by Intisar Khanani
Series: Sunbolt Chronicles #1
Published on June 17, 2013 by Purple Monkey Press
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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.
Another great read from Intisar Khanani! Almost a year ago, I reviewed her standalone novel, Thorn, and loved it so when I saw the chance to read a new book (and part of a series, no less) by Khanani, I knew I had to take it. Sunbolt tells the tale of Hitomi, a young girl with a secret that could leave her on the other side of the grave if she dared reveal it. But when plans fall apart and she’s trapped alongside a deadly killer, it’s their only hope of escape. What Hitomi doesn’t know is that everything is not as it seems and the world has bigger plans for her than the average mage.
It took a chapter or so to adjust to the present tense as it’s not something I’m accustomed to reading, but after that I barely noticed it. The story flowed seamlessly and suddenly I was turning the page and poof, it was over. Hitomi’s adventure from her coastal home of Karolene to the landlocked Godan captures your attention and makes it very difficult to putSunbolt down. There’s action and plenty of fantasy elements to entice fans of the genre, while appealing to YA readers with Hitomi’s age. She is one of the stronger heroines I’ve read about, honor-bound in her own way and determined to make the best of a situation so she doesn’t let her friends down. Hitomi faces a predator feared by most and stands her ground to protect those she cares about, and even those she doesn’t know yet.
While Hitomi gave the story life and I related to her with ease, she could’n’t have done so without the rest of the Sunbolt cast. We meet a few of the Shadow League at the beginning, including the elusive Ghost who intrigued me from the start (and I hope to see again), hot-tempered Rafiki, and her easier-going friend Kenta. I liked them all (well, except Rafiki because of his attitude), and wouldn’t have minded staying with them a bit longer in the story (although the plot didn’t suffer). Then comes our dastardly villain Wilhelm Blackflame who I wanted to feed to a shark. He wasn’t around as much as the other antagonist, Kol the fang (think of a vampire’s relative, essentially), but I still couldn’t wait for Hitomi to kick his ass. Sadly, Kol stepped in before that could happen and stole the villain spotlight.
It’s here we meet Val, a breather (I’ll let you read Sunbolt to figure out what that is) and prisoner of Kol’s, just like Hitomi. The two are thrown together and despite everything, they form a bond of friendship that I really enjoyed watching develop. It wasn’t something cheesy or forced. They both suffered at the hands of the same enemy and, as the saying goes, the enemy of my enemy is my friend, or something like that. I could see the potential for a romance between the two later in the series (which I wouldn’t mind seeing at all), but right now, their friendship works. This is the first YA book I’ve read in a while that didn’t have a romance, actually, so it’s perfect for haters of love triangles.
I’m not sure I have anything bad to say about Sunbolt. My only complaint, I think, would be that it was too short. I wanted more! I wouldn’t count that as a fault, but that’s just me. If you like to read original fantasies, particularly in the young adult genre, add this book to your to-read pile. Sunbolt is an enthralling adventure that will keep you hooked from start to finish. I can’t wait for the sequel. And if you don’t believe me when I say how great it is, you’re just going to have to read it to find out yourself.