BookBrowse Highlights

Our Editor's Choice review this week is a must-read for fantasy fans. Rebecca Roanhorse's Black Sun, the first book in her Between Earth and Sky series, is an action-packed and character-driven story about a hero with a mission, a righteous priest and a courageous sailor. In our "beyond the book" article, we look at a subject that inspired Roanhorse's world-building, pre-Columbian religions in the Americas.

We also have a new blog post rounding up the Best Books for Book Clubs in 2021 featuring some of the most exciting new releases in paperback, the latest issue of The BookBrowse Review, a brand new Wordplay and the opportunity to win Jack, in which Marilynne Robinson returns to the world of Gilead.

Next week is Thanksgiving, so we'll return with a new issue of Highlights in two weeks.

Very best,
Editor's Choice
Black Sun
by Rebecca Roanhorse

Black Sun embodies some of the best that fantasy writing has to offer: meticulous and expansive world-building, magic and mystical creatures, and a glorious cast of fallible and transgressive yet likable characters bound together in a collective heroes' journey. This journey involves a showdown between two powerful forces. In a world where a whole host of gods once held sway, the Watchers in the Tower, a religious order who in years past slaughtered dissenters in the "Night of Knives," scheme to maintain control. But a rare celestial occurrence — the Convergence of the Earth, Moon, and Sun — provides an opportunity for a young man named Serapio to usher in the return of one of the powerful old gods. Serapio is a member of the Carrion Crow clan, raised from birth to become the vessel of said god. A masterful sailor and sea siren named Xiala is tasked with seeing him safely to his destiny.

Rather than modeling its alternate reality after medieval Europe (as so many successful fantasy novels have done), Roanhorse takes readers into the pre-Columbian culture and landscape of the Americas. Historically, when fictional/fantasy literary landscapes have so often erased whole races, cultures and gender identities, Black Sun's alternative landscapes restore a plurality and give those voices space to be heard ... continued
Beyond the Book:
Pre-Columbian Religion in the Americas
One of the most spectacular elements of Rebecca Roanhorse's Black Sun is its deep dive into pre-Columbian culture and beliefs. In a stark departure from the usual medieval European landscape used as a foundation in fantasy novels, Roanhorse instead uses the ancient landscape and religions of the Americas as the blueprint for her work. In Black Sun, there is a conflict between the ruling cult of the Sun Priest and one of the old gods in the city of Tova. But readers learn that even this returning god is only one of many that the people worship.

As demonstrated in the novel, religious traditions in the pre-Columbian Americas were not monolithic. However, the major pre-Columbian civilizations — Aztec, Maya, Inca, Toltec, and Olmec — did have striking similarities. These similarities include a large, overlapping pantheon of gods; focus on celestial events and calendars; and ritual sacrifice. Just as many Greek deities had Roman counterparts, pre-Columbian gods in the Americas were often only distinguished by alternate names. For example, both the Mayans and Aztecs worshiped creator gods who helped the first mortals establish their civilizations. The Mayans called this figure Kukulkan while the Aztecs called the same figure Quetzalcoatl; and Quetzalcoatl may have been borrowed from the Toltec ... continued
Gallery Books. Fantasy. 464 pages. Published Oct 13, 2020
BookBrowse Rating: 5/5, Critics' Consensus: 4.8/5
Review and article by Debbie Morrison
More Recent "Places, Cultures & Identities" Articles

The above "beyond the book" article for Rebecca Roanhorse's Black Sun is one of many in our Places, Cultures & Identities category available for your enjoyment on the BookBrowse website. Here are a few other recent articles.

  • The Spirituality and Symbolism of Buddhist Art
  • Somali Resettlement in the United States
  • Iceland and the Catholic Church
  • The Origins of Islam in Pakistan
  • Venezuelan Cuisine
  • Cameroon: Past, Present and Future
Book Club: Best Books for 2021
The end of the year is a great time to take stock of your book group and make plans for the future. In this roundup, we recommend a dozen books for your book group in 2021, all of which are newly released in paperback or will be available in paperback soon ... continued
For Members: The BookBrowse Review
The just published issue of The BookBrowse Review, our twice-monthly membership magazine, is packed with new reviews and articles; plus author interviews, recommendations for book clubs and previews of notable books publishing over the next two weeks.

Membership is just $3.25/month. Find out more!
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Solve our Wordplay puzzle to reveal a well-known expression, and be entered to win the book of your choice from a selection of titles, or a 6-month membership to BookBrowse!

"I G I O Ear A O T O"
The answer to last Week's Wordplay: I Y N P O T Solution, Y P O T P

"If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem"

Meaning: If you don't take direct action to make things better you're an obstacle to change.

This saying originates in the USA in the 1960s and is often attributed to Leroy Eldridge Cleaver (1935-1998), a writer, political activist and early leader of the Black Panther Party. But, actually, it was ad agency owner Charles Rosner who coined the expression for a now defunct company named VISTA. ... continued
by Marilynne Robinson

Return to Gilead with this instant
New York Times bestseller

Marilynne Robinson, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Humanities Medal, returns to the world of Gilead with Jack, the latest novel in one of the great works of contemporary American fiction.

BookBrowse Review
"Jack traverses the intervening years between the titular character's departure and return to Gilead, painting a portrait of an infinitely flawed and complicated man grappling with what it means to truly love. Despite the deep connections to the other books in the Gilead series, readers don't need to have read any of them to appreciate Jack. They can lose themselves in Robinson's beautiful language and boundless empathy for her characters just as easily. However, if readers are returning to the world of Gilead, they will find that Jack, and his actions, remain the axis upon which so much of the emotional weight of this world spins."
Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Novel. 320 pages. Published Sept 2020
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Published every Thursday, BookBrowse Highlights is one of BookBrowse's four free newsletters. We also publish Publishing This Week every Sunday; and Book Club News and Librarian News monthly.
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