Book Review: Black Sun
The gorgeous cover of Black Sun
Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse is a 400+ page adult secondary world fantasy inspired by pre-Columbian cultures, especially those in Mexico and the Southwestern US. Black Sun a reference to solar eclipses, which bookend the novel and have significant magical power and effects on the characters. There are three POVs. Serapio, a blind man/avatar for the crow god, wishes to travel to Tova and avenge a fifty year old massacre of the Crow clan by killing all the priests, especially the Sun Priest. Xiala is the captain of the ship taking him there, but her crew doesn’t trust her due to her being a woman and having special power over the sea. Naranpa, newly risen Sun Priest, just wants the city of Tova to be more equitable, but the system she leads doesn’t like her style or poor background and threatens mutiny.
There was so much to like here. I read this thing fast, despite it being a pretty sizable novel. I love Roanhorse’s style, which isn’t a surprise since I liked two books of hers before. Looks like I’m a fan for life! The characters were well built and had unique voices and problems, and the worldbuilding was cool. I got excited whenever I recognized something (like the round houses in the Maw; I’ve seen some ruins of roundhouses at Bandolier National Park). But it was also great to see the fully fantasy elements as well. This was such a cool ride from start to finish.
On the downside, this ended with cliffhangers all around, setting up a sequel and didn’t give me any closure! This was purposeful, of course, but the sequel is going to be a while.
This is a book for you if you enjoyed Roanhorse’s Trail of Lightning, Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, slow burn romance, and dark prophesies. This book may not be for you if you can’t handle nonbinary pronouns or if you want to read stand-alone novels or already completed series.
Have you read Black Sun? What did you think of that ending? Let’s discuss in the comments!
Futurescapes: In-Person vs Virtual
Views from around Snowbird Resort. The bottom right is the deck where we had most of our meetings. Photos by Kate Ota 2022
I've teased this post for a while and it's finally here! I recently attended Futurescapes at the Snowbird Resort in Utah, and in the past I virtually attended Futurescapes in 2021. Futurescapes is a multi-day workshop focused on first pages (about 25), queries, and synopses, in which you and a small group (up to seven) of other writers work with a professional (author, agent, or editor) to improve your work. In my experience, the group has cycled between mentors for each critique item (pages, query, synopsis). I commented on my virtual experience previously, but now I figured I would write about how the in-person experience differed. That way, if someone is deciding between applying to the virtual workshop or waiting for an in-person version, they can see how both experiences worked out. Let's do some pros and cons.
As you can see the in-person experience had more pros and more cons than the virtual. Honestly, the virtual felt like a slightly more in-depth version of my usual critique groups but with a professional thrown in the mix. The in-person really felt like a workshop and a special treat because of the immersion. However, I recognize that I am privileged to be able to take time off work, have the money to attend, travel, and eat at the workshop, and have the physical mobility to travel to and within the resort. I also didn't experience altitude sickness, though many others did (I was born at altitude so it's my home turf). So, I fully recognize that virtual may be the better option for others. I will not make that call for you.
Overall, I am so grateful for both of my Futurescapes experiences. I won't be sharing much of what I learned at the in-person workshop, because a lot of it was either really tailored to me and won't be useful for others or is the type of advice that the professionals get paid to give and I don't want to steal their intellectual property. Agents and authors gotta eat too.
Futurescapes is for you if one or more of the following applies:
Futurescapes is NOT for you if any of the following applies:
That's my experience with Futurescapes! Will I attend again in the future? Well, I hope I'm offered rep by an agent before then, and therefore won't qualify. If you're debating attending but have questions for me, feel free to leave a comment below.
The covers of the Green Bone Saga books. Love how they go together so nicely!
This past week I finished reading Jade Legacy, the third installment of Fonda Lee's Green Bone Saga. I reviewed the first book earlier this summer, but felt the series as a whole deserves some time. The saga is a trilogy made up of Jade City (2017), Jade War (2019), and Jade Legacy (2010). Jade City won the World Fantasy Award in 2018, and finaled for several other major awards. The series as a whole is a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Series in 2022. You get the picture: the series is popular and critically acclaimed. Unfortunately, the TV adaptation planned by Peacock was cancelled and is being shopped again, hopefully to a subscription service that I actually have.
The second two books in the saga continue to follow Shae, Hilo, Anden, and the rest of the Kaul family's inner circle as they battle with The Mountain clan for power over Kekon. Jade War focuses on a few years directly following Jade City, but Jade Legacy covers about twenty years worth of time. Both Jade War and Jade Legacy are THICK books, but they have excellent pacing and move well, just like the first. The scope of the story problems keeps getting bigger and driving toward a thrilling ending. Do I have strong feelings about who lives and who dies by the end? Yes. And that's exactly how I know the author nailed the series.
My complaint about Jade Legacy is that it feels more like little vignettes than a tied together novel until the very end. However, I still enjoyed the read and that's such a minor complaint to have in a series like this.
If you enjoyed Jade City, absolutely finish the series. It's for lovers of secondary worlds, Godfather-esque gang/mob conflicts, and if you liked Avatar/Korra, you'll be into this. It's not for you if you don't like long books, and don't want your MCs to be a little morally gray.
Next week I'll post about my experience at the in-person Futurescapes at Snowbird workshop!
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