Award: Awesome Indies: APPROVED
Categories: YA Fantasy, Young Adult
Series: The Sunbolt Chronicles
Publisher: Purple Monkey Press
Author: Intisar Khanani
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.
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Reviewed by Awesome Indies
September 17, 2013
I was gripped from the start and found this story to be a very different take on what is actually a kind of vampire fantasy, a genre I actually have little interest in, so to please me it had to go some!
I loved the high-octane opening scene – it introduced great tension at the very start.
I liked Hitomi herself, her great courage, her compassion shown by how she paid for the damaged horse, wanted to help others in need, even when they were a great danger to her and how this tendency proved her salvation in impossible situations. I loved how the author SHOWED the qualities of the characters instead of TELLING us about them.
I enjoyed the slow build-up of some kind of chemistry between the fearful and unlikely Val and Hitomi. I liked the way the magic was handled, showing it coming at a cost to the one who wields it and also the cunningly slow reveal of the level of the magical powers held by Hitomi. The scene with Val in the tower had a weirdness to it that was truly fascinating, the calling of the bird, the release of the soul from entrapment in the blood spell and the horror of Val himself.
I loved the turn of phrase in places, such as when Hitomi says of her mother, “Four years I’ve thought her dead, scrabbling to find my next meal and keep a roof over my head, while she has dressed in silk and wandered sunlit gardens.” Conveys so much grief, rejection and sorrow in so few words.
Compared to the more well-known vampire fantasies (and they are usually lesser in quality than this one,) there was a refreshing difference in tone that felt almost like a cultural difference and it was partly explained when I realized the author’s own cultural background may be very different from most others of this genre I have read. The book is better for that difference.
I loved how the book seemed to be adequately concluded for a “book one” of a series – it did not just stop and leave the reader hanging. It had its own sense of conclusion and this came to me mainly from the little carving that was given by Val to Hitomi at the end. I loved that touch and hoped for it from the first I heard of his carvings in the story. There are still plenty of reasons for me to want to read book two however.
I usually gripe about stories written in the present tense but somehow this one gets away with it.
I think this book will appeal to young adults and inspire them to want more.
Reviewed by Katt Pemble
May 24, 2015
Sunbolt is a shining beacon of great writing. It has an amazing story line and brilliant characters that a lot of authors aspire to reach. The cover is striking, but simple, allowing it to capture your eye with the title. It really is the whole package.
Hitomi, our protagonist, is a young woman who has dragged herself out of the gutter after losing her parents. She lives by her wits, occasionally having to resort to stealing from the street vendors, but normally doing any job she can find for herself. She is fiercely loyal and dependable and mixed up with the Shadow League – an underground group who seek to overthrow the shadowy villain, Arch Mage Wilhelm Blackflame – to restore Karolene to its former glory.
The richness of the world that Hitomi finds herself in, is a true testament to Intisar’s craft. The intricate details are woven seamlessly into the story, coaxing the reader head-first into the grimy alleys and cells Hitomi frequents. The action scenes are crisp, the writing so taut and to the point it almost sucker-punches the reader in the guts and the pacing of the story is simply perfection. Not too fast, not too slow, the reader is drip fed the information needed not a moment too soon.
When it comes to character development, Intisar once again is leaps and bounds ahead of a lot of authors I’ve read. Not only are each of the characters (even the side characters) three dimensional and complex, but they each have an individual personality that sees them exploding out of the pages and into the readers imagination. Personal choices are weighed and measured in serious situations and the characters must decide who to trust and who to leave behind. Betrayal plays a part in the story, but it’s wielded with an expert hand, allowing the appropriate amount of anguish and confusion without losing sight of the goals.
The fangs and lycans make an appearance, and while having been done to death in popular books lately, in this instance have been given a new breath of life. They’re rubbing shoulders with ‘breathers’ who are rather sinister beasts themselves. Breathers made me think of the mummified character of Imhotep from the movie, The Mummy. Creepy!
All this is tied together with a magical system that felt organically sewn into the story. Normally magical books seem like the magic could be removed from the book and it’d make little difference, in Sunbolt however, the magic has been fused with the storyline, the characters and even the cities and places explored in the story. If you removed the magic, you’d remove the story. It’s so brilliantly done.
I loved this book so much, I am going to purchase the other two stories Intisar has written and I’ll be reading them soon.
I cannot wait for the other books in this series to be released.
I look forward to reading more about Val and Hitomi and the rest of the motley cast.
Do yourself a favour – buy this book today. You will not be disappointed.
**Note: I was provided an electronic copy of this book in return for an honest review***
Reviewed by Vivian –
January 21, 2017
This is one of the best books I’ve read in the last 12 months if not the best. The main character, a good-hearted law breaker, was fascinating to read. The fantastical elements were not over the top or ridiculous.
At least as good as Harry Potter.