In a world of magic, prejudice, and warring gods, two women must fight to find their places. Reina is an orphan who has dreamed of family her whole life. Suddenly her paternal grandmother reaches out to her with an invitation to a new life. Reina dares to hope that she may have finally found her place. Meanwhile, Eva is trapped in a family that is ashamed of her. Secretly she reaches beyond her family to find acceptance. Both women think they’ve finally found a home but there are strings attached to each. Will they be willing to do what is asked to keep their new homes, or will they have to look further for their true place? Find out in Gabriela Romero Lacruz’s The Sun and The Void.
[Warning: Contained in this book and mentioned in this review are instances of sexual assault. For more information on the triggering content, check out Lacruz’s website]
[Note: While I am reviewing this novel independently and honestly, it should be noted that it has been provided to me by Orbit for the purpose of this review. Warning: My review of The Sun and The Void contains some spoilers!]
Looking for family in The Sun and the Void
Reina was orphaned at a young age. As if that wasn’t tough enough, she is half nozariel (a human, monkey, crocodile hybrid). And that’s the only half that counts for most people. She is looked down upon and treated as less than by everyone. Reina is lonely and barely getting by in the city. So when a letter comes from her estranged grandmother she’s never met, inviting her to come to live in the mountains with her, Reina jumps at the chance. She knows the journey will be difficult, but she never imagined it would kill her.
Just as Reina is about to reach her grandmother’s mountain home, she is attacked by monsters looking to steal her heart. She survives but the damage is done, they have infected her with dark magic and she will soon die. Or maybe not. Her grandmother, Dona Ursulina is perhaps the most powerful user of iridio, a dark magic. Dona Ursulina is able to create a new heart for Reina that is powered by iridio. It saves her life but puts her in debt to Dona Ursulina and leaves her dependent on the iridio solution that powers the heart.
Looking for a connection
Eva is part of a large and prominent family in the city. But she is the black sheep of the family. Her mother killed herself when Eva was little and her grandmother blames Eva’s biological father who enchanted and raped her mother. Eva was a result of that encounter and has been shouldering the blame for what happened to her mother ever since her mother’s death. Further setting her apart from her family is her antlers and affinity for magic, which mark her as a valco (a human and deer hybrid).
Eva is the only valco that she has ever met or even seen. But she has heard stories about them and even knows of a prominent family of them in the mountains. She begins to secretly converse with one of the mountain valcos through letters and begins to plan her escape from a family that doesn’t want her, but won’t let her go either.
Magic, religion, monsters, and faith all collide in this Orbit novel
In Lacruz’s strange world, there are two main schools of religion. One is the newer monotheistic religion that prays to the Virgin. Followers of this system deny all other gods and actively threaten followers of other religions. They also fear magic and equate it with evil and the devil. Basically equate it with Christianity. The other school of belief revolves around a polytheistic system. While there used to be many gods acknowledged, the two that are most commonly called upon today are Ches, a sun god, and Rahmagut, a nozariel who became a god and now commands the void. Predictably, Ches was the “good” god and Rahmagut was the “bad” god. Those who believe in Ches and Rahmagut accept magic as a part of nature, although his void magic, is still looked upon with suspicion.
Even though followers of the Virgin insist that Ches and Rahmagut are just stories, the monsters that are supposedly Rahmagut’s creations, and magic, are both very real. They may contribute some of the magic to their devil but there’s too much that lines up with the old stories to just dismiss everything the followers of Ches and Rahmagut claim.
Neither Reina nor Eva fits into the world of the Virgin, but joining the world of Ches and Rahmagut has a steep price for each of them. They’re both desperate to escape their circumstances. Will they be willing to accept the terms others offer them for a new life? Or will they be brave enough to find their way on their own terms? It’s hard to reach for your dreams, and even harder to admit that what you’ve grabbed is actually a nightmare. Both the sun and the void can offer strength, will Eva and Reina have what it takes to use that strength?
Lacruz creates a fantastical world in The Sun and The Void
Venazia may be an imaginary country but the South American flavor comes through on every page. I have read about a million (well at least a few thousand) fantasy books and it’s rare that the setting doesn’t have a strong English or Celtic feel to it. Getting out of Europe’s general vicinity is even harder. Reading a story that has a genuine South American feel doesn’t happen very often. But Lacruz manages to make her story distinctly South American without specifically placing it in South America. It was a really refreshing take on the magical fantasy that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Family and belonging are strong themes in The Sun and The Void but I also liked how Lacruz talked about prejudice and discrimination. By creating some new races (also refreshing, fantasy that didn’t have elves and dwarves) she was able to look at how some species were considered better or worse just based on their looks. At the same time, we were able to see that both good and bad existed in all the different species, making the discrimination completely unfounded. Hopefully, the parallels to the real world will come across for others as they did for me.
Overall, this was an excellent story. The characters were likable, at least the ones that were supposed to be, and they went through a decent amount of growth. There was a fantastic ending that will allow for even more growth in the next book (this is obviously meant to be a series). And everything was presented in a fresh and interesting way that kept me happily engaged until the end. Just a great offering from Gabriela Romero Lacruz.
My Rating: 9/10
The Sun and the Void by Gabriela Romero Lacruz is available now! Will you be checking it out? Let us know on Twitter or in The Cosmic Circus Discord.