Friday, January 27, 2017

REVIEW | Sunbolt by Intisar Khanani

Sunbolt by Intisar Khanani
Publication Year: 2013
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Series: Sunbolt Chronicles #1
Awards: None
Format: eBook (I own)
Narrator: NA

WHY?:  I had seen this book and author recommended several times around the blogosphere in very glowing terms.  I was curious enough about it and confident enough that I would like it that I bought it some time last year when it was on sale.

SYNOPSIS: Hitomi is an orphan making her own way on the streets of Karolene, an island nation with an increasingly despotic government.  In fact, she has connected herself with a group of dissidents that are resisting the government.  She is also hiding a dangerous secret. When a mission goes horribly awry, Hitomi finds herself sold and transported to a far away land where she must risk revealing her dangerous secret to save her own and a fellow prisoner's life.  


This novella length book (~145 pages) completely captivated me and was a great introduction to the character of Hitomi, the world she lives in and the political machinations that make things interesting.  I loved it so much that I immediately bought and started the full length sequel, A Memory of Ashes.

The book is told entirely from Hitomi's perspective and we come into her story kind of in the middle.  We don't know how Hitomi was orphaned or why she got involved with the resistance but she obviously has established relationships with all the members of the group.  Despite not knowing how she knows them or why she helps them, Khanani establishes her loyalty well enough that it is easy to understand Hitomi's actions which are selfless and heroic.  

Hitomi's street-wise, smart, abrasive demeanor balanced by her compassionate and honorable nature make her a character that I immediately loved and got behind.  She is also incredibly stubborn and determined which leads her to not give up in what seem to be hopeless situations.  She's admirable and heroic but real as well.  She is the first thing to really make this book (and series, I wager) special. 

The second thing to make it special is the world-building.  Khanani manages to open up the door to a complex world, with some very interesting creatures and political intrigue but she doesn't get too bogged down either.  She does this while also propelling the plot at rocket speed, covering a lot of ground.  The remarkable thing is that it didn't feel rushed to me.  It flowed and was paced just right.

I don't read many novellas, but I feel like there's a danger of the story feeling incomplete.  I think Sunbolt was done really well - I was definitely glad that we were going to get more of Hitomi's story but I didn't feel totally unsatisfied with the story as a whole.   There are so many pieces on the game board for Khanani to develop and play with and I am interested in all those pieces and would like them all explored.  It left me full but wanting more because it was so delicious!

FINAL VERDICT:  The very enjoyable start of a YA fantasy series that is well written and has characters that are complex, realistic and easy to care about.  4 out of 5 stars.

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