Hey, writers and readers!
It’s not a good month without an indie novel or two. Today I’ll be reviewing Sunbolt by Intisar Khanani. Check out the review below and make sure to give your two cents in the comments section if you’ve already read the book, too!
Rating: 4 stars
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.
What I Enjoyed:
While the magic system took a while for me to catch onto, I thought it was really fun and interesting. Hitomi has some pretty incredible powers with surprising consequences. I was impressed by how much she could do and how clever she was. It’s a fresh take on the hero’s journey—she’s fully capable but keeps her abilities secret to draw less attention to herself. Also, the villains are pretty interesting—you’ve got something akin to a vampire, a werewolf and a soul reaper/Dementor involved in this story, but I like Khanani’s take on these types of creatures. I don’t want to reveal too much, so read it and let me know if my comparisons were on point or not.
I also liked how Hitomi was such a realist. Nothing gets past her. Following her in the story was fun because you know you’ll get a realistic view of her options and it’s crazy to watch her deal with crazy issues and she either shrugs out of it, or takes what’s been dealt to her.
Another enjoyable thing: the story is short! Khanani is able to give a really riveting story in such a short amount of time. The edition I got (via F-BOM) also comes with an additional story, which I can’t wait to read. So if you like an interesting story that gets right to the point, then you’ll love this story especially.
What I Didn’t Enjoy:
I’m normally pretty bad at remembering details from books, and it often does take me a while to get settled into a setting or a character. While I was immediately enchanted by Hitomi, it took me a while to figure out the magic rules in the novel. Also, some of the characters in Karolene are shapeshifters, which took me a while to pick up on. Since the novel is written in first-person present, you sort of have to pick up details as you go along. I had to reread stuff because I wasn’t fully paying attention.
Whether or not that’s my fault, it’s something that made it hard for me to give the novel 5 stars. I guess if you enjoy books that treat its readers like they are extra clever and observant, then this might not bother you at all. This novella doesn’t wait for you to catch on, so hang tight through the whole ride.
My Final Thoughts
This novel is very clean. I’m not sure if it was intentional or not, but the plot is very much like a Bollywood movie: no sensual romance (not even kissing), and hardly any foul language. You can definitely give this to a teenager without any worries.
Sunbolt is also a great book to introduce to kids or to your own reading repertoire if you’re looking for more diverse reads. The character is definitely a fish out of water in Karolene and learns to blend despite looking different from the others, while repaying the locals for their kindness.
I hope I shared enough to pique your curiosity without giving too much away! If you’d like to learn more about Intisar Khanani and her work, you can catch up with her via social media:
Have you read this novel? Share with me in the comments! You can also see all of my other book reviews by checking our the Book Reviews tab.