Book Title: The Sunbearer Trials
Author: Aiden Thomas
Release Date: September 6, 2022
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Mythology, LGBTQ+
My rating: 4/5 Stars
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 was one of my most anticipated reads of 2022, so when I saw I’d been given an ARC from NetGalley, I was beyond ecstatic. Cemetery Boys is such an amazing book, so I was super excited to see what Aiden Thomas would do with this incredible sounding concept. While I do think I would’ve liked this even more if I hadn’t read it while forcing myself through a reading slump, I did really enjoy it!
The world building was, without a doubt, my favorite part of this book. Being dubbed as Percy Jackson meets the Hunger Games, I was so interested to see what kind of world the book would take place in, and I was not disappointed. In a way, the Sunbearer Trials was a mix of mythology, trials/competition, and superheroes. While I was not expecting this, I was very happy to discover that direction, because I love all of those tropes and themes so much.
Each place the characters visited was vividly described, and the mythology was fleshed out well, too. It was explained simply enough that it was easy to follow along and never get lost, but it still had complexities that made learning more about the world fascinating.
Additionally, the main character is a Jade, while most of the others competing in the trials are Golds. There was a clear division between the two, even though both are considered dióses and semidióses. I liked how Teo was determined to stand up for himself and others like him, despite all of the mockery and discrimination he faced. Even so, he realized that making a name for himself and proving the public wrong is less important than protecting those he cares for. This development was done really well, and I enjoyed watching his thought process grow throughout the story.
Also, can I just say how much I loved how unapologetically queer this book was? Pretty much everyone was queer, from the good guys, the bad guys, and everyone in between. I LOVED it! Having a trans main character in a fantasy novel was so incredible and so important. Being trans is a huge part of Teo and his journey, but it’s certainly not all of it. Aiden Thomas did a fantastic job of balancing everything, and I really hope we get to see more queer representation like this in the future.
While I found several of the supporting characters unlikeable (they were supposed to be though!), there were several that I was still attached to, and even those I didn’t like as much, I still enjoyed watching their journey. I am kind of bummed that my favorite character turned out to be evil, but you know, IT’S FINE. It’s fine….
Speaking of which though. That twist at the end! I did not see it coming. I knew something wonky was going on, but that was not at all what I was expecting. My jaw dropped. I was also under the impression that this was a standalone, but be aware because it is not! It ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, which I wouldn’t have minded so much if I hadn’t thought it was going to wrap everything up. Even still, I am so excited for the next book, and I cannot wait to see what Teo gets up to.
There was a romance subplot in the Sunbearer Trials, but it certainly wasn’t the main focus of the book, and I liked that. The relationship between Teo and Aurelio was slow building, but it had a bit of that friends to enemies to lovers vibes which I am totally here for. I can’t wait to see how they’re developed in the next one!
Overall, I really did enjoy my time with the Sunbearer Trials, and I am already so looking forward to the next one.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.
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Check out my last Blog Post: Ravenfall (Tour Post/Review)