The Sunbearer Trials is gripping, adventurous, action-packed, and excellent diverse YA fantasy with Mexican-inspired mythology.
The Sunbearer Trials (The Sunbearer Duology #1) by Aiden Thomas
Publication Date : September 15, 2022
Publisher : Macmillan
Read Date : December 20, 2022
Genre : YA / Fantasy / LGBTQ
Pages : 416
Tea for this book : Saffron + White tea
Disclaimer – Many thanks to publisher for sending review copy.
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Other books I read by the Author-
Welcome to The Sunbearer Trials, where teen semidioses compete in a series of challenges with the highest of stakes, in this electric new Mexican-inspired fantasy from Aiden Thomas, the New York Times bestselling author of Cemetery Boys.
“Only the most powerful and honorable semidioses get chosen. I’m just a Jade. I’m not a real hero.”
As each new decade begins, the Sun’s power must be replenished so that Sol can keep traveling along the sky and keep the evil Obsidian gods at bay. Ten semidioses between the ages of thirteen and eighteen are selected by Sol himself as the most worthy to compete in The Sunbearer Trials. The winner carries light and life to all the temples of Reino del Sol, but the loser has the greatest honor of all―they will be sacrificed to Sol, their body used to fuel the Sun Stones that will protect the people of Reino del Sol for the next ten years.
Teo, a 17-year-old Jade semidiós and the trans son of Quetzal, goddess of birds, has never worried about the Trials…or rather, he’s only worried for others. His best friend Niya―daughter of Tierra, the god of earth―is one of the strongest heroes of their generation and is much too likely to be chosen this year. He also can’t help but worry (reluctantly, and under protest) for Aurelio, a powerful Gold semidiós and Teo’s friend-turned-rival who is a shoo-in for the Trials. Teo wouldn’t mind taking Aurelio down a notch or two, but a one-in-ten chance of death is a bit too close for Teo’s taste.
But then, for the first time in over a century, Sol chooses a semidiós who isn’t a Gold. In fact, he chooses two: Xio, the 13-year-old child of Mala Suerte, god of bad luck, and…Teo. Now they must compete in five mysterious trials, against opponents who are both more powerful and better trained, for fame, glory, and their own survival.
The Sunbearer Trials is Mexican inspired YA fantasy filled with action, adventure and mythology. The comp titles Percy Jackson meets Hunger Games is perfect description. It has Gods and Goddesses in modern world like Percy Jackson and the stakes of Subearer trials are similar to Hunger Games.
Writing is as good as Cemetery Boys with amazing vivid descriptions, touching emotions, fun witty banter, and pace is super fast. The story is written in third person narrative from Teo’s perspective. Teo’s voice is refreshing and realistic.
Plot is really amazing. Once every decade The Sunbearer Trials take place to choose the best semidios (demigods) who keeps the sun stone fueled and ensure the safety of the world for next ten years. Gold semidioses are strongest and most powerful and for many years only they are selected to compete in the trials. As Teo was a Jade, a lesser semidios, he was sure he will never be selected and he was raised with expectations that he isn’t hero, he is to be a glorified priest of his mother- Quetzal’s temple. But to everyone’s surprise, this time two jades are selected for trials, Teo and 13 yr old Xio. As his gold best friend, Niya is also selected, all Teo cares about surviving trials and make sure his friends survive too but for that, they have to outsmart every Golds who are trained for the trials for their whole life or they will be sacrificed at the end of the trial for lower points.
First few chapters are all about the introduction of characters and world that takes a little to get used to but as soon as the selection starts it gets better and better. There is huge cast of characters as there are ten semidioses participating in trials along with their mythical and human parents and also other Gods and Goddesses. So if you’re nerdy and want to remember all the characters, you sure need to make a list. I loved the description of all characters and Gods and their symbols.
Teo is really interesting. He is a Jade semidose, son of Quetzal, Goddess of birds that gives him gift of talking to birds and he is born with wings. He is troublemaker full of mischief but he is also smart like street boy who has wits and heart of gold that makes him stand out. I like his struggle with his physical and mental transition once he identified his gender and how he struggled to accept his wings that initially were female wings. It was amazing to see how they changed when he accepted them as important part of his body. His emotions are portrayed really well. All his anger, anxiety, fears, guilt, and hope are touching. Saving himself and his friends from sacrifice is his goal but we also see him wavering from the goal like normal person and it was great to see how he recorrected his mistake.
Niya stole the show. She is a fighter. She is big and has huge strength. She is Gold not just by blood but also at heart. I loved her unwavering support and love for Teo. She didn’t exactly get how Teo felt being lesser semidios without any training for trials and how it feels to be selected only to be sacrificed but it was amazing how she was ready to fight for Teo and stood by him and made sure he and Xio don’t end up in last.
I also liked all the secondary characters participating in the trial. They aren’t likable from the beginning and as being Gold, they all are raised with superiority and comfort, considering Jades and mortals beneath them but we also see they are people too and they aren’t that bad. Aurelio and Auristela, the famous twins are more highlighted because of their status and possible ship with Teo and Niya respectively but at the same time it was amazing to read their sibling relationship and their relationship with their controlling mother.
World is obviously my favorite part. The legend of Sol and how he and Tierra, Goddess of Earth, formed tir-level dioses (gods)– Gold, Jade and Obsidian- and humans and how Obsidian turned evil and were cast out by the light of Sol is amazing. It’s told in the beginning of the story that makes it easy to get why Sunbearer trials are so important and how sun stones that is Sol’s body parts keep the darkness and Obsidian away from Earth. While we know about the trials and legend early in the book introduction of all the Dioses and their specialty is scattered throughout the story making it always interesting.
I wish there was map of Reino del Sol cities but I liked the layout of cities with Gold cities in the center and Jade cities in the outskirts. The trial is made into a live TV show like Hunger Games. It has five levels and each is hosted in different city by different Gods that not only takes us into action of trials but also introduces culture and customs of the particular city and have beautiful description of their temples.
Mythology and modern world is seamlessly intertwined. There are also mobile phones and social media, schools for mortals and special school for Gold semidoses that references class difference, celebrity life, and varying power.
I loved inclusivity and gender identity and how the world accepts and acknowledges them. It was amazing to read there is gender confirmation ceremonies celebrated like birthdays and at the same time I loved the discussion of being transgender and how transitioning is not an instant process and how it’s not just physical but also mental change.
Romance isn’t at the center of the story. We see the glimpse of possible relationships and how they care for each other but there is mix of angst, banter, and drama. There are many amazing moments not just between pairs but also between characters and their parents. My heart melted reading the conversation between Teo and Huemac. I hated how Aurelio’s mother treated him, and I loved how Quetzal adored Teo.
There is lots of action, twist and turns. As ranking style is different, it kept me anticipating who is going to be on the top of ranking board and who will be last. There is also some weird thing happening that kept me guessing who is behind it.
Climax is filled with emotions, tension, and adrenaline that kept me on the edge. I knew Teo would be safe but I didn’t know what he will do with his final position. The identity of who was the villain is revealed near the end and I was surprised by the revelation. I still cannot figure out how that person was messing with competitors that might be revealed in the next book. There is a cliffhanger in the end but I enjoyed the end. It’s perfect and I’m definitely getting next book when it releases.
Overall, The Sunbearer Trials is engaging, adventurous, and excellent diverse YA fantasy with Mexican-inspired mythology.
I highly recommend this if you like,
Own voice book
Transgender main character
Inclusivity and gender identity
Trials and competition
intertwined mythical and modern world
Many twist and turns and actions
Lots of banter
Realistic and interesting characters
“you are a loud, impulsive, persistent seeker of justice, and that makes people uncomfortable, but it doesn’t make you bad. It makes you very good, in fact.”
Thank you for reading! Let’s chat..,
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