High Fantasy Noir: Fevered Star by Rebecca Roanhorse

High Fantasy Noir: Fevered Star by Rebecca Roanhorse

Black Sun (paperback reprint) and Fevered Star (Saga Press, June 2021 and April 2022). Covers by John Picacio

My first novel The Robots of Gotham was released in June 2018, and it was gratifying to see a summer debut could quickly climb bestseller lists, receive wide attention and praise from numerous venues, snag a Nebula and Hugo nomination, and win a Locus Award.

Not mine, of course. No, all that breathless acclaim went to Rebecca Roanhorse’s Trail of Lightning, released a week after Robots. It was consistently annoying to hear the excited chatter about that book from friends, coworkers, parents, children, and people standing next to me at the damn post office.

I decided to read Roanhorse’s book so I could see what I was up against. That was a huge mistake. Pretty soon I was talking it up to anyone who would listen — or even make eye contact. You haven’t read Trail of Lightning?? I heard myself say. Check it out first — it’s fantastic. I guess I suck as a self-promoter, but I’m still your guy for honest book recs.

Rebecca’s next book was Black Sun, the opening novel in her Between Earth and Sky trilogy. In his review for Black Gate Greg Mele wrote:

There are four main view point characters and each is clearly distinct from the others in thoughts, “voice”, motives and behavior. After the epic backstory of Serapio we jump to Xiala, sailor, and member of a mysterious sea-faring people who supposedly kill their men folk, and calm the seas by singing. Xiala is in prison sleeping off a drunken misadventure (and the bedding of a powerful man’s wife), when a powerful and mysterious lord (who may or may not be a sorcerer) arranges her freedom in return for a job: deliver an important cargo to reach holy city Tova less than a month — specifically, before an upcoming eclipse…

It’s a story that is almost a slice of noir fiction, but tied to high fantasy, in a uniquely North American world. Serapio and Xiala are fantastic characters, their journey exciting, but it is only half the tale — we also meet Nara, the first of the Sun Priests, despite her rise to power from humble origins, and Okoa, a warrior of the distrusted, yet still powerful Crow clan. All of these characters have origins that involve fraught relationships, broken homes, failed romance — things that every modern person can understand, despite the fact that the four characters are all very much people of this unique world. Best of all, you find each interesting, engaging and you are rooting for them — even when the objectives of two are directly opposed…

This is a strong fantasy and the opening of a trilogy that I hope will show the potential of heroic fantasy inspired by the Americas. You should read it and travel someplace new.

The sequel Fevered Star arrived last month, and reviews have been very kind. Kirkus called it “An excellent second installment that adds even more detail and intrigue;” here’s an excerpt from the full review.

Having executed his dark purpose as the Crow God’s human avatar and causing a mysterious eclipse that blocks the sun over the city of Tova, Serapio wakes up gravely injured. One of the giant crows of clan Carrion Crow rescued him, and Okoa, the captain of the Shield, is nursing him back to health. Serapio learns that he can’t necessarily trust everyone from Carrion Crow and also that he will continue to be treated not as a human being but as a weapon for the clan. Xiala, meanwhile, is desperate to find Serapio but is lost in an unfamiliar city and eventually makes some uneasy alliances in order to protect him…. even a middle book from Roanhorse is still a book from Roanhorse, with all the excellent plot machinations and stellar prose that readers know to expect from her. She delves further into the political history of the Meridian and saves room for a few big twists to wind up the anticipation for Book 3.

Fevered Star was published by Saga Press on April 19, 2022. It is 400 pages, priced at $27.99 in hardcover and $9.44 in digital formats. The cover is by John Picacio.

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I’ll have to try Rebecca Roanhorse. But Damn!, I bloody love Robots of Gotham! One of my favorite novels of the last few years. I really, really hope Todd puts out another novel and soon! I’d like to be more profound or insightful but I just wanted to give a shout out to Mr. McAulty. More please!

Sarah Avery

I listened to the Black Sun audiobook, and that was a treat. Each of the four narrators has their own voice actor. Cara Gee, who played Camina Drummer on The Expanse, narrated Xiala’s chapters. Good stuff. I’ll be picking up the second book, in one format or another.

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