What a fantastic story! Sunbolt is the first book in The Sunbolt Chronicles by Intisar Khanani, this is a novella length story so don’t be surprised when you fall in love with the story, characters, and setting and then feel stricken by the sudden ending. When I turned the last page I baulked, wishing that it wasn’t the end of the story. But of course it isn’t the end. Thank goodness!
Now before I get into my review I’m going to do something a little different than I normally do…
Please support my Independent Author friend Intisar Khanani by buying her novella Sunbolt, now available for a short time of $0.99 at your local electronic store of choice, be it Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, or Kobo. The offer ends May 30, 2016.
And then after that pre-order the second installment in The Sunbold Chronicles: Memories of Ash (Book Two The Sunbold Chronicles, #2) also available for $0.99 but only until the book comes out on May 30, 2016.
I’m actually kind of happy now that I’ve waited so long to review Sunbolt because now I hope that not only can I convince you to read Sunbolt but maybe I’ll also interest you in Memories of Ash.
A WriterAlina Book Review
Sunbolt (The Sunbolt Chronicles, #1)
To be honest, Sunbolt is an extremely difficult book for me to rate. I really enjoyed the complexity of the potential story and this first installment really read more like an opening act than anything else. The book ended at a good spot, with decent resolution, and I was certainly left wanting more of Intisar’s beautiful prose, it’s obvious that all her heart goes into her stories. But I’m not a big fan of stories left feeling unfinished, which is the primary reason that I gave this novella a 4 star instead of a 5 star rating that it deserves.
The following is from goodreads.com
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.
The Story and It’s Delivery
Sunbolt is told in Hitomi’s first person perspective and the cadence of the prose sucks you into her character with hints of surprising detail. Even though many of the descriptions are vivid and paint a nice picture of the landscapes that surround Hitomi the descriptions are uniquely Hitomi’s. The reader is told things that Hitomi would notice and nothing more. This is one of the dangers that many first person perspective stories get wrong but readers overlook because they want to know what’s going on. But Intisar uses the description to hint at Hitomi’s character in addition to painting a picture for her audience.
The story is somewhat divided into two parts, which considering how this story ends overall could have been two long short stories. The first being the introduction of the land, culture, magical system, and political environment currently established in Karolene. Primarily dealing with the story outlined in the summary. And the second half being about Hitomi herself and what she must do to free herself from the clutches of Blackflame and his subordinates, where she is forced to accept her “call to adventure.”
The characters and landscape change completely between the two halves of the story, which is all right overall because one flows so easily into the next, like watching back to back episodes of your favorite TV show. Each section had it’s own beginning, middle, and end, even if alone they wouldn’t have been 100% satisfying as an end. But the story needed to stop somewhere and what better place that the beginning of Act 2.
Hitomi is well rounded as are the secondary characters whom I hope to see again in future stories. The thing that I like most about Hitomi is that she’s resourceful and willing to sacrifice herself for the greater good. Even though she knows how to fight, she’s not a fantastic fighter (which is nice because this gives her room to grow). She has secrets and her secrets are expertly woven into the story and revealed slowly to the reader through Hitomi’s relevant life experience. We understand that she has magic, that she’s considered a mut due to her mixed parentage, and that her situation is unorthodox. She is a caring and yet understandably resentful person, but doesn’t dwell on her resentment for very long. Hitomi is constantly challenged emotionally and physically throughout the story and learns to fear and learns to trust.
Many of the secondary characters popped off the page as well including the Ghost, Kenta, the Degath children (Alia, Tarek, Saira), Blackflame, Kol and Val, most of which you learn enough about that you hope to see them again in a future story — of course due to the time spent on them for sure we’ll se the Ghost and Blackflame in the near future. Even though there was little time spent with most of these secondary characters each had a distinct personality and obviously had motivations for doing what they did, even if the specific motivation wasn’t completely apparent to Hitomi or the reader.
My only complaint is that we don’t really spend much time with any of the secondary characters before moving on to the next series of actions or scenes. I understand that many will probably show up again in the next book, but a part of me feels cheated by the feeling that people are introduced and then dropped. This is the other reason why I’m happy that I waited so long to actually read this book because now I don’t have to wait so long for Memories of Ash to find out what happens to the Ghost, Kenta, the Degath children and many others.
The Sunbolt Chronicles is a perfect example of what the #weneeddiversebooks campaign shoots to promote. The peoples in the story are diverse and realistic. Not only are there mages, fangs (blood drinkers), breathers (breath consumers), and Lycan (a werewolf like creature) but the people themselves are as diverse looking as those on planet Earth. There are pail northerners, dark islanders, and distinctly east Asian looking people. Hitomii herself is implied to be half Japanese and half Arab by her description and the names of her parents. And it is obvious that Hitomi is different from where she is living from the very first page of the story. And the nice thing about Hitomi being of mixed race is that it’s not really what the story is about, it’s a side fact that influences how people treat or react to her, but it’s not the focus of the story, which is awesome!
Intisar capitalizes on the reader’s knowledge of world diversity to imply the same diversity in the world of The Sunbolt Chronicles and then adds a few extra elements of her own. The island landscape sounds similar to that of a Mediterranean Island and there is implication that this would could just be an alternate Earth with different languages and magical influences.
A Word Or Two About Respect, Friendship, and Romance
One of the aspects that I actually enjoyed about Sunbold is that there was no romance. Hitomi interacts with several men in this story and she’s not romantically attracted to any of them, which I actually find to be a breath of fresh air. In fact, the feeling that I do get in a few of the relationships that Hitomi has formed is respect and friendship. Not every story involving a female heroine needs to have a romantic interest (though I’m sure many people, women especially, would disagree with me). Don’t get me wrong, I do like romance, but usually I like it when it comes in the form of the secondary story.
Camaraderie is important and I like stories that promote these feelings in the relationships of the characters. I do believe that men and women can be friends without there “being more,” contrary to the message of When Harry Met Sally. I know from personal experience. I’m an engineer. If I didn’t have guy friends I would have very few friends. So I encourage and promote stories that show that romance isn’t everything and respect, friendship, and trust are important.
If you enjoy fantasy of any kind, I highly recommend Sunbolt (The Sunbolt Chronicles Book 1) by Intisar Khanani. The novella is short, fast paced, action packed, and follows a unique heroine who wants to make the world a better place, but grapples with herself on how she’s supposed to do that.
Have you ever read Sunbolt or any other of Intisar khanani’s stories? Did I inspire you to pick up this book yourself? I hope so. Have you read any other great independent authors lately? I would love to hear from you; feel free to leave a comment below.
If you enjoyed this post maybe you’ll be interested in one of the following posts by WriterAlina: