Although her previous novels have been urban fantasies, Rebecca Roanhorse’s Black Sun is a straight-up epic fantasy, full of prophecies and dark gods and ancient orders of priests and political intrigue and roguish ship captains and all the trappings of the genre.
And it delivers on them well. The political intrigue is believable, as reformers who are trying to fix a broken system clash with people who don’t much care if the system stays broken as long as they’re on top of it; the dark figure out of prophecy manages to be both convincingly grim but also vulnerable in human ways; and the roguish captain… well, she’s just a great character, who keeps the book from getting too grimdark. And it’s deploying these characters in a plot that’s trying to look, in a roundabout way, at what it would mean to build a just society—is it just getting revenge on the people who wronged you most recently, is it preserving institutions that keep society stable no matter what oppression is baked into that stability, or is there something more to aim for?
While Roanhorse is writing in the political epic fantasy genre that George R.R. Martin has left such a large imprint on, she’s doing it in a way that’s fresher and more modern: her world is based on Mesoamerican societies, so not just the generic fantasy Europe; and her characters are of a wide variety of genders and sexual orientations.
Highly recommended, with one caveat: This is the first book in a series, and while it does end at a climactic point, it’s still extremely unfinished. I’m optimistic that Roanhorse will be able to end it well and in a reasonable timeframe, but yeah, unfinished epic fantasy series are always a gamble.
(And yes, this booklog entry is backdated; I actually read this book in October and am super-late writing it up, but want to at least make sure it shows up in the right year.