Review of The Sunbearer Trials

The Sunbearer Trials The Sunbearer Trials
by Aiden Thomas
High School    Feiwel    416 pp.
9/22    9781250822130    $18.99
e-book ed.  9781250822147    $10.99

Every ten years in the fantastical but ­contemporary-feeling Reino del Sol, ten demigod children are chosen to compete in the Sunbearer Trials, a sacred ritual deemed necessary in order to avert the apocalypse. Although winning the Trials brings glory, it comes with a price: it’s the Sunbearer’s duty to sacrifice the competitor in last place. Seventeen-year-old Teo, whose family wields little power, is certain he won’t be chosen to compete—but the god Sol selects both him and thirteen-year-old ­fellow trans boy Xio. Teo and his best friend, Niya, vow to keep Xio from becoming the sacrifice and find a way to put the other, stuck-up competitors in their place. Each city that hosts the competition is devoted to one of this world’s gods, with elements richly drawn from Mexican culture to create a ­narrative setting that’s colorful, expansive, and unique. Reino del Sol is devoid of ­queerphobia, with powerful gods in same-sex relationships or using they/them pronouns, and Teo’s ­dysphoria about his wings serves as an intriguing metaphor for transness. Though the cast of characters is large, the individuals are engaging and distinct. The novel ­successfully balances magical, action-packed battles with lighter interactions and ­dialogue. A cliffhanger ending sets up a promising second half for the projected ­duology.

From the January/February 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Bodie Shanis

Bodie Shanis is an editorial intern for The Horn Book, Inc., studying towards an MA in Children’s Literature and MFA in Writing for Children at Simmons University. 

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