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.
I’ve been wanting to read this author for quite a while. I’ve had one of his books, Cemetery Boys, in my TBR for quite a while, but just haven’t gotten to it yet. When I was approved for an ARC (audiobook version) of The Sunbearer Trials, I knew it was time to get acquainted with his work.
Similar to The Hunger Games, competitors are chosen and must complete several trials. But in this case, only the competitor with the least amount of points should die. Teo isn’t worried for himself. He’s a Jade, and for more than a century Sol has only chosen Golds to compete. He’s more concerned for his best friend Niya, a strong competitor. Golds have trained for the trials their whole lives, so when the names of two Jades are announced, everyone is shocked. Teo is an underdog and not expected to do well against the Golds, but he has no choice but to compete. I liked that he’s a go with the flow kind of guy, but also possesses a rebellious streak that tends to get him in some trouble.
The competitions are exciting, dangerous, and highly creative. Participants face both physical and mental challenges. After each was completed, I was as anxious to hear the ratings as the characters. I loved the relationships between them whether they were friends, siblings, or parent-child. All are so well-portrayed and heartwarming. As expected, some competitors form alliances, but by the end most of them support each other in some way. And that twist at the end! Not many books surprise me, but I didn’t see that one coming. It’s brilliant.
André Santana is a wonderful narrator, and I’d highly recommend the audiobook version if you enjoy them. With the competitors having various powers and the competition, Percy Jackson and The Hunger Games are perfect comp titles for this book. I’d advise fans of those series to jump on The Sunbearer Trials.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.