This is the third work I’ve read by Intisar Khanani, and the third time I’ve walked away from her stories monumentally impressed. Why? Oh, let me count the ways: her gorgeous writing style, her lovely attention to detail, her seemingly effortless character development, her incredibly satisfying relationship development, her complex world-building, her intuitive pacing, her beautifully evocative imagery. Uh, you know… just to name a few things. She’s a talented writer of fantasy and I must say, she’s officially taken a place among my favorites of the genre.
But enough fangirling. For now. I’m going to try and expound on a few of the items I mentioned above. Let’s start with characters…
Hitomi. In short, I love her. A girl orphaned. A girl hiding a dangerous gift. A rebel and a thief. At only fifteen, Hitomi, has already lived a lifetime of hardship and heartache. Losing both her parents a few years prior has left her to fend for herself on the streets of a foreign city. But she’s risen above. She’s a strong character, determined, brave, fierce, adaptable, adventurous, and pretty darn cool under pressure. She also refuses to give up, she’s a survivor with an admirable (i.e. dangerous) sense of honor and loyalty.
Hitomi’s also in hiding. The only daughter of two mages, she possesses a rare, untrained magical gift that those in governance consider to be unstable and dangerous. If her powers were discovered, the consequences would be… well, not good. And even so, Tomi joins in the resistance against the magical evil that’s threatening her newly adopted home of Karolene.
See? Dangero– I mean, admirable sense of honor and loyalty.
The Ghost. A leader of the resistance against Blackflame’s rise to power, the Ghost has known Hitomi for years and she has become one of his most trusted operatives. He too is very brave, honorable intelligent, resourceful. A brave leader who inspires loyalty, but he’s also a mystery, and I should like more opportunity to better gauge his character. <hint hint>
Mysterious Person That Shall Not Be Named. In Hitomi’s adventures we meet another person that plays a crucial role in the story, and I just find him absolutely fascinating. Possibly the most fascinating. Though he proves to be ally, friend, and perhaps something… well, I’m not sure what, but something more, he (like that questionable classification of relationship) was a bit of an enigma to me. And again left me with that same desire to have another chance to puzzle him out a little more. <hint hint hint>
Ok. I’m do–<hint>! Ok. Really. I’m done now. Promise.
Characters… in general. The character development overall is very well done. Ever read a book where the author can accomplish more character building in a passage than some authors can achieve in an entire book? Like I said before, it just feels effortless. Not that I’m trying to diminish all the hard work Khanani’s put into her characters (because it’s evident that quite a lot of work went into this book), but to me, her characters just live on the page, like the characters just jumped straight from her brain to the keyboard, fully-formed and breathing.
World. So, I love this world. (What? Are you really surprised with the way I’ve been gushing?) As I understand it, though all three of Khanani’s works have had different protagonists in separate series, it is all set within the same world. Even without having read the previous two books, it’s a well-constructed world that feels vast in scope. Having read the other two books, it just makes me feel jump-up-and-down-happy-to-my-toes excited. Every books gives an even broader glimpse of the world – it’s wonderfully diverse, with different cultures, peoples, worldviews, customs and rules. As a whole it’s mysterious, magical, with quite a varied history, with great evils, looming threats, danger, but also marked by everyday acts of kindness, heroism, magic, and beauty. It’s a fairy tale world, but it’s also a world that is filled with a lot of realism and authenticity. It’s fantastic, and I cannot wait to see more.
Plot. Sunbolt was very much the journey of Tomi finding out who she is and just what she’s capable of. Her limits, physically and emotionally, are greatly tested throughout this book as the fast-paced plot throws her (and the reader) from one adventure into the next. This book, at 135 pages, is technically a novella, but the amount of action in this book is tremendous. In fact, when I was done, I felt as though I had just completed a full-length novel; seriously, the amount of story that is crammed in this novella is amazing and impressive. What’s even more amazing is how naturally it flows, never feeling rushed, or hurried or underdeveloped. It’s just good, well-paced story-telling.
Overall. Intisar Khanani’s Sunbolt is magically delicious and has found a home on my “favorites” shelf.