Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
Throwing the reader right into the plot, Roanhorse manages the truly impressive in launching in medias res across four seemingly disparate plot lines. Though they are quickly intertwined - whether through geography or over-arching schema - each voice stands on its own: a sea captain left to dry out in prison, a priest pulled onto a riverbank, a young boy on the verge of becoming something more, and a military man whose peaceful days are interrupted by tragedy. Each faced with impossible challenges and decisions that must be made in order to ensure the world as they know it or wish it to be does not fail.
Black Sun's pacing is whiplash quick, the tempo rising higher and higher with each political and adventurous twist, leaving the reader standing on the same shaky ground as the characters themselves. Even the climax, that inevitable moment we have been racing so quickly towards, manages to satisfy at the same breakneck speed in which Roanhorse hurdles the narrative forward. Left gasping for air, for MORE, the novel ends having managed the truly impressive feat of being both satisfying and leaving you, the reader, hungry.
The only detractor from Black Sun, and this is after a week or two spent mulling over the issue, is the late introduction of one of the POVs. It was a character so engaging that I wished for more of their world and backstory - no less due to the fact that this POV introduces one of the more fantastical aspects of Black Sun (a bold move, considering the supernatural aspects of the world the reader has already been introduced to by the time this POV comes into play). Instead, what we're given is a brief introduction to the idea of the character in another POV, followed by a wordy recap of a person who has lead an interesting life separate from the political machinations of their family. The rushed nature of the info dumps, while keeping in line with the overall pacing of the novel, felt jarring. Whereas with other characters Roanhorse successfully navigates their upbringing with a deft chapter or two, instead we are given a handful of paragraphs and brief asides intended to flesh out an entire person. However, considering the last few pages of the novel, it is probable that this issue will be addressed and remedied in the next installment.
That being said, Black Sun delivers on so many levels that it is easy to get beyond one awkward introduction. Fantasy meets pre-Columbian Americas, creatures of myth are given startling new depths, gender and sexual fluidity are such a natural part of the world that their inclusion never feels contrived. Instead, all feels as natural as, say, sun-eating gods. Black Sun is a treat and a must read. I rate it five out of five giant corvids.
Many thanks to Gallery Books/Saga Press and Netgalley for the ARC!