DAUGHTER OF THE SUN by Effie Calvin (BOOK REVIEW)
Daughter of the Sun is the second book in the Tales of Inthya series, but it works perfectly as a standalone (though it did make me instantly buy the first book once I’d finished!). The world-building is perfect, and straddles that line between intriguing and familiar – we have a fairly standard faux-medieval setting, but it never feels derivative, just comfortable. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of gods of varying importance, who have different (and sometimes very niche) domains, and they interfere with the mortal world as they please. Some are benevolent, and some belong to chaos – and this is where it starts to get interesting.
Our two main characters are Orsina, a knight who is on a god-given quest to oust evil from the land. She’s doing a great job of the ousting, but she just doesn’t seem to be any closer to that one job that will complete her questing so she can return home. Then you have Aelia, a chaos goddess whom Orsina has defeated and trapped in a mortal body. To free herself, she’ll need to find one of her divine siblings – so she persuades Orsina, who doesn’t recognise her mortal form, to escort her on her road trip. Hijinks, as you may expect, ensue. Oh, and the two women seem to find each other very intriguing…
Honestly, this kind of felt like a grown-up Tamora Pierce novel. You’ve got a great lady knight who learns to warm up emotionally, gods who are far too invested in the mortal plains, and a whole lot of adventure and excitement along the way. Even though this is the first time I’ve ever read it, it felt like a cosy old favourite within just a few pages. I absolutely loved the quiet, gradual way that Orsina and Aelia began to feel for each other – it’s as slow-burning as a short novel can be, and felt wholly natural. I loved every bit of their interactions, whether they were comforting, protecting, or simply irritating each other. The story itself is kept moving by the road-trip element of the plot, so there’s never time to get bored before the next episode of adventure begins.
One thing that struck me about this book was the wonderful attitudes to gender and sexuality. It’s so refreshing to read a book where a relationship between people of any gender is perfectly acceptable – it means that none of the obstacles in Orsina and Aelia’s relationship is drawn from their both being women. This leaves so much more space for the actual relationship! It’s also fully accepted that there are more than two genders, with neutroi characters using ‘they/them’ pronouns throughout the book – and characters actually asking for and offering their pronoun choices! Gender is never assumed, despite appearances. (There also seems to be something called ‘The Change’, which allows a couple of any gender to reproduce – this wasn’t particularly relevant to this plot, so wasn’t explained in depth. I’d be interested to see if it pops up more in any other books in this series as it sounds interesting.) The acceptance and warmth in this book was just so lovely to read. There’s no agenda or struggle in the representation – everyone can just be.
Actually, I think ‘warm’ is the word I would use to describe this book. It just made me feel warm and fuzzy inside. I need more books like this. Books with heart, that make me smile, that are full of hope – and also, that have magic and knights and everything else I love about fantasy fiction. You never see this in adult fantasy, where the trend has been that to be modern, it’s got to be dark and gritty. Daughter of the Sun is the opposite of grimdark, and I am HERE for it. I’ll be buying everything Effie Calvin ever writes. Give me fluffy, exciting fantasy forever!