Thanks to NetGalley and Blackstone Publishing for this ARC. All opinions expressed are my own.
Title: The Seventh Sun
Author: Lani Forbes
Publication Date: February 18, 2020
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Genre: Fantasy, Mythology
Age Range: YA
Synopsis: Thrust into leadership upon the death of his emperor father, young Prince Ahkin feels completely unready for his new position. Though his royal blood controls the power of the sun, he’s now responsible for the lives of all the Chicome people. And despite all Ahkin’s efforts, the sun is fading — and the end of the world may be at hand.
For Mayana, the only daughter of the Chicome family whose blood controls the power of water, the old emperor’s death may mean that she is next. Prince Ahkin must be married before he can ascend the throne, and Mayana is one of six noble daughters presented to him as a possible wife. Those who are not chosen will be sacrificed to the gods.
Only one girl can become Ahkin’s bride. Mayana and Ahkin feel an immediate connection, but the gods themselves may be against them. Both recognize that the ancient rites of blood that keep the gods appeased may be harming the Chicome more than they help. As a bloodred comet and the fading sun bring a growing sense of dread, only two young people may hope to change their world.
The Seventh Sun is an intricately woven story about the duality of heart and mind, and passion and duty. I personally haven’t read many stories about Mesoamerican mythology, but this was such a beautiful blend of the different cultures that it has definitely piqued my interest. I wanted to start by commending Lani Forbes not only for her deep dive into the history of several of these cultures, but for creating what feels like both a celebration of Mayan, Aztecan, etc. culture and religion, as well as a revitalization of history that is both modern and relevant.
I am a huge sucker for any book that draws inspiration from mythology, but for this to also highlight the complexities of religion and tradition was truly the cherry on top, and I feel like that’s what made it different than other mythology stories I’ve read before. Between Mayana’s constant struggle to keep her heretic thoughts hidden, the Chicome version of The Bachelor going on, and the world potentially coming to an end, The Seventh Sun was endlessly captivating with twists at every turn.
Light and water make something beautiful.
One of the things I loved the most was watching the whirlwind that is Mayana and Ahkin’s developing relationship. Mayana, daughter of water, too compassionate to sacrifice what the gods demand of her. From the start, Mayana’s inability to follow through with her duty to her people is an obstacle, and it only gets more complicated when she has to prove her dedication to the gods when she competes for Ahkin’s heart. Mayana’s acute sense of compassion was admirable, but there were some parts that it went too far, which is why I found it so genius. Her emphatic emotional intuition left her easily impressionable, and once others began to doubt her selflessness, so did she.
Ahkin, the prince of light, trying to fill shoes he isn’t ready for, even if it means sacrificing everything. After losing his father, and his mother right after due to the very traditions he is bound to follow, Ahkin shoves down every gut feeling he has about the codex being semi-wrong and blindly succumbs to his duty. He’s always calculating, but he also internalizes everything, so when the sun starts setting earlier than it’s supposed to, he automatically blames it on his own perceived weakness.
And then there’s the other five princesses to deal with. Each of the noble daughters has an underlying story that almost becomes a subplot (and I’m hoping that Lani pursues these dynamics more in the next book) because they each represent their kingdoms. The daughter who marries the prince not only becomes the empress, but also forms a bond between the two kingdoms. BUT, with yet another apocalypse on the horizon (literally), and a young, inexperienced prince on the throne, Tollan is fragile enough as it is; they have to make and maintain the right alliances.
Despite all the pressures both Mayana and Ahkin face, I especially love the fluff moments that allow them to be teenagers. Yes, they are 17-18 year olds who are trying to work through some political transitions as well as the issues that come with going against the grain, but they’re ultimately teenagers, which means they feel giddy when they have a crush, and they tease their siblings. What Lani does is showcase both the other-worldly power and the incredibly human moments of these teenage demigods. The complicated romance tied in with the heavy socio-political implications behind every decision makes for an entertaining read.
The gods demand blood.
What really hooked me was the conflict between unquestionable traditions and the girl who found that they just didn’t make sense. Mayana’s whole rationale for not fully believing in the codex is that the Mother/Father god, Ometeotl, sacrificed their children over and over so that the people may live, and they still demanded more blood??? In her mind, unconditional love doesn’t demand sacrifice and pain, and Mayana’s unique sense of empathy pushes her to look past the rituals that others have blindly followed for centuries.
I think in some places the writing felt like it was lacking something, but this was still such a joy to read. I’ve been in a bit of a rut lately and this reminded me why I love doing this. I think that religion truly can be a beautiful thing, but a lot of that beauty gets lost in the ritualization of it all, especially as time goes on. The Seventh Sun reminded me of the internal struggles we all face as humans when it comes to what we should do, so much so that we forget why we “should” do them.
Even if you don’t read this book or decide that it isn’t for you, I urge you to question everything. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know how easy it is to get stuck in ways that you’ve been conditioned to think (like Ahkin), and sometimes it just takes a little disruption. That being said, sometimes that disruption is being able to “trust the process,” whether that means trusting that some people are actually good and are looking out for you, or trusting that whatever will be will be. All in all, this book (and, you know, life), is about balancing the duality that exists in all of us.
If you’re interested, grab a copy of The Seventh Sun from one of the links below!
Love your SOLmate,