Crow Gods and Sun Priestesses in Rebecca Roanhorse’s Fevered Star

We return to the world of people of the Meridian as Rebecca Roanhorse treks onward with the journey of Serapio, the Crow God made flesh who survived his own sacrifice; Naranpa, the deposed Sun Priestess left for dead; and Xiala, an outcast Teek sailor whose heart and magical Song continually set her adrift.

The second installment of Roanhorse’s unique epic fantasy Between Earth and Sky series, Fevered Star, picks up directly after Black Sun. Serapio, originally a young man from Obregi, is now known as the Odo Sedoh and leader of the Odohaa cult. His mother groomed and blinded him in preparation to become the vessel for Sky Made clan Carrion Crow’s outcast god, who was to be reborn and cast vengeance upon the priesthood class (the Watchers) — a slaughter dubbed the Night of the Knives. After battling and decimating the Watchers upon their sacred ceremonial ground, Sun Rock, Serapio was supposed to die—but he didn’t. Wounded by the Watchers’ high priest, he awakens to see the sun over Tova suspended in an a forever twilight, and now in the care of Carrion Crow Captain of the Shield Okoa, who is unsure about his own position in the war he cannot see, but feels, is coming.

We learn Lord Balam of Cuecola, a minor figure in Black Sun, was far more instrumental in setting Serapio on his path. Lord Balam becomes a larger character in Fevered Star, with his own chapters detailing his violent recovery of the forgotten Shadow magic of Dream Walking. Dream Walking sparked the great war 300 years prior, which ended with a treaty that demanded each clan disavow their gods, and leading to the creation of the Watchers. Lord Balam gathers the rest of Cuecola’s ruling lords for a journey to Hokaia to discuss a power grab for Tova and beyond. It becomes increasingly clear that Balam is not the only one gunning for control of Tova, and possibly the entire Meridian.

Sky Made clan Golden Eagle has been deep in its matron’s own nefarious plotting. Her machinations are what led to the downfall of Naranpa as Sun Priest in Black Sun—when Iktan, her former lover and leader of the Watchers’ guard (the Knives) brought about Naranpa’s banishment. This also lead to an assassination attempt that Naranpa miraculously survives to wake up entombed underground in Fevered Star. Fighting her way out and returning to her brother in the Coyote’s Maw to regroup, she discovers new powers from the sun god herself. Despite it all, she is the true Sun Priest and that is the reason why the Odo Sedah yet lives.

Iktan is also still committed to their plan with Golden Eagle despite the matron breaking her word to spare Naranpa’s life.  When Xiala attempts to reach Serapio—whom she has stubbornly given her heart to and who loves her in return–outside the gates of Carrion Crow, she finds herself entangled in Iktan and Golden Eagle’s clutches, journeying far from her beloved ocean to Hokaia. Xiala struggles to tap into her Song after she unwittingly killed people in an attempt to escape during the chaos on Sun Rock, but vows to learn all she can of Iktan and Golden Eagle’s plans to help Serapio. Meanwhile, Serapio faces the possible betrayal of his own people, Carrion Crow, and the Sun and Crow’s locked in eternal combat. Naranpa slowly comes to the same realization as Serapio: that they must confront each other, but also confront their gods if they are to be more than simply powerful puppets.

If you feel a bit overwhelmed by the tangled politics, intrigues, and the number of now-major players, you’re not alone. I have abandoned many a fantasy series that got too mired in its own world-building and mythology creation because, let’s face it, second books are hard to write. I still adore Roanhorse’s premise and world but it was a bit of a struggle to get through Fevered Star. The pacing was fairly slow due to the need to expand on the plot twists and different characters’ development, even though much of it is necessary. Regardless, Roanhorse succeeds at mapping out the intricate caste system of class warfare, and one of my favorite parts of the book was learning how the Coyote’s Maw’s people were stripped of their clan by the treaty and thrust into crime, servitude, and poverty all because they refused to fight in the great war. Additionally, Naranpa’s work to reclaim and rebuild Coyote Clan is very powerful.

Yet the story suffers the most through the separation of Serapio and Xiala, who meet not at all during this book. Again, this is necessary as Black Sun is the story of how they embrace their humanity together, despite their pasts and futures. Nananpa was the least interesting character in Black Sun, perhaps because of her naiveté and idealism, but her character arc in Fevered Star was the strongest by far. As she emotionally reconnects with not only her brother but her people and community, Naranpa finally understands that she cannot rebuild what came before, and that it is vital the Odo Sedoh destroy it in order to build the new world. While everyone else around her prepares to violently seize ultimate power in the Meridian, Naranpa leaves it all behind, resolving to both embrace and learn about her power. Likewise, Xiala and Serapio both remain strong characters, with their continuing arcs promising they’ll sail back to each other. However, there needs to be more growth for Xiala’s character. She is continuously unable to overcome the trauma of her past choices, and where a deep transformation occurs with Serapio and Naranpa, Xiala ends the book still only on the barest cusp of one. Roanhorse’s Teek, the magical island people, are truly fascinating and I look forward to learning more about them as well.

Overall, Fevered Star is a solid second book, though a tad overweighed with plot and characters, and it sets up the promise of an explosive conclusion in the last book of the trilogy.

Fevered Star is published by Gallery / Saga Press.

Angela Maria Spring is the owner of Duende District, a mobile boutique bookstore by and for people of color, where all are welcome. She holds an M.F.A. in poetry from Sarah Lawrence College, was a 2018 Kirkus Fiction Prize judge, and has work forthcoming in Radar Poetry, Pilgrimage, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, and Third Wednesday. You can find her on Twitter at @BurquenaBoricua or at duendedistrict.com.

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