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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

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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.

61 people found this helpful

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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.

30 people found this helpful

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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.

12 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!

6 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.

5 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.

3 people found this helpful

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Falls short on every account

This story had a ton of potential however poor writing, forced plot points and overly crisscrossed timeline makes this a painful read.

3 people found this helpful

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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 :-)

2 people 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!!!

2 people 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.

2 people 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Joakim A.
  • 06-23-22

Epic and interesting

Really interesting world building and good characters. Good story with varied spred. Really a likable and good book. I'm looking forward to the next.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-21-22

Great start of a new fantasy series

Rebecca Roanhorse has vindicated her place as one of the most beloved fantasy-authors of her time with this fantastic start to a new fantasy series. Where I felt her urban fantasy work didn't stand out too much from the crowd, Black Sun is deserving of the title of fantasy epic.
From the vicerally gripping opening-chapter, until the edge-of-my-seat-finale, I was completely transported into the wonderful foreign world of Tova, and its memorable characters.
With its multiple POV's, Black Sun sets up a broad scope of the world, and a multifacetted conflict that I already know will only lead to tragedy in the end. Still I couldn't help but get equally attachted to Naranpa, Okoa, Xiala and Serapio, each of them being destinct, fleshed out, and likable in their own way characters.
I can safely say that Black Sun is going to make it into my top 3 fantasy novels of 2020, and I hate that I have to wait a year for book 2 to arrive. Highly recommend to all fans of epic fantasy!

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  • Aroha
  • 05-14-22

Hooked from the beginning!

The story starts and it is brutal and you are left reeling wondering WTF is going on here. And I was hooked. The words were descriptive spinning a story that you could almost see in front of you. And although you were following several characters stories i never got lost because they worked so well together.World building is beautiful and real. And I really liked that they threw the traditional family unit, that is part of most stories I have read, out the window in this story. It was refreshing and I really loved this story. Can’t wait to read more.

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  • Aaron Compton
  • 01-14-22

fantastic beautiful harsh wonderful


I loved the story and relationships and setting and everything
what an ingeneous way to create a god, and in a way so fitting to the cultural imagery
great to hear native voices, great performances

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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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    5 out of 5 stars
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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.