Early Review: Hidden Sun by Jaine Fenn (Shadowlands #1)


Hidden Sun by Jaine Fenn // VBC ReviewHidden Sun (Shadowlands #1)
Jaine Fenn
Published: Sept. 4, 2018 (Angry Robot)
Purchase: Book Depository or Amazon
Review Source: copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

Reviewed by: Beth

Rating (out of 5): 4 stars

Rhia is…unconventional, to say the least. She is a noble lady—but one who spurns the idea of a conventional marriage, because she knows that a conventional man would not allow his wife to continue with her scientific studies. She is also the acting head of household, as her brother disappeared the night a young lady was murdered. When she hears that her brother has been located, she decides to join the party going to fetch him, figuring she can see to her brother and her studies at the same time.

When her path crosses with a skyborn who is only half-bonded, one who has no real history other than the one created for her at an orphanage, the two of them will do whatever it takes to get Rhia’s brother healed and to escape those chasing them—even if that leaves someone dead.

The world in this book is intriguing. The idea that there are shadowlands and skylands all encompassed within the same world, each having their own peoples, cultures, etc. is interesting. This particular book dealt primarily within the shadowlands themselves, and as is the case in real life as well, each shadowland (basically a territory) has different landscapes, plants, and animals. Fenn did a good job imagining these, particularly the plants—similar to ones we might know, but often with a deadly variation. It will be interesting to see if further books spend time in the skylands, giving the reader an opportunity to experience the differences to be found there as well.

As with the differences among creatures and plants, those inhabiting the shadow- and skylands are different as well. The shadowkin suffer under the intense heat of the planet and seem to be the most like a standard mortal as we know them. Those from the skylands are the “other,” mortal until they reach a certain age, and get “bonded” at which time (if they survive) their body changes so that they need different foods, and the sun makes them thrive. In an interesting twist, the skykin leave their young with orphanages in the shadowlands, to raise them until they are ready to bond. These differences made for interesting contrasts in characters, though we spend most of our time with Rhia and other shadowkin. I found those within the book interesting, though not completely compelling. For example, while I like Rhia, I didn’t really feel a connection with her. Same with most of the others. I’m hoping that will change in book two, where the story should allow for more characterization and less worldbuilding.

That brings me to the story itself. It was interesting, and I liked it, but it’s not one that I would feel the need to add book two to my “read immediately upon publishing” list. Even within fantasy, things need to remain plausible—explainable—and (no spoilers) there were a few things that happened without any explanation. For example, there is a relationship that shall go unnamed, in which the connection seems to be instantaneous, but based on at least one of the characters’ background, seemed very…unrealistic. A few more small cases such as that, plus the lack at attachment to the characters, and that left me enjoying the possibilities within the world created but left wanting more. Again, I do hope that the second book will have the opportunity to explore these things in further detail, because the overall premise really is interesting.

Hidden Sun is worth reading. It’s interesting and is a good start to what I hope will be a great series. There are so many great possibilities, and *fingers crossed* they will be realized in the future!

Sexual content: none

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