Fevered Star by Rebecca Roanhorse
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This second volume of the Between Earth and Sky trilogy is very much a middle book. It's doing a lot of setup for the final book, and it really depends on your having read the first, Black Sun, as there is no recap of what came before. Still, I think it succeeds, and that's mostly due to the dive into the character of Naranpa, the Sun Priest. Her characterization is greatly deepened here, as we discover what it means that she is now an avatar of the Sun God, as her opposite, Serapio, is an avatar of the Crow God. The climax, when the two meet, turn the trope of the final fight between good and evil a bit on its head, as Naranpa refuses to do what is expected of her and kill Serapio--she heals him instead.
That very well may come back to bite her, but we're given a smidgen of hope that this may not be the case. In any case, in the final chapter, Naranpa assumes her firebird form and leaves the city of Tova behind to fly to the Graveyard of the Gods, in an attempt to get some answers to what happened when the gods last fought, more than three hundred years ago.
The people and cultures of this world, the Meridian, are based upon "pre-Columbian Americas" according to the author's acknowledgments, and there are times when the reader realizes these are Mayas and/or Aztecs with the serial numbers filed off. Still, the author takes all these disparate elements and comes up with an original, absorbing world. The only knock I have against this book is that my favorite character from the first, Xiala, is not given as prominent a voice this time around. Xiala was a glorious mess in the first book, and she is unfortunately a bit reduced in this one, disturbingly close to doing nothing but pining over Serapio. I really hope this gets corrected in the final book.
Nevertheless, the world and history of the Meridian is better served here. Again, it's mostly setup for the next book, but it's done in a satisfying manner. This is better than most middle volumes of trilogies, and I'm looking forward to the last.
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