Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse is book one of two in the Between Earth and Sky series. Right off the bat, I had fairly high hopes for this one. It was listed at the near top of a couple of reading lists I encountered as it supposedly checks out on a couple of parameters I was looking for such as a dialogue-heavy fantasy series with some political intrigue and a not-so-in-your-face magic system. Throw in a god that is destined to return to wreak havoc and I think we’ve got ourselves a winner. Unfortunately, I came away with the conclusion that Black Sun is just mediocre at best. Not above or below average but hovering right in the middle in that it just did enough to keep me going but absolutely nothing at all to set itself apart with anything memorable. It’s a true shame because if it did, I would definitely have continued the journey with book two but alas, it was not meant to be.
“A man with a destiny is a man who fears nothing.” - Serapio
The story revolves around a couple of characters that I had thoroughly hoped would have been just a tad bit more exciting. Nara the priestess is your typical goody-two-shoes character with a humble beginning. She practically had nothing that was unpredictable to the reader. As such, her character seemed to have just floated or glided along the story without really much going on. You next have Xiala the Teek who is the opposite of Nara in that she is bawdy, loud, easy to be sexually aroused but yet soft-hearted feminine character. Finally, we have Serapio the crow god incarnate. While I get the feeling he is the main antagonist, his personality has much to be desired but given the circumstances, it’s understandable. It’s just not very fun to read through is all.
“…But if your stories are of adaptation and survival, of long memory and revenge, then I will know you are a Crow like me.” - Crow Cycle
The world and culture building is strange to me in that although I understood it, I honestly felt that it just wasn’t applied in a meaningful way that can be felt by the reader. For example, the author makes clear what Serapio’s mission is but the reader doesn’t really get to feel the urgency of it and I believe it’s due to how examples of the differences between the Sky Made clans and the rest of the population. We understand that the celestial tower along with the priesthood and Watchers are the guardians along with how that violently came to be in the past but it just doesn’t connect with the present. Nara, Serapio, and Xiala don’t have enough interactions and chemistry with the rest of the world to really bring this to life and therefore, readers such as myself don’t really know who to root for or who we want to see coming out victorious in the end. In fact, it gets to the point where the reader may not even care.
“But beware, the crow is also a trickster and will take the greater share of the reward, too, if he thinks he is able.” - Saaya
Black Sun has some things going for it. If you’re looking for a dark fantasy series with a magic system sprinkled in without it being overly dominant, you could give this one a try. The world-building and history/culture is there but a lot is to be desired in my opinion if it wants to hold my attention. All in all, though, I do recommend this if you can temper down your expectations due to so many highly rated reviews.