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Interview: Rebecca Roanhorse Celebrates Indigenous Fantasy

'...my heart is really in the world building and the grandeur of epic fantasy.'
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  • Black Sun
  • '...my heart is really in the world building and the grandeur of epic fantasy.'

Publisher's Summary

From the New York Times best-selling author of Star Wars: Resistance Reborn comes the “engrossing and vibrant” (Tochi Onyebuchi, author of Riot Baby) 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 even 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 a “brilliant world that shows the full panoply of human grace and depravity” (Ken Liu, award-winning author of The Grace of Kings). This epic adventure explores 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 this “absolutely tremendous” (S.A. Chakraborty, nationally best-selling author of The City of Brass) and most original series debut of the decade.

©2020 Rebecca Roanhorse. All rights reserved. (P)2020 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.

Editor's Pick

Redefine what you think of high fantasy
I’ve known Roanhorse can deliver a mean genre-bending tale ever since the first and second installations in her Sixth World series were among Audible’s best fantasy picks of the year in 2018 and 2019. This time around she’s completely crushing the high fantasy genre with a new world that draws upon the mythologies of pre-Columbian America. Roanhorse’s hallmark swift plotting, one-of-a-kind worldbuilding, and likable but morally ambiguous characters are all here, which means potential listeners shouldn’t hesitate to dive into this out-of-the-ordinary epic fantasy. Four narrators, portraying the four main points of view, round out the experience with a cinematic feel. It’ll get you right away, I promise. —Melissa B., Audible Editor

What listeners say about Black Sun

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

5-star Concept; Too Many Threads Left Hanging

Roanhorse's Trail of Lightning and Storm of Locusts are two of my favorite novels. Black Sun displays the same imaginative facility with fascinating characters, intriguing world-building, and compelling plot--but unfortunately it ends as a definite precursor to Book Two, without any satisfying sense of closure. I think it should have been part of a longer work. Honestly I am exasperated by the marketing of "series" dictating the abrupt ending of so many otherwise interesting novels. I almost feel like returning Black Sun for the way I feel cheated out of the full story arc. Whether part of a series or not, books need to stand alone on their own intrinsic merits.

48 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Great story but lacks any kind of an ending

I really enjoyed this story, and the narration was well done. I regretfully feel the need to dock a star on the story. There is no satisfying ending to this story. Every single storyline we’ve been following through the entire book is left unresolved. I’m okay with a book in a series leaving a cliff hanger, leaving a few things unresolved, but leaving the entire book with no kind of conclusion felt very misleading and dissatisfying. I’m wary of the next book, but I’ll probably listen to it. If that has the same lack of ending, I won’t go further in the series. I don’t enjoy being abandoned in the middle of a story.

24 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Built Us Up Just to Let Us Down

This story had the makings of an epic quest. Roanhorse creates amazing characters with tons of depth and back stories that catch fire to the readers interest, slowly illuminating the plot within the plot. Each character moves through their own personal story arch but soon you start to sense their connection and you are certain that a "convergence" is approaching, the build up is so good that I was absolutely heartbroken when one by one each characters story just stops. Now I'm all for unhappy endings and or cliffhangers that signal the coming of a sequel but this story clearly just ends with no ENDING. The reader is left with so many untied knots that you wonder what was the purpose of all that string in the first place? So while this might have had the makings of an epic quest in the end we are only left with questions...even death is uncertain.

9 people found this helpful

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Sweepingly Epic

Beautiful world building. A fully fleshed out cast of characters. And a full sweeping adventure with an end that leaves each of our main POV characters’ fates up in the air (literally in one case!) So, if you hate cliffhangers, buy this book and save it to read until the next one drops! But honestly, while Roanhorse’s prose are accessible and make for an easy read, she manages to pack so much into this story that, having time to read it now and then reread it at least once before the next one is available, will be more of an advantage than a burden. At least for me!

5 people found this helpful

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Religious ideological political power struggles

Rebecca Roanhorse's Black Sun is an epic fantasy tale based on pre-Columbian themes. An extremely rare astronomical event is the backdrop for a return to ascendency of the Carrion Crow clan resulting from a putsch many years earlier. Their usurpers, the Watchers are astronomers and have been calling the shots ever since. A young man, mutilated by his mother as a child, journeys to Tova, the main city to exert his godhood status and restore the Crow position in the community. Along the way there are multiple agendas, back-stabbings, and double crosses to provide lots of action.

Roanhorse relates the tale from four distinct perspectives. Each character has an extensive backstory revealed through multiple flashbacks. The political structure is complex adding a sense of realism to what is otherwise a fantasy story and meshes nicely with long standing prophecies and religious rituals. While the tale ends with a modicum of closure, events do not play out as intended, setting up sufficient fodder for an anticipated sequel.

The choice of four different narrators for the four perspectives was wise and adds considerably to the listening experience. Each narration is well done.

2 people found this helpful

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Familiar Characters in a Fresh Setting

A strange kid/man with a destiny.
A bawdy, brash, bi-sexual sailor woman.
The low-born girl who was helped into high society by an eccentric elder patron.
The man trying to keep out of the religious zealots of his people who want him to join.

These are not new archetypes, but they are archetypes that I generally like. The novelty, for a fan of the fantasy genre, is that the fantasy tropes you might be used to of Ale and tall-masted ships and Dragons and demons, have been replaced by lore and legends and myths of The Americas before being colonized. The sour cactus alcohol, the penchant for chocolate with hot peppers, the crossing of a sea in a large canoe, and the story cruxing around a sun god and a crow god and other elements people familiar with the folklore the author is pulling from: in another work written from a Euro-centric fantasy, these would be elements heavily exoticized with the main characters commenting "My, such strange food! I like it, but I think I'd prefer an Ale from home and bite of cheese!" So I really liked the venture into a different flavor of fantasy.

Unfortunately, the plot, aside from some stuff near the climax, I found kinda predictable. Also there were some romantic elements that were kinda like "Okay, this is here for the shippers, but golly we're spending a lot of time on it!" I never had a problem with the plot, but if it had been a Euro-centric tale, it would not have been not different enough from anything else to get above 3-stars. Much like my English Professor, you get a C for doing the minimum requirement. I give this a B for novelty in setting and a few surprises at the end, but there were a few too many awkward romance bits and predictable high society drama. If there's a sequel which can really build on this, then I might revisit my opinion, but if the next one is more of the same counting on its novel folklore to maintain interest, then I'm only giving the Novelty star out on the first round.

Performance: having different voices for each character's perspective was nice, and everyone did a good job. Nothing really stood out as above and beyond though.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Fascinating world, complicated characters

So, when does book 2 come out? Cuz I'm going to need that soon. What an amazing ride! Fascinating world, amazing characters. I'm not generally one for court intrigue sorts of stories . . .but the plotting and machinations came with huge emotional stakes and I was riveted.

I was already a Roanhorse fan from her Sixth World series, but this is a whole different level of awesome. So, hurry up, Ms. Roanhorse and get that next book out here. I'll be here waiting :-)

1 person found this helpful

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love love loved it!

So many amazing characters with lush backgrounds and cool magic systems. I'm ready for book 2!!!

1 person found this helpful

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So worth the read

I wasn’t sure when I first started listening, but the more I got into it the more I enjoyed it to the point where I couldn’t put it down. I haven’t been this in love with a book in a long while. The voice acting is all beautiful done and the story is so different and unexpected. It is told from different perspectives and it gets to the point where you love hearing from everyone and it’s hard to tell who to root for. I’d suggest this to anyone. Put it on your reading list.

1 person found this helpful

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omg I'm so sad it's over

this book was excellent. I laughed I cried I'm way too attached to all the characters. this universe feels really old and also fresh and this trilogy is destined to be fantastic. the voice actors are wonderful and the story complicates the duality of darkness and light and good and evil in a way that feels very relevant and refreshing. I will be listening to this book again soon

1 person found this helpful

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  • suuthe
  • 10-30-20

so so good

It was so easy to immerse in Rebecca's world of magic, Crow God, the powerful and the outcasts, thoroughly enjoyed it. I don't mind too many threads left hanging for that is what life is anyway- an unresolved chapter. Having said that, when's the second book coming? 😉😊

4 people found this helpful

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  • Michela
  • 06-26-21

A slow-paced clash of clans and religions

The story is told from the different points of view of quite interesting and varied characters. Yet the plot and the pace are too slow and anticlimactic, even the ending is predictable and doesn't allow the main characters to actually interact, except marginally. A sad feeling of inescapable doom pervades the novel. It definitely feels like a first part of a longer story, no tying up of loose ends, and some characters seem abandoned in a limbo. The audiobook narrators are all brilliant.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-07-21

absolutely stunning

the story and world building is the best I've read in a while. so beautiful and gripping, a love letter to indigenous, black and queer identities

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 05-07-21

Good character development

I've just finished this audio book and it's certainly left me eager for the next. I did struggle to get into it to start with, but I think that's just how it is for me with several stories running at once and so many new names to remember.

The main characters drew me in and I was rooting for them, and the plot unfolds nicely. The characters and their relationships were not stuck in the stereotypes we are so often exposed to, and they were developed well.

The narration was good, though Serapio's speed of speech changed dramatically between narrators. This may have been so the female narrator could distinguish between her characters, which is important, but it stood out to me. A small thing though.

Looking forward to the next.

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Elliot Anderson
  • 02-07-21

.

Absolutely love that there's multiple narrators!!! This story is a wonderful build up for a bigger world and I can't wait to read the sequel

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • rustyblue85
  • 01-24-21

Brilliant

I loved this book, it is so completely 'me'. I love other worlds, magic and otherworldly beasts, which this book has and describes in beautiful detail. Also, I love that the reader is never sure if the main characters are 'good' or 'bad' or just flawed and human like us. I found it really refreshing that there are openly gay and bisexual characters in a fantasy novel and that there is also a third gender in the Meridian continent bayeki with xe/xir pronouns just casually referred to and they are accepted in high ranking roles in the Celestial Tower in Tova. I cannot wait for the next instalment.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-28-20

Amazing

Absolutely amazing, I couldn't put it down. The suspense, the worldbuilding, interesting characters, ritual magic and great narrators, are all what held my attention. Can't wait for the second installment.

1 person found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Leena
  • 12-04-20

Dull

I just couldn’t get into this or care about some random religious sect loosing their influence and the woman leading them.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Lynn Williams
  • 12-21-20

Fantastic start to series

My Five Word TL:DR Review : Rich worldbuilding, characters with depth

I had a great time with Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse. To be honest, I expected to like this one, I loved the first two books in the Sixth World Series after all, but, as we all know, high expectations combined with lots of hype can sometimes spell disaster. Fortunately this was not the case with Black Sun. This is a story that combines rich world building with well drawn characters all singing from their own hymn sheets and it just works so very well.

I’m going to be a little lazy here and steal part of the description from Goodreads, simply because it’s well written and so why reinvent the wheel:

“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“

I mean, right there – Pre-Columbian America – who would not want to read a book with this setting? Seriously, this just feels so unique and not just that, it’s well written with descriptions that bring the place vividly to life.

On top of this we follow four pov characters with all the threads slowly converging during the course of the book. What is satisfying about this is it feels more like two storylines simply because of the geography with the story switching between time on the high seas and time in the city of Tova, and occasionally incorporating flashbacks.

As the book starts we meet Serapio as he undergoes a painful ritual performed by his mother. This is the first step in fulfilling the prophecy that predicts his destiny as Crow God. We then jump forward a few years, Serapio, now a young man, is about to journey to Tova to confront, well, not to be spoilery, to fulfil his mission in life.

Xiala is a mysterious sea captain known as a ‘Teek’. The Teek are feared and also revered for their abilities to sing to the sea and the sea creatures and smooth the passage of ships that travel upon them. Xiala is an outcast who now takes jobs as and when she can find them. Her latest job takes her onto the wider oceans (rarely travelled upon at this time of year due to the threat of stormy weather and the inevitable watery grave) where she is charged with transporting Serapio to Tova. A journey that must be completed within a certain period to coincide with the Solstice and solar eclipse.

Meanwhile, at Tova we meet Nara, recently appointed Sun Priest. She has new ideas and is enthusiastic about making positive changes. Unfortunately, it would seem that not everyone is equally enamoured with this recent appointment and Nara will encounter assassination attempts and behind doors machinations to remove her from this coveted position.

Finally, Okoa, member of the Crow Clan. Recently returned to the fold to support his sister following the somewhat suspicious death, of their mother.

Now, you do have to bear with things here because obviously with four characters populating the pages there’s a lot to take in, but it is well worth the effort.

I loved the writing, there’s something subtle and understated about how the author manages to combine so many elements and pull them together in a way that makes you hungry for the next instalment. On top of this she injects history, myth and lore with religion and rebellion and chucks in a little seafaring and light romance for good measure. To top it off, the characters are each so distinct with their own stories and histories to discover. And, what’s really superb is the tingly feeling that I have that Roanhorse has only just scraped the surface of what’s to come such as learning more about Nara and her family, particularly her brother, or Xiala and her abilities – or more to the point, finding out what she truly is. And, if this isn’t enough, for me, there’s an ambiguity here, that is very clever. For example, Serapio – is he one of the good guys or one of the bad guys. It’s difficult to tell at this point and it feels like the lines are muddied for a purpose.

Now, one thing I will say, and this isn’t a criticism so much as an observation, I couldn’t help feeling more attached to certain characters/storylines. Xiala and Serapio stole the show a little for me but I’m still open to the other storylines winning me over in the next instalment.

I think it’s probably time to start drawing this review to a close and in case you haven’t guessed, this was great and I definitely recommend it without a doubt.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publishers, for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion. I also bought a copy of the audio and I both read and listened – and I thought the audio for this was really good.

My rating 4.5 of 5 stars

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  • Anonymous User
  • 10-25-21

surprising

a very different perspective and really interesting. well told and entertaining. can't wait for bood two.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-06-20

amazing!

beautifully written. the world building & the characters are flawless. i look forward to reading book 2!

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  • Melanie McMinn
  • 10-18-20

Blow the cobwebby old European fantasy tropes away

With an incredible story rooted in Mesoamerican and North American indigenous cultures, you'll love blowing those cobwebby old European fantasy tropes out of your brain with something completely new and fresh. Added bonus that Cara Gee who plays Drummer on The Expanse is only one of the four excellent voice actors for this book. The only downside of reading this is waiting for the next installment.