Today I’m so excited to be reviewing one of my most anticipated releases of the year, The Sunbearer Trials by Aiden Thomas.
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.
***Thank you to Macmillan Audio for providing a copy of the audiobook via NetGalley. My review contains my honest thoughts about my listening experience.***
I’m a huge fan of this author, and this book was one of my most anticipated releases of this year. I was so excited to get the advanced listening copy at the last minute and started listening to it right away. I immediately fell in love with the narrator and the way he brought the characters to life. The story was a fun mix of contemporary elements and Mexican mythology with quite a bit of humor that kept me chuckling at all the antics. I enjoyed getting to know all of the different settings, powers, and creatures that the characters encountered throughout their journey.
The characters were an absolute treat to read with vibrant personalities and compelling arcs. I particularly loved Teo and Aurelio. They both had to deal with their inferiority complexes, and the vibes of their friend to rival to friend relationship were perfection. The trans rep in the book was great, as well, and it was incorporated seamlessly with the story while also providing moving insight into what it is like being a trans person.
The pace of the story plowed forward at breakneck speed as the characters progressed from one trial to the next. It managed to keep the action flowing without sacrificing character development, and each of the five trials amped up the stakes. Despite the ever-growing risks to the characters, I never really feared for any of them. Oddly enough, I found the tone of the book to be surprisingly upbeat despite all the hardships and constant threat of death. I’m not sure if it was the writing or the narrator that set the tone, but I never believed the characters were in any real danger. I didn’t mind it, though, because I loved the characters and thought the adventure was fun regardless.
I saw most aspects of the end coming a mile away, but there were a couple things that took me by surprise. Personally, I didn’t like the ending because the proposed solution to the problem of how the trials finished came too quickly and left me wondering why the sacrifices of the trials ever needed to happen in the first place. Overall, though, this audiobook was a fun and fascinating ride with great trans rep and compelling characters I couldn’t help but love, and I’ll definitely be back for the conclusion of the duology when it releases. Therefore, I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars.