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.
Published: September 6th 2022 by Feiwel & Friends
“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.
CW’s: Violence & Injury, Mentions of death & grief, Elitism, Discussion of dysphoria
Representation 🌷 Trans Gay MC, Queer Cast, Deaf SC
“You are a loud, impulsive, persistent seeker of justice, and that makes people uncomfortable, but it doesn’t make you bad. it makes you very good, in fact.”
Mythology & Demigods ☀️
The Sunbearer Trials is set in Reino Del Sol, a world protected by dioses ➽ The main god Sol sacrificed themselves to keep the Obsidian gods at bay, who seek to imprison and enslave humans. The Gold gods are seen as powerful and get the biggest spotlight, while the Jade gods might be considered kind, but also weak. This gave me major Percy Jackson vibes and is a great YA book for fans of the series! We follow Teo, the Jade son of Quetzal, the diosa of birds. He’s been living close to mortals his entire life and while he has to attend ceremonies with the rest of the semidioses and their parents, he never felt like he fit in. His best friend Niya is a daughter of Tierra, the dios of Earth and because she’s a Gold, she’s always been living a slightly different life. I loved getting to know the different gods and their children throughout the book! Some parents like Teo’s mother seem to have a very close bond with their children … but others like Lumbre, the diosa of fire, seem rigid and cold. If you love fantasy books that involve mythology and gods, this is perfect!
Deadly Trials 😱
One of my favorite tropes in Fantasy books is magical tournaments or competitions ➽ I love following characters along as they compete in trials and forge alliances. The suspense and tension are very well-done in the Sunbearer Trials! The competition serves as the book’s title and its main plot point. The Sunbearer Trials are an important tradition every ten years to keep the evil Obsidian gods from returning and plunging the land into darkness. Ten powerful semidioses are chosen to compete in various trials that test their skills and the God Sol determines their rankings. The catch: while the winner is tasked with replenishing the sun stones … the loser has to be sacrificed 😱 The stakes are high and I was on the edge of my seat for the entire book, watching how the rankings played out. Since Teo and Xio are the only Jades to be chosen in centuries they are already behind and seen as ‘easy sacrifices’. The book does a great job highlighting the injustice of Gold gods and their children being favored. They get to go to a prestigious academy and be Heroes to the public. Meanwhile, Jade gods and their descendants are considered lesser and barred from the same opportunities. Against all odds, Teo is determined to save himself and Xio, even as he has to compete against the Academy’s best students who had years of training to prepare them.
Found Family & Friendship Squad 🥰
Aiden Thomas is a master at crafting lovable characters that you cannot help but root for! ➽ Teo is a bit of a troublemaker, but he’s got a good heart and a strong sense of justice. You could understand his frustration at being belittled and ignored by the Golds, many of them not seeing him as a worthy competitor. With the threat of one of them being killed, Teo is determined to save the much younger Xio. Xio is the son of Mala Suerte, the dios of bad luck and he’s only 13 years old. Since both of them are untrained Jades, Teo immediately feels a kinship with him and I loved seeing how he took on the role of the big brother 🥺 Teo’s Arc of trying to protect his friends, but also wanting to show the worlds that Jades aren’t useless was so well-written. During the trials, it’s hard to not lose sight of what’s important. I also loved Teo’s friendship with Niya, who’s not interested in the powerplay and arrogance of most golds. She’s down-to-earth (quite literally as a daughter of Tierra), loyal and someone you can always count on. Often she comes across as too strong and acts before she thinks, but she’s still endearing. Teo, Niya, and Xio strike up an alliance and I loved their dynamic and banter!!
Slowburn Ex-Best-Friends to Rivals to Lovers 👀
There was also a bit of romance and I loved it! ➽ It’s not the main focus of the story but fits in well with the main plotline of the trials. Aurelio is a son of Lumbre and he’s been estranged from Teo since he joined the Academy. As children they were friends, but once they got older, they recognized the sharp divide between Jades and Golds. Teo felt abandoned and more than a bit resentful, especially once they become rivals in the trials. They had great chemistry and you could tell that there was some unfinished business between them, the tension was off the charts. Teo cannot help but sometimes yearn for this oldest friend – I love me some good old pining. Aurelio isn’t quite like the other Golds and you can see some of his shy, reserved nature peeking through. I cannot wait to see more of them in the next book!
“It was true, he wasn’t a Hero. but it wasn’t like anyone had given him a chance to be.”
BONUS: Who’s my godly parent??
➽ The author created a fun quiz on Buzzfeed where you can find out what dios would be your godly parent! I love (personality) quizzes and couldn’t resist doing it when I started reading The Sunbearer Trials. Scroll down to find out what I got … and please tell me what your result was if you did the quiz 👀
Not what I expected, but after reading the book I can say that Tierra is great as a parent 👍🏻
Have you read The Sunbearer Trials? What is your favorite book that features gods/mythology? ☀️