Fevered Star: A somewhat slower pace through a richly constructed world

Reposting to include Marion’s new review.

Fevered Star by Rebecca Roanhorse science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsFevered Star by Rebecca Roanhorse 

Fevered Star by Rebecca Roanhorse science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsFevered Star (2022) is the follow-up to Rebecca Roanhorse’s enjoyably original Black Sun, set in a fantastical Mesoamerica (with a few other cultures mixed in as well). As the second book, it does suffer somewhat from that dreaded middle book curse, but Roanhorse offers enough original worldbuilding here to compensate for the book’s weaker aspects, leaving the reader eager to see the trilogy’s conclusion.

As with Black Sun, Roanhorse employs multiple points of view to tell the story, including the Crow God’s avatar Serapio, the Sun God’s priest Naranpa, the Teek ship’s captain Xiala, the Carrion Crow captain Okoa, and Cuecola merchant lord Balam. The book leans heavily into political maneuvering following the events of book one, which saw a power vacuum created in the city of Tova thanks to Serapio’s massacre of the Watchers and the underlying social rules/treaties/alliances upturned. Inside the city, Serapio tries to solidify his place amongst a clan that sees him as a weapon (not all of them necessarily with the same intent); Naranpa works with her brother to find a spot for the Maw in the power structure of the city; Okoa is somewhat stuck in the middle, unsure of pretty much anything; and other clan leaders make their own play for power. Xiala starts off in the city hoping to find Serapio again but ends up leaving with a party sent to Hokaia led by a Ziha, young, insecure daughter of a clan leader and including Iktan, a priest-assassin. Meanwhile, the merchant lord Balam is part of another party heading to Hokaia, plotting his own rise to power and seeking alliances among some of the party.

The book’s pacing is a bit slow and meandering, and some of the characters I’d argue lose some of their compelling nature from book one. Xiala spends a little too much time yearning for Serapio for my liking, a sense of passivity exacerbated by the “land sickness” she suffers from, though the ending finds her story quickening quite a bit. Okoa, meanwhile, feels underused here, and while Balam has some interesting moments, he’s mostly setting things in motion for future events. In fact, that’s probably the biggest “middle book” issue, that much of the novel feels like a positioning of characters and events for later occurrences, all of the movement (literally in some cases) aiming at a place that remains more than a little muddy. Despite this, Roanhorse still offers up several moving scenes and a few pleasant surprises.

Naranpa makes probably the greatest movement in the story, though I won’t go into the details to avoid spoilers. Her relationship with her brother, growing understanding of her powers and her city’s history, attempts to wrest a place at the table for the people of the Maw, and her dilemma over what to do about Serapio are I’d say the most fascinating characters aspects of the novel.

Roanhorse also nicely employs various echoes within the novel, such as Naranpa’s uncertain relationship with her brother mirroring Okoa’s with his sister, or the way in which multiple characters (Naranpa, Xiala, Balam, Serapio) newly come into strange powers must slowly learn their way into using them.

Meanwhile the story’s highlight, for me, remains the lush freshness of the Mesoamerican setting which doesn’t use a singular base, like the Maya or the Incans, but instead is a rich mélange of various South, Central, and North American mythos. Not only do we see more of the world here as characters travel from one setting to another, but we also get more of the culture’s history: the old war is revealed more fully, gods step onto the stage more directly, powers are reawakened. And we get as well some tantalizing hints of more to be revealed, such as the mysteries of the Teek.

If Fevered Star wasn’t quite as satisfying as Black Sun, it still does its job in opening up the world, moving events along, if somewhat meanderingly, and complicating characters’ inner sense of self as well as their relationships with others. Leaving me, as noted, looking forward to spending more time in this world and seeing where these characters end up in it.

~Bill CapossereFevered Star by Rebecca Roanhorse


Fevered Star by Rebecca Roanhorse science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsMaybe it was because Black Sun grounded me thoroughly in Rebecca Roanhorse’s fictional world, but I found 2022’s Fevered Star to be more immediately accessible than the first book, and I was caught right up in the conflicts of our two god-ridden characters and their family and friends.

Fevered Star expanded the canvas, introducing new players, particularly the Teek, and new locations. The plains city of Hokaia is a nice addition. Roanhorse’s descriptions remind me of Cahokia, and that is clearly intentional. In this second book, Roanhorse rounds out some of the history of this world and leads us toward the secret of the Sun God and the Crow God.

The heart of this book is clearly Serapio and Naranpa, both living avatars of their warring gods. While Serapio has embraced the power of the Crow God at the cost of most of his humanity, Naranpa, counter-intuitively, learns that her family and her humanity hold a reservoir of her strength. Loyalties are tangled and often betrayed in this book, lessons long held to be truths are questioned, and mysteries uncovered.

As with Black Sun, Fevered Star’s descriptions are crisp and grounded. The story is complex but accessible, mostly because of viewpoint characters like Xiala who seems to share our questions and doubts. Ultimately, Roanhose has made me care about Serapio, who behaves like a god-infested jerk through most of this book, and Nara. I’m on board, and eagerly awaiting the final installment.

~Marion Deeds

Published in April 2022. Return to The Meridian with New York Times bestselling author Rebecca Roanhorse’s sequel to the most critically hailed epic fantasy of 2020 Black Sun—finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, Lambda, and Locus awards. There are no tides more treacherous than those of the heart. —Teek saying. The great city of Tova is shattered. The sun is held within the smothering grip of the Crow God’s eclipse, but a comet that marks the death of a ruler and heralds the rise of a new order is imminent. The Meridian: a land where magic has been codified and the worship of gods suppressed. How do you live when legends come to life, and the faith you had is rewarded? As sea captain Xiala is swept up in the chaos and currents of change, she finds an unexpected ally in the former Priest of Knives. For the Clan Matriarchs of Tova, tense alliances form as far-flung enemies gather and the war in the heavens is reflected upon the earth. And for Serapio and Naranpa, both now living avatars, the struggle for free will and personhood in the face of destiny rages. How will Serapio stay human when he is steeped in prophecy and surrounded by those who desire only his power? Is there a future for Naranpa in a transformed Tova without her total destruction? Welcome back to the fantasy series of the decade in Fevered Star—book two of Between Earth and Sky.


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BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.

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Marion Deeds, with us since March, 2011, is the author of the fantasy novella ALUMINUM LEAVES. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthologies BEYOND THE STARS, THE WAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, STRANGE CALIFORNIA, and in Podcastle, The Noyo River Review, Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online. She’s retired from 35 years in county government, and spends some of her free time volunteering at a second-hand bookstore in her home town. You can read her blog at deedsandwords.com, and follow her on Twitter: @mariond_d.

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