The Sunbearer Trials

Feiwel & Friends. (Sunbearer Duology: Bk. 1). Sept. 2022. 416p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250822130.
Gr 7 Up–In this Mexican-inspired fantasy, Teo must unexpectedly compete against eight of Reino del Sol’s brightest young Heroes and one unlucky 13-year-old in a competition to become the next Sunbearer, carrying light to all the temples of Reino del Sol and keeping away the evil Obsidian gods for another few years. While the rewards are great, competing has a high cost: the loser of the trials will be sacrificed in order to replenish the Sun’s power. Teo, a trans 17-year-old semidiós and son of the goddess of birds, competes alongside his best friend Niya, a strong daughter of an earth god; Xio, a 13-year-old child of the god of bad luck; and Aurelio, son of a fire goddess, and his former best friend turned enemy. Along the way, he gains confidence in himself and his powers, even learning to fly using the wings that previously caused him too much dysphoria to look at. As the competitors travel to different trials, they explore beautiful locations and develop unexpected alliances. However, things aren’t always what they seem, and after a few close calls, Teo begins to suspect that someone is tampering with the trials. The world of the Reino del Sol is consciously and emphatically queer and diverse, and transition is shown to be a celebration.
VERDICT Readers who have aged out of Percy Jackson and Rick Riordan Presents will delight in the mythology that Thomas has created, while readers who enjoy the competition structures of Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass or Amanda Foody’s All of Us Villains will love reading about the challenges the heroes face. While the trials do not always feel high stakes, this is a fun and warm-hearted start to a duology.

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