(The Sunbolt Chronicles #1)
by Intisar Khanani
Publisher: Purple Monkey Press
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
The winding streets and narrow alleys of Karolene hide many secrets, and Hitomi is one of them. Orphaned at a young age, Hitomi has learned to hide her magical aptitude and who her parents really were. Most of all, she must conceal her role in the Shadow League, an underground movement working to undermine the powerful and corrupt Arch Mage Wilhelm Blackflame.
When the League gets word that Blackflame intends to detain—and execute—a leading political family, Hitomi volunteers to help the family escape. But there are more secrets at play than Hitomi’s, and much worse fates than execution. When Hitomi finds herself captured along with her charges, it will take everything she can summon to escape with her life.
(synopsis from Goodreads)
Well, this was interesting. It's nice to read an indie book that isn't completely awful. Sunbolt is a pretty short little novel, but it packs quite a bit of punch into a relatively small number of pages. While it may lack the polish of traditionally published books, it makes up for that with a comfortable writing style and an intriguing story.
Please, dear author, I want some more...
Despite the fact that this book is so short, the author manages to build a fascinating and complex fantasy world, develop a diverse cast of characters, and start an intriguing story that'll leave the reader begging for more.
The world is beautifully created. It seems much like a past version of our world in some ways, but with magic. At the beginning of the story, Hitomi lives in Karolene, which has a definite Middle Eastern vibe. Later, we get to see another sort of landscape, which comes across as more European (mountains, valleys, pine trees, alpine lakes). The humans are likewise varied, and seem to roughly match the racial diversity we see in our own world. But then, there's a whole other level of wonderful weirdness, with shape-shifting creatures (like Hitomi's friend, Kenta), vampire-like creatures called fangs, and soul-sucking monsters called breathers. I'm sure we'll probably encounter even more wonderful creations as the series progresses.
It's all a matter of taste...
This is a young adult book, so of course there are some of the usual tropes (which I won't mention for fear of giving anything away; suffice it to say, they're there). It was also a bit predictable at times. The main conflict at the beginning of the book seemed to be forgotten somewhere along the way, too, and I was a little disappointed with the ending... although it's obvious that the story isn't over yet (at least, I hope it isn't; there are a number of questions left unanswered). I guess I'll just have to wait for the next installment of Hitomi's story.
Let's get technical...
Aside from a number of typos throughout the text, my main complaint with the writing is the avoidance of the words "says" and "say" (the book is written in the present tense). It's almost unintentionally funny at times, as it seems the author is going to great pains to avoid these words. Instead, the characters grumble, console, prod, snap, supply... well, you get the idea. Toward the end of the book, the punctuation also starts to fall apart a little bit, but it still isn't as bad as what I've seen from some traditionally published books.
What can I say, other than that I was pleasantly surprised? I'll definitely be continuing with this series.
These last four years, I have watched the life of the city slowly bleed into the sea. Oh, Mama Ali still laughs and sells her self-fulfilling prophecies in the fish market, children still play, and the motions of life continue because they must, but there is a silence where there were once words. It lurks at the edge of my hearing. Now people dart glances to the side when they speak, checking for soldiers or Blackflame's mercenaries, where before no one thought twice about the presence of armed men. People have disappeared: men and women who spoke out against Blackflame when the laws began to change, then people who spoke out against the disappearances of their brothers and sisters. Until, finally, people stopped speaking.
Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5 ladybugs