The Sunbearer Trials -- Latinx Novel Review


Disclosure: I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Today I am sharing the second new book for Hispanic Heritage Month. It is a Latinx mythology book that will have Percy Jackson and other Rick Riordan fans seeing a new culture. The book is the first in a duology. It is The Sunbearer Trials by Aiden Thomas. Not only does it take place in Latin America but it also has quite a bit of talk and characters who are transgender. The book is recommended for ages 13-18. 

From the Publisher:

Welcome to The Sunbearer Trials, where teen semidioses compete in a series of challenges with the highest of stakes, in this electric new Mexican-inspired fantasy from Aiden Thomas, the New York Times bestselling author of Cemetery Boys.

“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 chaotic Obsidian gods at bay. Sol selects ten of the most worthy semidioses 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 melted down to refuel the Sun Stones, protecting the world for another ten years.

Teo, a seventeen-year-old Jade semidiós and the trans son of the goddess of birds, isn't worried about the Trials . . . at least, not for himself. His best friend, Niya is a Gold semidiós and a shoo-in for the Trials, and while he trusts her abilities, the odds of becoming the sacrifice is one-in-ten.

But then, for the first time in over a century, the impossible happens. Sol chooses not one, but two Jade competitors. Teo, and Xio, the thirteen-year-old child of the god of bad luck. Now they must compete in five trials against Gold opponents who are more powerful and better trained. Worst of all, Teo’s annoyingly handsome ex-best friend and famous semidiós Hero, Aurelio is favored to win. Teo is determined to get himself and his friends through the trials unscathed—for fame, glory, and their own survival.

From Me:

Wow, this book has it all. The semidioses have hierarchy, bullies, fame and so much more. The book pulls you in as you read the view of Teo. Teo is a Jade which is a lower semidios and his mother is a Jade god who is lower than the Gold gods. Teo's best friend is a Gold, and his childhood friend is a favored Gold, but they had a falling out. Now it is time for the once in a decade Sunbearer Trials where ten semidioses get picked to compete in five challenges. The winner gets the glory and has to kill the loser. The loser is sacrificed to keep the sun going for the entire land. Talk about stress. The Golds go to a special academy and are trained for these trials. The Jades go to the mortal schools. When Teo is headed to the Sunbearer Trials it does not even enter his mind that he would be picked. But he and another younger Jade are and now he does his best to keep them alive. 

I love that in this fantasy the semidioses are celebrated if they declare a different gender than the one they were born and raised as. It is like a birthday party but celebrating the gender. Gender is seen completely fluid in this world and is honored among the gods. Teo is a transgender boy and the other Jade, Xio, is as well. In fact, Xio comes to Teo for advice about the switch. This book has so much more than transgender issues though.

The story is full of Mexican cultural references. It also has typical emotions of a teenager. The semidioses have extra powers but that does not make them immune to the growing pains of hormones and teenage years. The societal pushes are all there as well. I found the book a little slow at first but once you get in you won't want to put it down. I will admit I have not finished it since I'm struggling to find time to read (and not sleep since I tested positive for Covid this week), but am loving it. I hope you will check it out!