Sunbolt by Intisar Khanani (2013)

Sunbolt by Intisar Khanani (2013)Sunbolt (The Sunbolt Chronicles #1) by Intisar Khanani
Published: Self-Published (2013), eBook, 142pg
Source: Scribd
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction

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.

I (somewhat unfairly in regards to the book) bolted through the last 60% of this after DNFing it earlier last year. It was about to be removed from Scribd and I wanted to see if I could finish it. Turns out that immediately after where I DNF’d it got REALLY good– which just goes to show that it pays to go back and finish books, sometimes.

That said, I wasn’t entirely over-the-moon wowed with Sunbolt.

Pros: chromatic cast in a non-European fantasy setting (kinda South East Asian?), strong female protagonist, scary vampires (two kinds), potentially heartbreaking family dynamic, spies. The escape scenes were AMAZING! I also really liked the descriptions of the towns and people; the author is ace at describing things.

Cons: the beginning was slow, so much so that I gave up on it for a while. Then the ending was too abrupt– it felt like the end of the first part of an epic, not the conclusion to a complete book. It’s not a cliffhanger, exactly, but it felt as unsatisfactory as one.

Also, I didn’t like the fact that Hitomi View Spoiler ». Since we followed her from the beginning we already know everything she’s lost, so it’s not that great of an incentive to stick around and watch her recover it.

But mostly I feel that way because of the super fast ending, which happened right after she lost it. It was like BOOM, massive event with massive repercussions, everything’s changed and not for the better, the end. There was no time to process anything! I felt cheated.

Sunbolt as a whole felt like it could be fleshed out a lot more. I sped through it, sure, but it’s such a short book that it almost felt insubstantial. Or, again, like the first part of a serial, and not a complete book.

Okay, so: not entirely happy, but I’m not exactly UNHAPPY, either. I wanted more of it, so that must mean that I liked it, right? Even despite the ending.

I’ll for sure check out the author’s other books, and I definitely do recommend Sunbolt for those of you who are looking for non-European based fantasy novels and/or SFF starring women of color.

Read: September 24, 2014-January 26, 2015

So AFTER I wrote out all that complaining about how short and abrupt it is, I find a thing describing it as a novella serial. Well OF COURSE a novella serial is going to be short and abrupt! If I had known that going into it, I would have been much more lenient regarding the length/pacing.

However, I still stand by my wishing it was longer and more full. It has the potential to be a wonderful YA epic fantasy; it just needs more space. Maybe when all the parts are written, they’ll be combined into a omnibus and I’ll finally be happy.

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