Pitched at Percy Jackson meets The Hunger Games, The Sunbearer Trials the next must-read YA fantasy. This book is full of heart with vibrant worldbuilding and characters you will both love and hate.
I’m honored to be a stop on the Fierce Reads Blog Tour for The Sunbearer Trials and am excited to share my love of this book with all of you. This is not a book you want to miss!
About The Sunbearer Trials
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends • Release Date: September 6, 2022 • Pages: 352
Age Range: Young Adult • Genre: Fantasy • Source: Netgalley
“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.
☀️ Mexican-inspired Mythology
🪶 Talking to birds
👑 High Stakes Tournament
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bullying, blood & injury depiction, death
Latinx rep, trans rep
5 Reasons to read The Sunbearer Trials
Words cannot express my excitement for Aiden Thomas’ newest book The Sunbearer Trials. Having read and adored The Cemetery Boys and Lost in the Never Woods, I knew this would be another book of my heart — and I was not disappointed! I tried writing a normal review and it was a giant mess, so here are five reasons I loved this book and think you will, too.
Intricate and Vivid Worldbuilding
We all know that worldbuilding is the quickest way to my heart and Thomas crafted a full world to immerse the reader into. The book begins with an origin myth of the world, succinctly situating the reader in the world. The rich descriptions of the various cities and settings transport the reader into Reino del Sol and let me tell you: this book will make you hungry! The delicious foods and candy? I need to eat them now. And you can because the book is unabashedly Mexican-inspired and those treats can be found.
I adore mythology and quite frankly it is refreshing to see a world inspired not by Greece or Rome but Mexico. This is a book where gods are real and they live among mortals. Like in Percy Jackson, the gods semidiós (demigod) children who – depending on who their godly parent is – will train in a fancy school to become heroes. But our main character Teo is not one of them.
One of my favorite parts of this book is how it addresses privilege and questions the very systems of power within Reino del Sol. There are three types of gods: the Golds who are the most powerful, the Jades who are excluded from the Academy, and the Obsidians who are evil and were banished. The Golds are the ones who train in the Academy to become heroes, who live apart from the very mortals they protect, whereas the Jades live among the mortals and aren’t afforded the same opportunities.
This system would be unjust no matter what, but an addition wrinkle is that only the Golds train to compete in the Sunbearer Trials that takes place every ten years. When two Jades are chosen by Sol to compete in these trials, they are at a severe disadvantage and are seen as easy sacrifices. Who are Teo and Xio supposed to compete when they not only have no training but also “less favorable” powers? And just how are the rankings even made?
Characters to Love and Hate
It wouldn’t be an Aiden Thomas book without the characters stealing my heart! Teo is such a kind main character who you can’t help but root for and his best friend Niya is a ride-or-die Gold who also checks her privilege. The two of them take Xio under their wings in the Trials and I love it when groups of misfits band together. I enjoyed learning more about Niya and Aurelio and watching them evolve over the course of the Trials.
Queernormative world with trans rep
In addition to the Latinx representation, this is also a queernormative world that is especially trans accepting. If a semidiós discovers their gender doesn’t align, a gender confirmation ceremony is held to celebrate them — and I love this.
So many people are going to see themselves in this book and that it incredibly special.
That. Ending. BOOK TWO WHEN?
The way the book and duology is plotted? *chef’s kiss* I am genuinely frothing at the mouth to get my hands on the rest of the story as soon as possible, because I need to know. One thing I really appreciate is that it’s a cliffhanger, but kind of a soft one? Like we know the next steps and the plan, it’s just a question of what will happen and I am here for it. Literally cannot wait!
I received an eARC from the publisher via Netgalley for my honest review. This has not affected my opinions or the contents of my review. I have since purchased a finished copy.
Highly recommended to fantasy readers who enjoy adventure, intricate worldbuilding, lush descriptions of setting without sacrificing pace, and characters you can’t help but love. The Sunbearer Trials takes the framework from Percy Jackson and Hunger Games but Thomas makes it wholly new, celebrating Latinx culture.
Recommended if you enjoyed…
No two readers experience a book in the same way; this was mine, but what about you?
💬 Have you read The Sunbearer Trials yet? If so, what are your thoughts?
💬 Did I convince you to add this book to your TBR?
💬 What other fantasy books with magical tournaments would you recommend?
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Kate @ Your Tita Kate says
I’ve been soooo looking forward to this!! Glad you enjoyed it!
Thank you so much, Kate! <3
Have been hearing the best things about this one! You did such a great job listing everything and I’m especially impressed by the strong ending since I always love books that end with a cliffhanger. Will surely pick this up in the coming week. 💛
Thank you for your lovely comment, Fanna! Also I can’t believe you love books with a cliffhanger haha, my brain hates having to wait! I hope you enjoyed this book as much as I did.
Dusty @ Eye-Rolling Demigod's Book Blog says
Your review has convinced me I need to read this book (and that I should try this format for a review)! Now, if only my library would pick up a couple more copies so my hold would move faster…
YESS ANOTHER VICTI– CONVERT! I hope your hold finally came through by now and honestly, this review format is great, 15/10 would recommend!
DB @ DB's Guide to the Galaxy says
Thomas is always excellent at world-building. My library FINALLY has a copy but it’s only the e-book so I might wait a few weeks to see if they’ll get the audiobook.
You said food, of course I’ll be there 😂
This is definitely Thomas’ best book yet, especially for worldbuilding! Have you had a chance to read it (and get hungry) yet?!
Nicole @ BookWyrm Knits says
This looks good! Before I commit to this one, though, I really need to read Thomas’ other two books, which I bought but haven’t started yet…
Oooh yes, Thomas’ books are all so wholesome so I definitely recommend them!
caro @ bookcheshirecat says
Great Review! I finally read The Sunbearer Trials after preordering it and I loved it 💕 The worldbuilding and use of Mythology was amazing and I loved all the characters so much 🥰
AHHH I’m glad you loved the book, Soph! The Characters! The Mythology! So good.
You have absolutely convinced me to add this to my TBR. I won’t lie, I did think based off the cover that this book was middle grade. And before I fully thought through the premise, I liked it more as an MG book. (I think just because I’m thinking a lot about the “for fans of Percy Jackson” part.) But if there’s an entire plot point about someone being sacrificed to the gods, maaaaaybe not MG.
Great review, I especially love how you divided it into 5 reasons to read! Made it super easy to follow and really convincing.
SHA WHAT OMG HI!!!! The cover does look more middle grade, and if the characters were aged down a smidge it would be a greaqt PJO comp — but that’s probably why it isn’t. Thanks for reading and so good to see you in my comments again!
Bianca Visagie says
I recently read Cemetery Boys, and I’ve also read Lost in the Never Woods, and I didn’t click with either of those books. So maybe I need to give Aiden Thomas a third chance with this one, as it sounds really good.
I do think Sunbearer Trials is the best of Aiden Thomas’ books so if the premise sounds interesting I’d definitely recommend you give him one more try! IF anything, the book is just as fast/easy paced as the others.