, they also served to make the world more realistic and believable – an excellent example of why diversity does not limit fantasy – but infinitely expand its scope. I’m vibrating with excitement from the way that Black Sun pushes at the boundaries of this genre, and dare us all to imagine a world that’s not only reflective of this one – but an improvement on it.
The way that Black Sun cleverly alternates between its characters is nothing short of excellent. First we have Serapio, asingle-minded man hell-bent on fulfilling his mother’s carefully orchestrated prophecy – which has preordained him a god. And not just any god, but one destined to extinguish the light of the sun. With his point of view, we see glimpses of the past as events lead up to the upcoming Convergence, a term this book uses to describe a significant celestial eclipse. He’s intense and disquieting, but we see cracks in his infallible veneers through his interactions with Xiala. His audiobook narrator captured the essence of his character perfectly, with their exacting and somber narration.
Ahh, Xiala, hands down my favourite of all the protagonist. We meet her in a jail cell, arrested due to the crimes of drunken disorder and seducing a local man’s wife. She’s a sharp-tongued sailor and a woman after my very own heart. Xiala is a Teek, near mythic people who uses their songs to influence both ocean waves and human consciousness. The way this world views her is an insightful critique of the way our own world treat marginalized women: whether it’s wanting to claim ownership of our bodies, exoticizing an entire group of people, or laying the blames for its own transgression squarely at our feet. Xiala is a character that’s refreshing in her self-indulgence and unflappable sense of worth, and her audiobook narrator brings her to life with their performance.
The final of the primary narrators is Naranpa, the Sun Priest of Tova with humble beginnings. Through her eyes, we see the corruption and decline of the priesthood. We also see the divine importance of celestial movements, grounding the importance of both the title and Serapio’s path. Naranpa’s chapter dissect her position of relative privilege, and how that intersect with the way fellow priests exclude or undermine her due to her beginnings in The Maws – Tova’s poorest district. Her chapters were gripping due to the constant political maneuvers and intrigue. It allowed us to see first-hand how the conflicts between the different factions within the book echoes the sounds of an impending storm.
We also get glimpses from a fourth narrator later on in the book, allowing us views into the clan of Carrion Crow. Serapio and Saya, his mother, originate from this clan – and it’s clear that theirs is a history filled with betrayal and violence. Their future promises more of that bloodshed in the name of vengeance. I love seeing the divergence in Saya’s plans, and the Crow god cult within Tova – and how they each work toward their own definition of justice. The imagery of crows: cunning schemers who pass down their simmering rage through the generations, is a powerful motif. They may all emerge as the villains of the story, but you can’t deny how magnetic they are.
Needless to say, I am a staunch fan of the series and I can’t for the moment I get my physical copy, so I can pore over the beautiful writing and this captivating world once more! For first time readers, I would highly consider the beautifully narrated audiobook, which has four different narrators who do their characters such justice. Please, please, please, go do yourself a favour and preorder yourself a copy!
- Characters and quotes belong to the brilliant Rebecca Roanhorse.
- The phone wallpapers are free for your personal use only.
- Please do not edit, repost, redistribute the images. As I provide these for free, I ask that you respect this rule as a courtesy to me.
- They are made for iPhone XS, but should fit most smartphones.
I am not the sea. But I have children, too.
One of the most memorable moments of the novel, I had to rewind the audiobook thrice to listen to it. Serapio and his murder of crows are fearsome and fascinating, and this was one of the defining point of the novel.
There are only two kinds of men. Ones who betray you sooner or ones who betray you later.
I would love to see more from the Teek, and it’s due to glimpses like this that we get of them. They are a fiercely independent community of women who claim the sea as their mother, and it’s little secret that Xiala is my favourite character of this entire novel.
A man with destiny is a man who fears nothing.
Serapio’s destiny, carefully crafted by his own mother, is the catalyst that kickstarts the novel. His determination to see it through is a driving force of some major plot points, and contribute to the slow-burn of a romance that I rooted for so much.
More about Black Sun
- Mysterious Galaxy Books can get you a signed copy of the book. Check out the details of their preorder campaign HERE!
- You can discover about the world and glimpse at the world maps ahead of the release here.
- Details for the virtual book tour for Black Sun can be found HERE!
Ways to Support Me!
I blog out of love and spend a considerable amount on the this blog, whether it’s purchasing audiobooks/books, paying for hosting of this site, or paying out of pocket for licensing for the resources I use in my graphics – not to mention many hours of time. If you want to, and have the means to support me, here’s a few ways below!
- Find more of my free book-related designs here.
- If you enjoyed these free graphics and want to support me, you can find me on Society 6 and Redbubble.
- Alternatively, you can commission me for your custom graphics by contacting me.
- Finally, if you appreciate my time and labour, you can support my Kofi here, or to my Paypal: firstname.lastname@example.org