All Time Favorites #8 – Sunbolt by Intisar Khanani

all time favorites

As some of you know, I used to have a blog that I deleted without thinking it through because… Well, because my ADHD brain takes this kind of frustrating decisions sometimes?

Note to self: don’t you ever do that again

As a result, all my absolute favorites don’t appear on this new blog, and that just won’t do. That’s why I’ve decided to create this new feature in which I’ll get to introduce the books that forged me as a reader, one Saturday at a time. Who knows, perhaps you’ll love them too?

For a book to be featured:

  • Its rating must be either a 5 or (more rarely) a 4.5 ;
  • I must have read it at least one year ago ;
  • Its review mustn’t have been posted already on this blog.

This week I’m sharing a YA Fantasy novel I had so much fun reading in February, 2018.

Sunbolt by Intisar Khanani
Sunbolt cover

4.5 stars rounded up. Sunbolt, the first tome of a promising Fantasy YA series written by Intisar Khanani, might be the best surprise of the beginning of the year for me, and I genuinely believe that it deserves way more high praise than it gets. Curious to know why?

Let’s make a list of why you should read it too, shall we?

►  Sunbolt reminded me why I loved the Fantasy genre in the first place.  I don’t know when 1K+ novels have become the norm in that genre, and I don’t deny that several of my favorite books are (very) long but in my opinion it allowed the genre to become a bit… self-indulgent sometimes. Does your story need 1,000 pages? GOOD. Do it. However, if the story is over winded and wordy for the sake of being wordy, crammed with filler parts, I’ll side-eye you. Hard. No such thing with Sunbolt : indeed   Intisar Khanani manages to pack more action in 150 pages than others would in 1,000  (I wish I’d joke. I do not). Boredom never even grazed me, but rather : the story was engaging from the very first page and never lost momentum.

► Hitomi, the main character, is smart, resilient and loyal and I love her very much. I cannot see why you wouldn’t too. Plus she’s biracial (her father is from a Middle-Eastern inspired region and her mother, I think, is from a Japanese-inspired region) and the difficulties she meets because of other people’s prejudices are briefly discussed in text, which is something I really appreciated. Yet above everything, what I liked the most about her was the way she challenged her own stereotypes – about the fangs, the breathers, who are different races present in the book – and evolved. The Fantasy genre often revolves around coming-of-age stories, and Sunbolt is no different in that aspect, but we get a real and believable character growth and that’s not so frequent, unfortunately.

►  The secondary characters – and one especially, but I won’t say – were intriguing  and interesting enough for me to be eager to meet them again in the sequel. I never got the feeling that Intisar Khanani wasted any one of her characters, but on the contrary, they were given the depth they needed to keep me guessing.

► The world-building, albeit classic at first glance, is so well-crafted and rich that it felt refreshing : sure, Intisar Khanani‘s world includes magic, supernatural creatures and a political landscape that could appear similar to other stories, yet the way she winded all these elements together made me feel like I was reading something new. I wanted to know more, and I even started to take notes about the different creatures in order to… what, exactly? Prepare myself for a fight? I do not know, except that I found myself shaking my head slightly and resuming my read, lol.

► The plot is so compelling, and, again, gave me the impression that the author created something really original, even though it’s a coming-of-age at heart, as it’s often the case in Fantasy. Yet there’s no romance, which is rare enough in Fantasy YA to deserve our attention : I mean, you know I love romance, but I’m pretty tired of the way every Fantasy YA ever needs to include a romance, and who cares if the relationship lacks chemistry and you know, sense.

In a word Sunbolt is an action-packed and surprising YA novel, served with a great writing, to the point, and I cannot wait to read the sequel, Memories of Ash.

This review has been written on February 20, 2018.

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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