Title: Race to the Sun
Author: Rebecca Roanhorse
Publisher: Disney Book Group / Rick Riordan Presents
Publication date: January 14, 2020
Length: 256 pages
Genre: Middle grade fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Lately, seventh grader Nizhoni Begay has been able to detect monsters, like that man in the fancy suit who was in the bleachers at her basketball game. Turns out he’s Mr. Charles, her dad’s new boss at the oil and gas company, and he’s alarmingly interested in Nizhoni and her brother, Mac, their Navajo heritage, and the legend of the Hero Twins. Nizhoni knows he’s a threat, but her father won’t believe her.
When Dad disappears the next day, leaving behind a message that says “Run!”, the siblings and Nizhoni’s best friend, Davery, are thrust into a rescue mission that can only be accomplished with the help of Diné Holy People, all disguised as quirky characters. Their aid will come at a price: the kids must pass a series of trials in which it seems like nature itself is out to kill them. If Nizhoni, Mac, and Davery can reach the House of the Sun, they will be outfitted with what they need to defeat the ancient monsters Mr. Charles has unleashed. But it will take more than weapons for Nizhoni to become the hero she was destined to be . . .
Timeless themes such as the importance of family and respect for the land resonate in this funny, fast-paced, and exciting quest adventure set in the American Southwest.
What fun! Race to the Sun is the middle grade children’s adventure novel that we absolutely needed!
Written by the talented Rebecca Roanhorse, Race to the Sun uses Navajo mythology in an epic quest full of danger and trials. Main characer Nizhoni, a 7th grader who wants to be special, finds herself able to sense monsters — a gift which becomes crucial when her father goes missing.
Accompanied by younger brother Mac and best friend Davery, these three tweens must navigate the American Southwest through landmarks both real and fantastical, facing down monsters and accepting assistance from legendary characters such as Spider Woman, Yellow Corn Girl, and the Sun himself.
Along the way, the children learn lessons about bravery, sacrifice, loyalty, and the importance of their roots and their connection to their people’s past.
(It’s also an understated but quite effective premise to have the bad guy being the head of an oil company that wants to exploit ancestral clan powers to help his frakking business!)
The adventure skips along quickly, with moments of scary breathlessness as well more humorous interludes and moments of sadness and loss. All are woven together into a quest story that never flags, throwing in unexpected twists and turns as well as moments of grace and insight.
Race to the Sun is part of Disney’s Rick Riordan Presents imprint, described on Rick Riordan’s website as:
Our goal is to publish great middle grade authors from underrepresented cultures and backgrounds, to let them tell their own stories inspired by the mythology and folklore of their own heritage. Over the years, I’ve gotten many questions from my fans about whether I might write about various world mythologies, but in most cases I knew I wasn’t the best person to write those books. Much better, I thought, to use my experience and my platform at Disney to put the spotlight on other great writers who are actually from those cultures and know the mythologies better than I do. Let them tell their own stories, and I would do whatever I could to help those books find a wide audience!
This is a fitting home for Race to the Sun, as I can see this book absolutely being a hit for kids who’ve read and loved the Percy Jackson books and are eager for more tales of heroes and legends and the ordinary kids who find hidden gifts inside themselves.
I also think it’s important that both Native and non-Native young readers have the opportunity to be exposed to mythologies beyond the Greek and Roman that are taught in school. Race to the Sun does this in an engaging, authentic way without ever making it feel like being force-fed something educational.
Highly recommended for middle grade readers and their parents, teachers, and anyone else who appreciates seeing well-written, engrossing stories with multicultural perspectives end up in the hands of excited readers!
16 thoughts on “Book Review: Race to the Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse”
Great review! All those Rick Riordan presents sound so good, I should pick more of those up!
They really do sound good! I’m not much drawn to middle grade books these days, but I may want to check out a few more of these as well. 🙂
So glad you enjoyed this one, Lisa, it’s one I’d really like to get to! I’m always on the look out for more stories inspired by First Nations culture that are told by people from those communities, so this is one I definitely need to try this year. 🙂 Great review!
Have you read Rebecca Roanhorse’s adult fiction? The two books are excellent!
Yes, I really liked Trail of Lightning! I need to read the second book asap. 🙂
It’s good! I can’t wait to hear when #3 will be ready!
but she is not from the community that this book is supposed to be representing and a lot of people who are think it is disrespectful to them and don’t recommend it read this https://americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com/2020/01/rebecca-roanhorses-race-to-sun-review.html if you want to know what they think.
Thanks for sharing the link. I wasn’t aware of the controversy when I read the book, but I’ve been hearing more about it since.
I love that Roanhorse is branching out into different age ranges. I don’t personally read MG, but for the right age group, this sounds really good😁
That’s about how I felt — the only MG I’ve read lately has been by authors I love from other works.
This sounds like a great fantasy. I love that it’s fast-paced and an adventure story. I’m definitely going to see if I can get this at the library.
I hope you enjoy it!
What an action-packed adventure and fantasy! You had me right away with their heritage. Will check this out. Thanks for the recommendation!
I hope you enjoy it!
I have some fantasy readers in my family that will love this. I’m not much of a fantasy reader, but I will pass along what you have to say. Thanks for the review.
I hope they enjoy it!