A Review By Don Sloan
In Sunborn Rising, author Aaron Safronoff has skillfully woven together an epic tale that at once combines riveting, world-building fantasy with colorful creatures who carry the narrative to new heights at every turn.
As this imaginative story opens, Barra Swiftspur is in the Middens, searching for answers — clues that might ultimately lead to the cause of her father’s disappearance.
Barra’s mother, Brace, has called a meeting of the Council to discuss an insidious threat to their arboreal world — a black, sticky substance called Creepervine. Barra, slipping into the mysterious Middens each day against her mother’s wishes, has most recently been chased by Kudmoths right to her doorstep, thus setting into motion the called Council meeting.
The Council is unconvinced there’s a real threat, so Barra and her two best friends, Plicks and Tory, set off to find the proof they need.
In a fast-moving frenzy of action, the young adventurers find the winged insect menace that chased Barra home the night before. But catching a few as evidence turns out to be harder than they thought. In fact, in their haste to escape a fresh onslaught of the dangerous Kudmoths, they make a series of wrong moves — and wind up in free fall, floating ever closer to the one place they’ve been warned about all their young lives — the Root at the bottom of their world.
This is a taut, well-paced YA thriller, set deep in an ancient forest and peopled with fascinating characters like Barra, whose long tail saves her from many a mishap in the leafy canopy.
The writing in the book is carefully crafted and cinematic, drawing the reader involuntarily into Barra’s dire predicaments:
“Thrashing the nearby foliage with her tail, Barra created a threatening rush of noise ten times bigger than she was. She whip-snapped the bough twice, announcing a challenge. The Kudmoths clicked back at her in a cascade of flipping wings. Knowing she had their collective attention, she bolted through the hole in the trap and ran. The shadowy pool rapidly sublimated into a dark sentient cloud that followed her.”
Grotesque and wondrous creatures await the three friends down at the Root — and the ocean beyond. Gelatinous, playful guardians called Nebules provide invaluable guidance and protection. An Aetherial — older than time — also allies herself with the trio of intrepid bups. And a terrifying foe stands firmly in their way as battle lines are drawn for Cerulean’s very existence.
Can they ever find their way back to their families? Will the Great Forest survive the onslaught of the Creepervine? And, can Barra, Plicks and Tory find a way to save the world as they know it from being overrun with vile creatures that should rightfully inhabit only nightmares?
You’ll spend hours immersed in this excellent fantasy landscape, where ultra-vivid scenes are lavishly illustrated with breathtaking panels showing the action taking place throughout the book. Indeed, they are so rich in color and aspect, they might easily be captured cells straight from a Disney animated film.
At its heart, this story celebrates heroic valor and the unyielding bonds of family and friends in the face of overwhelming odds and black treachery. But it’s also a vibrant action saga that invites the reader to ride along on an epic quest.
Five stars to Sunborn Rising: Beneath the Fall. This is a superb work of fantasy fiction that will stay with you long after you’ve closed the book. It’s a standout among all Young Adult entries in the literary marketplace.
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