A few days ago I read J’s review of Memories of Ash, the second book in a new, on-going series of YA fantasy novels. J wants Cannonballers to read it, so I picked up the first book, Sunbolt. After I finished Sunbolt, I saw there was a free short story, The Bone Knife, so I scooped that up too.
Sunbolt is a very fast read. I enjoyed it. Khanani keeps the action focused on her protagonist Hitomi and mostly leaves the world building for the reader to glean through the action. There is an occasional short info dump, but Khanani avoids the fantasy trap of having the protagonist, or a bard of some sort stop the action and explain the whole mythology. If you read a lot of fantasy, you’ll pick it up just fine.
Hitomi is an immigrant, orphan, thief and part of a resistance network on an island nation. She looks different from the island natives and is always separate and apart. Hitomi is also the child of mages, who trained her in secret. Once she was left on her own, her training ceased. She can do some magic, but mostly relies on the survival skills she learned on the streets. She is canny, but not infallible.
I liked that Khanani relies on the tropes and conventions of fantasy without slavishly following them. This is the first book of a series. Khanani sets up a series long antagonist for Hitomi as well as an antagonist for the book. To the best of my knowledge there is no prophecy about Hitomi, and I hope it stays that way. The book leaves a lot dangling. I’m looking forward to Memories of Ash.
The Bone Knife is a short story. I think it’s set in the same world, but with different characters. I’m not entirely sure though. This story is also a set up for a series. In the 37 pages of this short story we meet Rae and her family – her parents and two younger sisters. Rae was born with a club foot and known in the village as a cripple. Her middle sister has a secret that the family desperately wants to protect. The youngest sister is bubbles and sunshine with no impediments. Rae’s family raises horses. The story begins when a stranger arrives to buy horses from her father. The stranger causes tension and conflict. His presence threatens the middle sister’s safety and the family’s safety. This tension brings out the strengths of each of the characters. More importantly, we see Rae’s strength, intelligence and her devotion to her family. I don’t know what Rae will face in her series, but we know she will face it without magic abilities.
In both stories, Khanani did a beautiful job of establishing character and world with a few brush strokes. I want to see what happens with both Hitomi and Rae. But I must admit that I am most excited about Rae’s story. At the end of Sunbolt, I can see the broad shape of where Hitomi’s story will go. At the end of The Bone Knife, the stranger has left each of the sister’s with a gift which they do not understand. What do they mean? What dangers do they face? It’s clear that something is going to happen that takes them out of their safe little world.