Series: Sunborn Rising #1
Published by Neoglyphic Entertainment on 5/2016
My content rating: MG/YA (Some fantasy violence, but nothing too extreme - appropriate for all ages - including adults!)
A distant world of Great Trees floating on an ocean surrounding a star.
The flotilla forests cycle light and water through their boughs into their lush canopies. But the once vibrant treescape has grown dark, slowly, subtly over many generations. The civilization of creatures living among the boughs believe the darkness is normal. That is, until one willful young girl named Barra discovers the hidden journal of her late father.
Pouring over her father’s writing, Barra learns of a mysterious plague, a creeping vine choking the flow of light and water into the canopy. Her father warned the Elders. He urged them to take action. Those were his last words.
Together with her two best friends, a Rugosic named Tory and a Kolalabat named Plicks, Barra will explore every bark, wood, and leaf of the Great Forest to relight her world and complete her father’s story, even if it leads her beneath the Fall.
Sunborn Rising is a fantasy of truly epic proportions – it may feature characters in roughly the middle grade/young adult age range, but it will appeal to fantasy lovers of all ages!
The story follows Barra and her two best friends, Plicks and Tory. They find out about a threat to their world via Barra’s father’s journals and decide to try to gather evidence on their own (when some of the adults in their community don’t seem to want to admit that something might be wrong). But the three bups (basically a word for young ones) end up in deeper danger than they ever imagined when their explorations lead to their downfall – literally. Below their world, they find a vast, strange land filled with both peril and unimaginable beauty – but they have to get home if they ever hope to share it.
What Fed My Addiction:
- A lush fantasy environment. Aaron Safronoff’s brain must hold some sort of creative genius in order for him to have come up with the world of Cerulean and all its inhabitants. I don’t know the last time I read a book that had such elaborate and starkly beautiful worldbuilding. Everything is described wonderfully (though, I’ll admit that the illustrations helped me form better images for some of the settings and characters in my head!). The story itself is so intricately intertwined with the world that Cerulean is almost a character all its own – and each new setting is full of mystery and splendor. (Take a look at the image of the world below – I actually wish I’d seen it before I read the book because it might have helped me understand the structure of the world a little better and a little sooner!)
- Spectacularly gorgeous illustrations. Just scroll down to see a few examples. The illustrations in this book are nothing short of stunning, and they serve to bring Safranoff’s world and characters to life. I found myself eagerly awaiting each new picture – luckily, they were featured generously throughout the book. Plus, in addition to the vivid, full-color illustrations, there were small black and white illustrations sprinkled in as well. I could just sit and stare at them all day.
- Wonderful friendships. I pretty much fell in love with Barra, Plicks and Tory – the three adolescents who find themselves on an adventure to save their world – and themselves. I especially loved the friendship between the characters – it felt honest and real. These characters adored each other, but that didn’t stop them from getting into the occasional squabble – especially when the pressure really started mounting!
- The website. Okay, I know this is a weird thing to mention in a book review, but you have to check out the Sunborn Rising website too. There are tons of interesting extras there like a trailer and videos about the creation of the characters. PLUS, it looks like there are several additions on the horizon, including a video game and an app (which looks amazing – I so want to get my hands on that app!) and a bunch of other interesting tie-ins. I can’t wait to show my kids the website because I think they’ll love it and it will give them a great sense of Cerulean before they’ve even read the book!
What Left Me Wanting More:
- Too complex? The only major thing that held me back from giving this book five glowing stars is just that the worldbuilding was sometimes a little too overwhelmingly complex. I felt like I needed a glossary of terms by my side at all times to keep track of everything (hint, hint – that needs to be added to the website, which is already brimming with really amazing content!). There were many place names such as the Middens, and the Fall, and the Boil (and lots more) and more specific place names like Umberwood. Then there were all the creatures – Listlespurs, Kolalabot, Rugosic, Nebules, Roedtaw … this list could go on and on. I need detailed maps to understand where all these places are and a list of Cerulean terms (because there were also interesting plants and LOTS of other terms to keep track of). It was all a little daunting – and I imagine it would be even more difficult for younger readers. I actually think Safronoff could have cut down on a few of the extra characters who pop in as well to keep things a bit less confusing and more cohesive (for instance, Jaeden, who is a fantastic character but just sort of appears out of nowhere almost at the end of the book – wish she’d been introduced earlier).
- Third person omniscient POV (head-hopping). My other issue with the book is that it was written in (roughly) third person omniscient POV, which means that it could switch from one character’s perspective to another’s with no warning or break. This made an already somewhat confusing book more complex. The book was told mostly from Barra’s POV, but then it would occasionally jump into someone else’s head. I wish Safranoff had stuck to Barra’s perspective unless there was a clear break to indicate that we were changing POVs.
If you’re a fantasy lover, you need this book in your life. It will set your imagination afire! I give it 4/5 stars.
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via BEA 2016 and Lola’s Blog Tours in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
View the book trailer for Sunborn Rising here on youtube
Meet the Characters
Alone in the Dark
The room seemed alive, but it wasn’t. There was something else in the room with her.
Along the far wall, a sheet of black undulated like a doorweave waving in a breeze. The sheet grew wider as it moved, spreading outward from the center. It rippled and slid, covering up the wall and continuing up the ceiling, working its way around the room toward Barra.
The low light turned the sheet into a canvas where Barra’s imagination painted nightmares. As the sheet grew closer, details resolved out of the darkness; it was a multitude of tiny creatures moving in unison. Barra caught glimpses of legs and antennae as the creatures flowed together and expanded along the wall. It didn’t take long for them to cover every surface of the kitchen. She had no idea where they were coming from, or how many there were.
They were almost at her feet.
She stood, and the creatures stopped sharply.
The warped kitchen was trapped in stillness. Barra’s heart was drumming the urge to run into her chest. She stole a quick glance over her shoulder to locate the way out, and when she looked back, the tapestry of creatures had closed the distance to her.
Eyes burning because she was afraid to blink, Barra backed up slowly.
The bugs moved. They matched her progress toward the doorway. She took another step backward. They narrowed the gap.
Barra felt her pulse in the quick of her claws. Adolescent claws her mother was always reminding her; fragile. Easily broken, easily repaired, Barra had argued. Suddenly, she wished she’d listened to her mother, and just tried to avoid danger. If she made it home, she would hug and kiss her mom, tell her how right she was, and promise to listen better. She had to make it home.
She felt the closeness of the insects, and the closeness of her escape.
She picked her moment. They picked the same.
Hundreds of pinprick lights turned on as the tiny creatures’ eyes flashed open. Wings fluttered and clacked ominously. In unison, the insects faced Barra and swarmed like tendrils of smoke reaching for her. They billowed around Barra, a terrifying, rattling cloud. Barra coiled, and then in one swift motion, burst through the cloud and out the doorway. She flew into the open boughs of the Middens with the insects trailing after her.
Barra fled through the woods. The oily collection of insects accelerated. They flew together as one large predator. Barra cut through a thicket of brambles, but the insects were unfettered, flowing like liquid over the sharp thorns. The chase sent Barra winding around branches, through dense nettles, and over great gaps in the boughs, but she couldn’t lose them.
Trying a new tactic, she jumped and spun herself around. She whipped out her tail, lassoed a branch, and pulled. Changing direction mid-flight, she headed up toward the Loft. But the insects were too fast. They swarmed and cut off her ascent.
Her pursuers flowed in and out of each other, eyes appearing and disappearing in a frightening miasma. Barra saw their eyes and felt chills—no warmth in those tiny lights, only predatory instinct. They were focused. They allowed her to turn any way but up, relentlessly driving her toward the Fall.
Barra dashed into a den. She bolted through distorted rooms and passages, found a window, and leapt back out. Her eyes were focused, seeing only the path ahead. She ran, but not at full speed. The shadows and boughs were dangerously interchangeable in the dark. Barra hesitated at turns and stumbled after jumps, all the while colliding with leaves and ferns she couldn’t see.
A large clearing in the branches yawned open ahead of her. She couldn’t mark the distance across, but all the way to the edge was clear. She went for it, increasing her speed to make the leap of her life… then realization skewered her like a broken branch through her chest. Her blood drained. Her lungs collapsed.
It was too far.
Digging in with all her strength, she tried desperately to stop. Her claws broke and cracked from the stress, but fear kept her fingers braced through the pain. Searching for a hold, her tail thrashed like an angry snake behind her.
Barra stopped. A whisker’s breadth from the edge, shaking, she inhaled. She didn’t finish her breath before the mass of insects hit her like a tidal wave. They engulfed her and carried her over the edge.
As she struggled viciously against them, Barra realized that she wasn’t falling, at least, not falling fast. The cloud of tiny beasts was metamorphosing, becoming thick. Each insect clutched at the next, holding fast with their claws and jaws. Working together, they became a stretchy, writhing net.
Arms and legs frantic, Barra fought through the ever-thickening mesh like she was swimming upstream through sap. Finally, she splashed through the amalgam and burst out. The bough from which she’d just fallen was close. She reached for it. Pain shot through the tips of her shattered claws as she shredded bark before managing a grip.
Barra hauled herself back up onto the bough and was running again before she was even conscious of it. She glanced over her shoulder and saw the disentangling mesh of insects was slow to follow, unable to detach from one another quickly.
Barra went vertical, heading for the Loft while she had the chance. Hot blood in her veins, she ran and climbed like never before. She didn’t look back again until she crossed into the Loft. Looking down through the dense branches, she was positive she spied the insects hiding in the shadows. But they didn’t follow her. Cautiously, she waited. She stealthed, camouflaging herself with her specialized fur.
“Why’d they stop?” she thought as she paced, ready to run, but curious.
It wasn’t unusual for branches in the Loft to settle, creak, and crack, and sometimes for no obvious reason they snapped. That’s probably all it was, that sound, but Barra was away in a flash.
Halfway home, Barra thought, “At least I have a good excuse for being late.”
About Aaron Safronoff:
Aaron Safronoff was born and raised in Michigan where he wrote his first novella, Evening Breezes. In his early twenties, he moved to California to attend culinary school. He fell in love with the Bay Area and has never considered leaving, although he did eventually leave the school.
During his ten years in the games industry, he worked at various levels and for several disciplines including quality assurance, production, and design. All the while he was writing a novel, short stories, plays, and poetry. His career in design introduced him to amazingly intelligent, fun, and creative people, many of whom he considers family today.
Safronoff self-published, Spire, in 2011, and won the Science Fiction Discovery Award for the same in the summer of 2012. By the end of that year he decided to drop everything and free fall into fiction. In the following three months he completed work on the sequel to Spire, Fallen Spire, edited Evening Breezes, and published both.
Today, Safronoff is co-founder and Chief Storyteller of Neoglyphic Entertainment and working on his fifth novel, the second book of the Sunborn Rising series. In his spare time, Safronoff enjoys reading a variety of authors, Philip K. Dick, Cormac McCarthy, and Joe Abercrombie among them. He enjoys living near the ocean, playing and watching hockey, and video games. He has a deep love of music and comedy.
There is a tour wide giveaway for the blog tour of Sunborn Rising. These are the prizes you can win:
– 5 signed paperbacks of Sunborn Rising by Aaaron Safronoff
For a chance to win, enter the rafflecopter below:
This blog tour is organized by Lola’s Blog Tours. The blog tour runs from 27 June till 10 July, you can view the tour schedule here.
Thanks so much for being part of the tour! I recently read this one myself and I totally agree with you! I also gave it a 4 star, but it was close to 5 star. I love the art and the world building and the art really helped to visualize things. I did think it got a bit confusing at first when I was still trying to remember all the new names and words, but eventually it got easier. I did notice the head hopping, but didn’t mind too much in this type of book.
The artwork is so stunning and I was excited every time I found another picture, it really helps bring the world alive and makes for a fun reading experience. And yes the friendship between the three characters was awesome to read about and I liked how they all were different.
When I got the tour request for this book I started googling it and quickly found the website, by then I knew I not only would agree to tour this book, but also had to read it myself and I am glad I did. I really like how the site gives readers a taste of the artwork and the book already. And I am really curious about the upcoming video game. Glad to hear you enjoyed this one! Great review!
What a fantastic stop! And great to hear all the wonderful reactions to the book as a whole, from cover to website 😛 . Wicked sick.
Ok so this sounds right up my alley (obviously) This world sounds brilliant, the story sounds wonderful and OMG those illustrations!! ♥♥ I’m glad you warned us that the language and world-building was really complex but as an adult high fantasy lover, I’m sure I’ll enjoy this just as much as you did! Adding this to my tbr shelf now 😀
Oh I forgot to ask: is the giveaway US only? I didn’t want to enter if it was but if it’s US/CA or International let me know and I’ll come back and enter!
According to the email Lola sent me with this tour info, it’s international. I’ll have to add that to the post – thanks for pointing it out!
I’m blown away by this review. Thank you!
Not giving away any spoilers, or anything like that, but Jaeden appears pretty early in terms of the trilogy as a whole. 😛 The reason for her abrupt arrival should feel more clear in book 2 — currently titled, Wake — and also, satisfying. You can always yell at me later if it doesn’t.
Oh, this is good news. I was shocked by her abrupt arrival as well. 🙂 Looking forward to book 2.
This sounds amazing. And I totally stole that pic of their world to use as my phones wallpaper ?
It does have some great illustrations! The two issues you pointed out are probably two of the main reasons I end up not enjoying a book, so this is one I’ll probably skip. Great review, though, it really helped me figure out if it was a book I’d be interested in, or who I would tell about it.
Oh wow, those pictures are beyond gorgeous! This sounds like something my younger cousins may enjoy so I’ll pass along the book info to them, thanks!!