The Seventh Sun by Lani Forbes (The Age of the Seventh Sun Series: Book 1)

9/10 An incredibly unique world, characters you care for, and authentic grappling with personal faith

Inspired by Aztec and other Mesoamerican myths and legends, The Seventh Sun is a fantastic debut by author Lani Forbes. The story of a young emperor who has lost his parents and must now choose a wife and a princess who questions the dictates of her faith, this is a novel that I could hardly put down. This story of pain and love plays out against the backdrop of a brilliantly realized and captivating world. Forbes does world building incredibly well and takes inspiration from myths and legends used too rarely in fantasy. It's a fresh read that keeps you on the edge of an obsidian knife.

The Seventh Sun is a phenomenal novel. I had trouble finding places to put it down and continue on with normal life. I always love that feeling and being completely drawn into a book, and that was certainly the case with Forbes' debut. One of the things that made the novel work so well for me was the unique setting. It's not every day that you come across a fantasy novel with an authentically realized Aztec-inspired world. Beyond this though, Forbes does so much of her world building in very subtle ways. A description of clothes or food here, a half a sentence over there, combine to create this world that you can almost see and smell and taste. It's wonderfully vibrant and unique and fresh. The subtly doesn't end there, either. The characters in this story, especially Mayana are asking important questions about faith and belief and whether one should uncritically accept what one is told. Is it faith to believe what has always been believed, or is it more faithful to investigate yourself and perhaps come to different conclusions? I appreciate this subtle and authentic take on personal faith, which is an element all too commonly lacking in fantasy, even fantasy that deals with gods and myths. Forbes gives us great ruminations on religion and faith. The main characters wrestle in true-to-life ways with their emotions, their experiences, and what decisions they ought to make moving forward. Several of the side characters are also well developed, though I was particularly engaged by Princess Yoli, who has the aesthetic of a modern goth without becoming a caricature. It's impressive that I've made it this far in and haven't yet mentioned the wonderful magic system in this novel! It's multi-faceted, has important costs, and plays a huge role in the culture and world. It's nearly everything I love about magic in fantasy! The final ten or fifteen percent of the novel rushes to a conclusion that is a cliffhanger, but manages to be so in a satisfying way - but I still really need that next novel.

In terms of weaknesses, there are a couple that warrant mentioning. First, and this is very much an issue of preference, the story - particularly in the back half - makes extensive use of the keeping-things-from-your-significant-other trope. I'm constantly irritated by this trope, because I'm a big believer that most things can be solved by simply telling the truth, being honest with one another, and working through it. I find the idea of essentially lying to one's significant other to be incredibly juvenile. I suppose I can grant that it makes sense for young adults to behave juvenilely, but I don't like it. Second, and this has less to do with my own preferences, I did find a few of the plot elements somewhat predictable. This is particularly true of a sequence that sets up the endgame. The finale does redeem that predictability somewhat. Even with those two criticisms, this is still one that I enjoyed immensely.

The Seventh Sun is the start of something special. An incredibly unique world, characters you care for, and authentic grappling with personal faith all combine to make this a captivating read. Fans of YA fantasy, those looking for unique and interesting worlds, and readers who love legends and myths are sure to enjoy this. I'm confident that when you finish, you'll be looking forward to the next book as much as I am!

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Lani Forbes's The Age of the Seventh Sun Series series

The Seventh Sun

The Age of the Seventh Sun Series: Book 1

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