Review: Fevered Star – Rebecca Roanhorse
by Rebecca Roanhorse
Series: Between Earth and Sky #2
Also in this series: Black Sun
Publisher: Saga Press
Publication Date: April 19, 2022
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
Return to The Meridian with New York Times bestselling author Rebecca Roanhorse’s sequel to the most critically hailed epic fantasy of 2020 Black Sun—finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, Lambda, and Locus awards.
There are no tides more treacherous than those of the heart. —Teek saying
The great city of Tova is shattered. The sun is held within the smothering grip of the Crow God’s eclipse, but a comet that marks the death of a ruler and heralds the rise of a new order is imminent.
The Meridian: a land where magic has been codified and the worship of gods suppressed. How do you live when legends come to life, and the faith you had is rewarded?
As sea captain Xiala is swept up in the chaos and currents of change, she finds an unexpected ally in the former Priest of Knives. For the Clan Matriarchs of Tova, tense alliances form as far-flung enemies gather and the war in the heavens is reflected upon the earth.
And for Serapio and Naranpa, both now living avatars, the struggle for free will and personhood in the face of destiny rages. How will Serapio stay human when he is steeped in prophecy and surrounded by those who desire only his power? Is there a future for Naranpa in a transformed Tova without her total destruction?
Welcome back to the fantasy series of the decade in Fevered Star—book two of Between Earth and Sky.
Black Sun (and its cover) was one of my favorite books of 2020. It’s no surprise that I’ve been eagerly anticipating the next book in the trilogy, though the lackluster cover definitely gave me pause. Luckily, the book itself, while most certainly a middle book, met my expectations. As you’d expect, this review contains spoilers for Black Sun.
After the events at Convergence, the Watchers are dead and Tova remains in a twilight, liminal state. For Serapio, Naranpa, Xiala and Okoa, it’s not only their city but each’s purpose in life that has changed. But dealing with the wreckage at Sun Rock is not all they have to worry about. The coming storm will affect not only Tova, but the whole Meridian.
“They say the storm has come, but to me, it feels like it’s only beginning.”
While in pacing and tone this is definitely intended to be the middle of a trilogy, there’s no recap of the previous events or characters, instead jumping right in. The story picks up directly after Convergence, and if you (like me) read the first book over a year ago, skimming or reading a summary might be helpful. Serapio, injured but bafflingly alive, is left to grapple with what his purpose is now. Okoa, after witnessing the Odo Sedoh in action, struggles with his fear and awe of him, recognizing the man underneath but afraid of what use his sister, the matron of Carrion Crow, has for him, not to mention the revelation over his mother’s death. Xiala’s only wish is to be back by Serapio’s side, whatever that takes, but it seems others have different plans for her. And Naranpa is troubled by strange dreams and worried about what use her brother, one of the clanless Maw bosses, will put her to. It feels like each character is being forced to be reduced to their basic motivations, and often they’re being forced to chose between a bad choice and a worse one. There were several times I basically yelled “oh honey no!!!” out loud at some of their decisions.
While there’s many of the same qualities that drew me to the first book, there’s also a lot more political maneuvering. The death of the Watchers has created a power vacuum in Tova, one that both the clan of Golden Eagle (who failed to kill Naranpa) and Carrion Crow (ditto, via Serapio as Odo Sedoh) seek to fill. Even worse for Tova, the death of the Watchers also means an end to the treaty that kept the various powers of the Meridian contained. With a war coming, can the fractured city defend itself?
“She had tried to be someone she was not when she was in the tower, thinking if only she mimicked Sky Made ways, they would be forced to see her worth and that she belonged. But she was not Sky Made and should have never tried to force herself to be who she was not. The events since the Convergence had stripped all that away.”
In the first book, what stayed with me most was the parallel arcs of Serapio and Xiala, as well as their star-crossed romance. In this book, though, it’s Serapio and Naranpa who are two sides of the same coin. While Serapio was already a favorite, Naranpa definitely grew on me in this book. Vengeance, and its toll on both the main characters and Tova as a whole, are still a focus. Whether justice and vengeance are the same thing, as a character mused in the first book, is something they’re still trying to discover, often with very bloody outcomes. Add to that the surprising reappearance of a character I thought dead (and frankly hadn’t liked) which caused me to reinterpret their actions entirely. And much like the first book, I’m still caught by how so many of the book’s bombshells are dropped in quiet scenes: a moment around a campfire, the archery practice a character has done a million times before, sharing soup. That’s not to say that there aren’t more action-packed moments full of life-changing events, but it’s the quieter revelations, keys to each character’s motivations and the forces moving them, that I really loved.
“Clearly, people having murderers for friends is the problem here.”
As for cons, the pacing felt much more uneven to me than the first book, where each chapter included a countdown until Convergence. The chapter ends often found the characters wrestling with a startling new revelation or in peril, only to switch POVs. While I’m sure this works to build suspense for other readers, for me it’s just frustrating. In some ways, though, I’m glad of it, because otherwise I don’t think I’d’ve managed to put the book down!
Overall, this is very much a middle book, breaking and reshaping what we’ve learned about the characters and their world in preparation for making something new. I am eagerly anticipating the final book and can’t wait to see what happens!
Content notes: View Spoiler »violence (including violent murder), torture, kidnapping, alcohol « Hide Spoiler