Updated: Feb 8
It's hard to talk about this book because it is so many things at once.
It's a heady epic and an intimate portrait of people wracked with the wounds of generational trauma, of unbelonging, of being an outsider in a land that cradles you with one arm and pushes you away with the other. It's an inquiry into what it means to be a “hero” vs. “villain”, “a good person” vs “a bad person” vs “a monster”, that doesn't flinch away from the darker aspects of humanity. It's a masterclass in subverting the wearisome euro-centricity of epic fantasy that carves new spaces for Indigenous stories to breathe. It's a triumph of queerness that imagines a world where queer people can just be, without the need for some kind of statement.
There's a bisexual mermaid/sea-captain and a goth who is a vessel for a wrathful god. A scholar-priestess with way too many enemies, save perhaps one non-binary assassin who loves her. The inherent intimacy of tracing someone's palm, of sharing a bed mere moments before tragedy. Gratuitous mass murders via a murder of crows (the pun practically wrote itself). And then more.
It is, at the end of the day, not so much a novel, but an experience. Roanhorse’s storytelling will carry you far from home, sweeping like a sweet wind past jagged mountains and over vast expanses of ocean and cliff cities that weathered the anger of gods. It will pour you into ships with fickle crewmen and ill-lit cells that unlock to new beginnings. It will siphon you away from the dead-end corridors of a loveless house before the walls hem you in, and pin your heart to a small, hushed cabin where longing still lingers in the air like lightning.
And, at last, you will fall still atop a freestanding mesa where a man opens his eyes and becomes a god. And you will realize you need the sequel like an ember needs air.
Have you read Black Sun yet? If you have, who was your favorite character: the goth god-vessel, the scholar-priestess, or the bisexy captain-mermaid?
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