By Elizabeth Wein
Available now from Open Road Media
Read my review of The Winter Prince
The first three books of the Lion Hunters series switch focus between three members of a family: Medraut, then his legitimate half-sister Goewin, and then his son Telemekos. This means that although the books build on each other, they also stand fairly well on their own. (The last two books focus on Telemekos and should be read as a duology.)
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The start of the series plays with Arthurian mythology, but the series does not stick to a traditional path. THE SUNBIRD takes place in Aksum, now known as Ethiopia. Telemekos is half-British and half-Aksumite, but he is still accomplished at hiding in plain sight despite his distinctive pale hair. It is that skill that causes the Emperor to recruit him. Plague is spreading through Europe, and quarantine has been instituted to protect Aksum. But there are those who would take this as a chance to make money on the black market, no matter the risk of spreading disease.
In THE SUNBIRD, Elizabeth Wein skillfully weaves together an espionage adventure with a coming of age and the story of a broken but loving family. Medraut does not speak, and Goewin is a princess of Britain first, grooming her nephew (who is unknowingly the heir apparent). Fans of her breakout novels CODE NAME VERITY and ROSE UNDER FIRE will not be surprised at the depth of emotion in THE SUNBIRD nor the exploration of darker themes.
This historical fantasy will appeal to fans of Megan Whalen Turner and Jennifer A. Nielsen, which also feature clever and secretive young boys having adventures with consequences for entire nations. I do recommend reading THE WINTER PRINCE and A COALITION OF LIONS first. It is not necessary to understand THE SUNBIRD, but it makes the experience richer. Plus, they're also terrific novels. This series is criminally underrated.