“Black Sun” Shines Bright

Friends and enemies converge on a holy city in a world of sun priests, crow gods, and winged creatures that carry warriors on their backs.

Image provided by Simon and Schuster.

Image provided by Simon and Schuster.

Joseph Bender, Mirada Staff

If you want a fantasy world based on American Indian culture, with crows, mesas, and backstabbing intrigue, “Black Sun” by Rebecca Roanhorse is for you. 

Tova is the center of the universe. Four clans rule the city, but they answer to the priests of the Celestial Tower, who watch the skies and ensure peace on earth. 

Not everyone wants their peace. 

The winter solstice is just days away. The Sun Priest has to prepare rituals and prevent civil war. A sea captain needs reach the city of Tova by the solstice. And her mysterious passenger has business there. 

One of the clans, Carrion Crow, worships its own god. A generation ago, the priests massacred them to destroy their cult, leaving a clan of angry mourners. But nobody in Tova knows that the crow god has been reborn across the sea.

His name is Serapio, and he looks like a young man with patterns of scars across his torso, eyelids sewn shut, and a murder of crows surrounding him. Nobody in Roanhorse’s books, however, is what they appear to be.

Xiala, the captain, needs to get Serapio across the sea and to Tova before the solstice. It helps that she has magic to drive away storms. But the crew doesn’t trust her, people try to steal her bones for good-luck charms, and she has to contend with the mysterious blind man on her boat.

Naranpa is the Sun Priest and leader of the Celestial Tower, but she has problems. The last Sun Priest left the priesthood weak in a changing world. The feud with Carrion Crow threatens to explode. And the other priests don’t like a Sun Priest who comes from a slum and whose brother is a crime lord. 

The solstice brings no good luck. 

“Black Sun” is magical in more ways than one. Tova swallowed me whole, and the characters could be real people if real people were more interesting. Besides, some of them fly on giant crows, eagles, or winged snakes, and that alone is enough.