I’ve fangirled over Rebecca Roanhorse, and I may have to stop following her on Twitter just so I don’t embarrass myself with the constant gushing.
Roanhorse deserves the adulation, though. She wowed me with Trail of Lightning (review) and continued to impress with the follow up in the Sixth World series, Storm of Locusts. If I have a complaint, it’s that I want more of her books now.
Fortunately, Roanhorse kicked off another new series this fall with the release of Black Sun. The first book in the Between Earth and Sky series, Black Sun is epic historical fantasy. At 450 pages, it really gives readers something to sink their teeth into. I’m a slow reader, which means this provided me with a couple dozen hours of solid entertainment as Roanhorse built her characters and her world.
The worldbuilding is superb, and the characters are fully fleshed out. There are also plenty of twists and revelations along the way that keep you on your toes. And someday, I may touch on the topic of lack of consent in chosen one stories, and reference Black Sun. I could even write a paper about spiritual abuse and illustrate my points with this text. Someone else might use the work to talk about power dynamics.
But one of the key things about this work that is important to Roanhorse herself is that this moves us away from European settings and history, and opens up a whole new world. And there’s an undercurrent in the work that points to the history of genocide experienced by Indigenous persons in North America, and around the world. It’s fascinating to see the prejudices at play. Roanhorse writes both characters who are othered, or who other people they consider beneath themselves, and yet the book never feels preachy. In fact, it’s a testament to the book that I read it mid-October and can still easily recall so many of the themes that ran throughout it.
Another great Indigenous speculative fiction offering comes from Cherie Dimaline. The Marrow Thieves drops readers into a future dystopian world where everyone has lost the ability to dream. Everyone except Indigenous persons, that is. This condition can be fatal, but the people affected know how to stop it.
By harvesting bone marrow from Indigenous persons.
The Marrow Thieves follows a group of Indigenous people on the run, fighting to survive in a bleak world where they’re being hunted. Dimaline has crafted an all-too-real world that doesn’t always feel so different from our own. The story is haunting, and it covers love and loss, and the fight for survival. The characters are richly developed and it’s the kind of book that holds you in its grip until the very end.
There are a lot of themes beneath the surface. It reminded me of the objectification of Indigenous persons and appropriation of their culture by a society that continues to perpetuate their genocide.
The Marrow Thieves is classified as YA, but I highly recommend it for speculative fiction fans of all ages. It is a compelling story with a powerful message and, despite the dark theme, a ray of hope for humanity.
If you’d like to learn more about Black Sun, check out NPR’s interview with Roanhorse. You can also enjoy a video discussion on YouTube.
If you enjoy horror, check out my review of Owl Goingback’s Tribal Screams, which can be found here.