Rebecca Roanhorse, "Black Sun" (Gallery/Saga Press, 2020)

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The first chapter of Rebecca Roanhorse’s new novel, Black Sun (Gallery/Saga Press, 2020), features a mother and child sharing a tender moment that takes an unexpected turn, ending in violence.

It’s a powerful beginning to a story whose characters struggle with the legacies of family expectations, historical trauma, and myth.

These three strands are most powerfully manifest in Serapio, the child in the opening scene, who is raised to fulfill a legacy on the day of the convergence, a solar eclipse on the winter solstice. His sole purpose is to avenge a massacre of his mother’s clan, drawing upon magic to carry out the mission. And yet he has never lived among his mother’s clan, nor was he alive when the massacre occurred, raising complex questions about duty, history, and how individuals find meaning in their lives.

“Serapio has always been on the outside,” Roanhorse says. “He feels like he has a purpose, a destiny tied up with something pretty dark, that he's doing on behalf of people that don't even know he exists.” Roanhorse explores “what that feels like and what your obligations are even to the point of putting aside your own needs to try to fulfill something that in the long run may not be the best thing for you, but you’ve been set on that path by others. How do you break free of that, if you can, and if you should? I think those are the sort of questions I'm trying to raise that I hope readers struggle with and think about.”

Set in a fictional Mesoamerica and inspired by American indigenous and Polynesian cultures, Black Sun is the first book in a planned trilogy. Roanhorse appeared on New Books in Science Fiction in 2018 to talk about Trail of Lightning.

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