It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single Aztec-like ruler in possession of sun-control powers, must be in want of choosing a wife and human-sacrificing all the other princesses to the gods. So starts the Mesoamerican-inspired world of Lani Forbes’s breakout debut The Seventh Sun. As new Chicome king, Prince Ahkin pledges to uphold his people’s pagan rituals, but fears the sun is literally going down on his watch. He’s soon besotted by water-wielding princess Mayana. She struggles to reconcile the beauty of her culture with her revulsion to human sacrifices. Law and grace collide like elemental powers in this rich tale, whose author keeps taut yet luxuriant focus on mythology and setting. Final surprises come fast yet bring enough closure to coronate the Age of the Seventh Sun trilogy.
Best for: Older teen readers, fans of fantasy romance meeting grim realities.
Discern: Heroes assume gods and goddesses truly exist and intervene in people’s lives; self-cutting releases natural-borne magical abilities by people’s blood; brutal sacrifices are described at a distance, involving animals and even human beings; frequent sensuality, including deep kissing and bare body descriptions, but lust and premarital sexual activity are discouraged.