1. Novels, 1.7 Gender Swapped, Alexander - Fiction Book, Reviews

Book review – Collaboration: “Unconquerable Sun” (The Sun Chronicles # 1) by Kate Elliott

Hello everyone, thank you for being on Alessandro III di Macedonia. Today I’m talking about a reading that goes outside my usual canons, in fact I’ll talk about:

Unconquerable Sun (The Sun Chronicles # 1)

by Kate Elliott

Uncorrected proof ISBN: 978-1250761859

Tor Books, 2020, 566 pages

Uncorrected Advance Reading Copy

Princess Sun has finally come of age.

Growing up in the shadow of her mother, Eirene, has been no easy task. The legendary queen-marshal did what everyone thought impossible: expel the invaders and build Chaonia into a magnificent republic, one to be respected—and feared.

But the cutthroat ambassador corps and conniving noble houses have never ceased to scheme—and they have plans that need Sun to be removed as heir, or better yet, dead.

To survive, the princess must rely on her wits and companions: her biggest rival, her secret lover, and a dangerous prisoner of war.

Kate Elliott is the author of twenty-five fantasy and science fiction novels, including her New York Times bestelling YA series, beginning with Court of Fives. She lives in Hawaii.

Classificazione: 3 su 5.

Reading time: from 12 July to 23 November 2020.

Advance Reading Copy sent to me by the publisher Tor Books in exchange for an honest review.

I approached this book because it was defined as a gender-swapped Alexander the Great in a space opera. I am not passionate about science fiction and it was difficult to enter into this reading for me: between terminology, places, technology, history and many characters almost divided into castes, it took me a while to enter the story. The idea of reversing the sexes of people with respect to Alessandro exists and is respected:

  • Alexander becomes princess and Sun heir and here too Sun is homosexual;
  • Philip is now played by the queen marshal of the Republic of Chaonia, Eirene and she too has a false eye;
  • Olympiad here becomes Sun’s father, Prince João, is one of the consorts of the queen who is about to marry Marduk Lee, and is a Gatoi, a civilization of semi-barbarian fighters and this makes Sun a half-breed;
  • Hephaestion here becomes Hestia “Hetty”;
  • the Boukephalas is Sun’s ship;
  • the Macedonian kingdom becomes the Republic of Chaonia which thanks to Eirene becomes an independent and powerful state on the borders of the League of Yele (the Greek city-states) and the empire of Phene (the Persian Empire);
  • there are several solar systems: among the many there are that of Molossia and that of Troy. The latter on the old maps is called Ilion;
  • at one point in the book there is talk of a Guild of prostitute girls named Campaspe.

The whole story is enriched by many other characters, history of families and empires that are inspired by the history of ancient Greece but in a modern key – there is also a sort of almost omniscient program called Channel Idol – with intrigues, alliances, games of power and hierarchies. We will also follow Sun’s story, her companions and that of the cees who are the companions of the companions. Perse’s cee-cee is the beautiful and fashionable Tiana. The world of Sun is continually in struggle and in tension due to the differences, in fact there are always fights and wars between Chaonians, Gatoi, Phenes and Yele. Let’s not forget the Riders who are a kind of super warriors of the Phene Empire and what everyone sees a Rider everyone sees. Everything is in the hands of the young and promising Sun, just as it was in the hands of Alexander in reality.

It’s set in space and the narration is entrusted to three points of view: Sun’s, that of Persephone “Perse” Lee, of House Lee who is a former cadet who fled to the army to escape the bad influence of his House and in some ways she is the real protagonist of the story even if she only enters the scene at chapter seven; and that of Apama At Sabao, lance and four-armed lieutenant of Phene’s empire who helps to humanize even enemies in the eyes of the reader. The only narrative to speak to us in the first person and in the present is, however, Perse’s and in this way it is she who has the most human, intimate and imperfect voice of what she is experiencing because through her voice we understand fears, uncertainties and all his thoughts. Instead the narratives of Sun and Apama are in the third person and in the past tense. So in my opinion there are two protagonists, Sun and Perse. Sun’s narrative remains, as it were, more general and descriptive altogether and does not bring us as close to Sun as it may have deserved. All the conflicts and difficulties that Sun is facing emerge, but they remain perhaps a little too far away from us.

Love is also present in this book, even if the amorous plots remain marginal and in my opinion to be the first volume is better this way, even if I’m curious to know if and how the story between Perse and Gatoi Zizou will go on. I loved the story of Tiana’s family, of the description of misery and poverty in which her family and those of her village in Repose District, where they look unfiltered and only the richest can afford to buy air filter systems. Tiana’s family will also be important in the second book and I can’t wait to find out how!

There is no shortage of references to an ancient civilization, the Celestial Empire, which echoes mythical and heroic tones, but of which only the almost legendary memory and the technology of the “beacons”, lighthouses that allow instant interstellar travel, as if they were journeys between black holes as far as I understand, but having now disappeared that civilization some lighthouses are blocked and leave some planetary systems isolated. They now have the ability to travel between systems only via the knnu drives which are much slower. This element also enriches the story of the book. In the book there are also current issues treated, such as cloning but also genetic manipulation because the Phene Empire creates “modified” humans, with exoskeletons, four arms and so on.

In short, it’s not easy to extricate yourself in this world, even if it’s well articulated and Elliott extricates himself well in what he creates. The problem is, how she unravels it, I can’t do it. It would have been very useful to have maps, a glossary, a family tree or tables because there is so much in the past of the characters and the story, the present world of the story and the things we discover gradually with the characters themselves and if they had to insert them in the next two books I would be very happy. Despite everything, I must also emphasize that reading this novel in English was more difficult for me than others and represented an additional obstacle for me. But it was a reading that I finished, which I gradually learned to know, in which to extricate myself by helping myself with notes and which in the end I appreciated and fascinated me. The world that Elliott creates is inspired by Alexander the Great but then it has a life of its own and becomes complete. Sun follows Alexander’s best qualities because she too is intelligent, sharp, loyal, courageous and indomitable.

To conclude, after the initial difficulty it is a book full of action, betrayal and intrigue and it always keeps the tension high. I would gladly re-read it if it were also published in Italian too and for sure I will also read the other two of the trilogy because I’m sure the best is yet to come! In the acknowledgments, Dr. Jeanne Reames, a great academic scholar and also a novelist on Alexander the Great, is mentioned!

Thank you very much Tor Books for the review copy!

Good day everyone,

#copiaomaggio #prodottooffertoda Tor Books

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