In a galaxy far, far away is a unique blue world composed mostly of a single massive ocean, upon which island flotillas are the only forms of land. But upon these flotillas are rainforests of mighty trees reaching into the sky, housing a thriving ecosystem of the many species living in the trees on the world of Cerulean.
A young Listlespur named Barra has once again snuck into her father’s study. He has been gone for some time, so coming here is one of the few places she can feel at peace and remember him. She finds her father’s journals, ones that have never been seen before. Bursting with excitement, she begins reading.
The world of Cerulean, deep within the trees, is a somewhat dark place and this is how it has always been, it is thought. Within the journals, Barra learns of a secret blight, a mysterious plague. The trees thrive on water and light, and this creeping vine has been staunching and strangling this flow bit by bit, gaining more and more territory, and turning it into a dark and withered place. Barra has always suspected something, and here is the proof from her father, who told the Elders, and yet nothing has been done about it.
Along with the help of two close friends, a wiry Rugosic named Tory and a cute and cuddly Kalalabat named Plicks, Barra begins her investigation, traveling to unfamiliar locales. They also pass down into the dangerous—and forbidden—Middens. It is there that they see physical proof of the black vine plague taking over the trees. Suddenly, they are attacked and do their best to evade getting infected. Before they know it, they are plunging down beneath the Fall and into another part of their world that they have only ever heard legends about. There they will learn many wonders, face new enemies, as well as gaining new friends, and hopefully find a way to combat the plague. That is if they can ever make it back to their home.
When reading Sunborn Rising, one cannot help but think of Avatar, with this strange world of colorful creatures. But this story goes so much more further with its characters and plot than the movie ever did. The author does a great job of creating not just an ecosystem with the trees and flora, but showing in the ways of the character’s lives: in their food, how they talk, the language they use, the world they live in that is influenced and in many ways controlled by the arboreal world. It also shows in the vocabulary and words Aaron Safronoff uses that adds to the whole ambiance of the novel.
The book also features 40 full-color works of art and 80 unique illustrations that add more to the setting and feel of the book. Readers are shown what the colorful characters and environments actually look like, while the illustrations provide important details that help to get the thoughts solidly in the reader’s head. The way the book is written, it could be aimed and enjoyed by a middle reader, but also by adults as it does what every fantasy book should: present a unique world with interesting characters and a fascinating story that keeps the reader hooked from beginning to end.
Originally written on February 7, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.
Originally published in the San Francisco Book Review.
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