Let me begin by telling you a story of my own. Once upon a time, on a spring break not too long ago, my boyfriend contracted appendicitis. We didn't know it was appendicitis, though, rather thinking it was a case of food poisoning brought on by a sketchy breakfast at a Best Western. (I still have not entirely ruled out the possibility that the breakfast was, somehow, involved.) As we thought he would get better in a day or two, we didn't go to the hospital and instead flew six hours home, where he was advised by the CVS Minute Clinic to stay in bed. Ten days later, we were in the ER because he still wasn't better. By this point, all they could really do was put him on heavy antibiotics because his whole abdomen was so inflamed that they couldn't operate. I spent about a week and a half lying on a hospital bed next to him, and during that time I read Intisar Khanani's book Thorn, and it took my breath away.
The boyfriend lived (and, about three months after his appendix ruptured, he finally had it removed) and I fell in love with Khanani's writing. When Sunbolt came out, it was obvious that I had to read it. And I have to say, Khanani has done it again. While significantly shorter than Thorn, Sunbolt is also a thing of beauty, and if you look at its reviews on Goodreads, you can see that pretty much everyone agrees with that. It's very fast-paced, jumping from one event to the next, but it never actually seems "jumpy" or choppy. Everything flows very well. The heroine, Hitomi, is an orphan who possesses magical powers that she has to hide to avoid becoming a slave. She works to help free the island of Karolene from the clutches of a dark mage along with the rest of the League of Shadows, led by the mysterious figure known only as "the Ghost." During an operation to save the lives of a powerful family, Hitomi is captured and begins looking for a way to escape.
Let me tell you, Hitomi has the worst luck when it comes to escape attempts. Every single time she escapes, she gets captured again. Eventually, she is given to one monster and imprisoned with another, and they have to work together to get free. The world is rife with werewolves, vampires, and other non-human creatures, though they are referred to by alternate names. I wasn't sure how this would work out, not being a fan of the werewolf/vampire craze that's swept young adult fiction lately, but this isn't really focused on those aspects. And towards the end, with Val (a creature whose like I haven't encountered before) I was really, really rooting for them. I am dying to see more of Hitomi and Val. I hope he shows up in future books. I wasn't sure that Sunbolt was going to hold up to Thorn, but it definitely did--however, I attribute that more to the second half of the book. The first half, while enjoyable, was not as good as the second. Hitomi's strength and spunk really come through in the second half, and she also has to face the consequences of her actions, which were masterfully handled.
Anyway, Khanani is a fabulous writer, and I can't wait to see more of her work.
5 stars out of 5.