Review: Sunbolt by Intisar Khanani

I’ve been taking advantage of all this time home to pick up some new books, and my latest find is a YA fantasy series by an indie author living in Ohio.

Intisar Khanani heads her website with the tagline “Writing mighty girls and diverse worlds,” and that’s exactly what she delivers.  I have not read a lot of YA fantasy recently because I’ve been disappointed by the quality of recent releases, but I can tell that’s going to change with the discovery of her Sunbolt series.

I cannot say enough about the amazing worldbuilding in this series.  The world features many diverse fantasy cultures with roots in real-world cultures, which you may recognize by names, foods, clothing, and phrases. (Even if you don’t recognize them, the cultures are rich.) The main character Hitomi is mixed race; based on context clues her parents would be Arabic and Japanese, though she begins the story living on a warm island populated by darker-skinned people. There are also several races of beings similar to things like fairies and vampires.

The series begins with Sunbolt, a novella that is the kind of book you can read in one gulp.  The pacing is great, the characters are memorable, and the events are exciting.  It does read like it’s only the first part of a story, so you will want to be ready to go straight on to Memories of Ash, the full novel that follows.  This installment is even stronger, continuing to develop an interesting system of magic and new regions of the world.  Old friends reappeared in just the right spots, while introducing great new characters that I can’t wait to see more of.  Some details of the escape plan were a bit meandering, but overall I was on the edge of my seat following Hitomi through one adventure after another.

I really have very few criticisms of these books; they are better than many traditionally published YA fantasies I have read, and I will definitely go back to revisit them again.  (This is basically more what I was hoping We Hunt the Flame would be.)  The only tedious parts are that most of the plot revolves around people that keep getting captured and planning how to escape.  

These books also avoid most YA tropes.  There is no instalove. There are no love triangles.  In fact, here is no romance of any kind! It focuses exclusively on the deep relationships Hitomi has developed with those around her, basically her surrogate family members.

This doesn’t mean I’m not shipping characters.  Because I’m totally shipping some characters. But it’s still great to read quality YA without romance!

I guess I do have one criticism of the series: it’s not complete!  The author has said it was meant to be four books in total, but there seems to be no news on when the last two might be out.  I need book three! Pleeeeease.

52347232. sx318 sy475

In the meantime, I’m going to check out Khanani’s other novel, Thorn, which is a Goose Girl retelling (have I mentioned I love fairy tale retellings?).  Thorn was originally self-published in 2012, but was picked up by HarperTeen and re-released by them this March.  This kind of thing rarely happens to indie authors, so I think that really speaks to the quality of her writing.  I have the digital version on hold at the library, but the wait list is 16 weeks long! I guess that also speaks to the quality of the writing.

I was able to get both Sunbolt and Memories of Ash on Kindle from my library through Overdrive, but they are of course also available from Amazon for only $2.99 and $4.99 respectively.

I really hope you guys will check her stuff out; if you are a fan of YA fantasy, you will not be disappointed.

May the Fourth Be With You!

Happy Star Wars Day, everyone!

Here are some of the Star Wars topics I’ve discussed over the past year:

My first (very mixed) reactions to the final installment of the Skywalker Saga

An analysis of Yoda’s toddler-like behavior

A look back at some of my favorite elements of Episode I

I love the old EU, but some of the new canon books are great, too

My post from last year’s Star Wars Day, showing how I decorate my desk with Star Wars calendar photos

My Fan Art Friday posts of various coloring book images, done in concert with Kiri from Star Wars Anonymous

Lens-Artists Challenge #95 – ALL WET

When it rains on vacation, sometimes you just have to make the best of it.  A little rain in Croatia didn’t stop us from donning ponchos and seeing some of the countryside around Dubrovnik.

And when traveling to Ireland, some rain is just a given.  We got a bit wet on a misty walk near Lough Annascaul; it was a “soft day” as they would call it.

WP_20150630_15_40_23_Pro

The sheep didn’t seem to mind it.  And it was worth it for the views.  Though seeing a waterfall in the rain strikes me as a bit funny!

You can find more wetness at the original Lens-Artist challenge.

 

 

Fan Art Friday: Sakura Spring

I have a new coloring book!  My sister got me a nice book of original anime girl pictures that I have been enjoying, and here’s my first completion.

I picked this one to start for two reasons:

  1. I’m so excited for spring and flowers and nice weather that I really enjoyed coloring this picture with blooming trees in the background.
  2. This girl reminded me of Sakura from Cardcaptor Sakura (of course) because of her hair and her school uniform, and the trees in the background even look like cherry trees (called sakura in Japanese).

Here’s a close up of not-Sakura.  I made her eyes brown to differentiate her a bit from the real Sakura, who has light colored eyes.  But I did the hair in Sakura’s color.  I’m still considering this fan art haha.

I wanted the background to be very soft colors to contrast with the boldness of her outfit, but it was a bit too much for my phone’s camera and you can barely tell I colored the background at all.  Here’s a shot of the cherry trees so you can appreciate my subtle coloring. 😂

I’m sure you’ll be seeing more of the images in the book over the coming months.  There are so many cute ones I can’t wait to share with you.

20200425_140857

 

Quarantine Book Tag

This is like the third or fourth post I’ve done recently with “quarantine” in the title, as well as the second book tag I’ve done in a month.  I don’t usually do book tags so frequently, but it’s been a fun change of pace for me.

This book tag was created on Youtube by Our BookNook and I found it once again on Madame Writer’s blog.  In keeping with the theme of quarantine, today I’m going with only books that I own.

Must-Have – A book you *have* to have with you while quarantined.

84979

Pride and Prejudice

This is my go-to book for any mood or season; it never fails to entertain.  It was the only paperback I took with me during my study abroad in Spain.  I actually own two copies: the one I read for class in high school, and one that is part of a very large Jane Austen anthology.

Isolation – A book where the MC spends most of their time in the book alone.

1845

Into the Wild

I had to read this for some class in high school, I don’t even remember why.  It is the true story of a young man who ventured alone into the Alaskan wilderness and eventually died there.  I did not particularly enjoy it; I could not really relate to the main character.  To me it seemed he had some kind of undiagnosed mental illness, rather than being some kind of tragic figure or icon of freedom.

Binge Read – A long book series you’d recommend to someone who has a lot more time on their hands.

47212. sy475

The Dresden Files

This is one of the few series I can think of that just keeps getting better and better as it goes.  There are 15 books, with 2 more on the way soon, plus a lot of short stories.  The first book is decent, but the series starts to hit its stride around book 3 and never looks back.  If you like urban fantasy, complete with wizards, mythical creatures, and detective noir beats all centered in Chicago, this is the series for you.

Toiler Paper – All the TP is gone! What book are you using?

263012

The Crystal Star

This book is widely considered the worst of the Star Wars Expanded Universe.  I can’t say I enjoyed it; frankly, I can’t say I remember anything at all about it.  I also might pick Barbara Hambly’s Children of the Jedi series, because Callista is my least favorite character in the entire EU (and Daala is in the running, too, for that matter).  The only reason I keep these books now is because I enjoy having a collection of EU books; I realllllly doubt I will ever waste my time re-reading them.

Actually, I would probably just use some of the books on my shelf I haven’t read, because then I wouldn’t even know what I was giving up.  Ignorance is bliss.

Anti-viral – A book that went viral that you have avoided or not read…yet.

I’ve got two books sitting on my shelf that fit for this one.

36118682

Wicked Saints

I picked this one up after I met the author last year; it was a hyped dark fantasy debut.  I read the first page and it didn’t appeal to me.  I’ve been meaning to get back to it, and maybe now is a good time?

41458663. sy475

A Brightness Long Ago

This is one I got from my Jolabokaflod book exchange at Christmas.  I was so excited to read it, got through the first chapter, then put it down and never made it back into it (I rarely read physical books nowadays).  I am hoping to get back to it soon, because I love this author.

Super Binge – What book and TV series combo would you recommend?

8855321The Expanse (TV Series 2015– ) - IMDb

The Expanse

This is currently one of my favorite sci-fi series, with a liberal mix of space opera, detective noir, politics, and some thrills thrown in for good measure.  It has a very believable view of the future, with some fascinating science and technology.  The TV series is one of my favorite book adaptations; the cast is stellar (no pun intended) and the effects are great.  They have changed a few things, but they’ve remained faithful to the books and changed things in a way that works better for a TV series.