Kai, the newly-crowned queen of Miina, finds her reign threatened by a plague of natural disasters that leave death and destruction in their wake. Are the gods truly angry at the peace between the moon and sunburners, or is something more sinister to blame? Kai's throne and her very life may be forfeit unless she can appease the gods' anger and her peoples' superstitions.
Determined to find a solution, Kai and the Sunburner Prince Hiro embark on an extraordinary and dangerous journey to discover the true cause of the plagues. What they find is an ancient enemy determined to plunge their world into eternal darkness — and one desperate chance to save it.
Sunburner picks up a short time after Moonburner left off. Kai has taken her place as queen, with Hiro as her side, but the sinister prophecy about her rule looks to be coming true. Famine and disease are taking their toll on her people, and it seems the gods themselves aren’t happy with the alliance she’s forged with her old enemies.
Kai and Hiro’s relationship was all but absent from Moonburner. It was an unusual tactic from the author, but it worked. Keeping their romance on the backburner while they dealt with bigger issues made it feel genuine, rather than a shallow infatuation. Now, we finally get to see them together. And what a pairing. I loved seeing Hiro content to take Kai’s side without having to constantly prove his macho credentials. There was no possessive behaviour, no putting her in her place to make himself look like a big man. Theirs was at true partnership, and it showed.
It was a bit of a shame that Kai's relationship her sensei-esque fox Quitsu was a bit surplus to requirements this time around. With Hiro in the picture as Kai's confidant and supporter, Quitsu could have been left out in the cold, but the author managed to keep him in the story and maintain his close relationship with Kai without him feeling like a third wheel. Kai herself was easily one of the best things about this story, keeping it grounded as the odds became increasingly stacked against her. One of my pet peeves in YA fantasy - as much as I love it - are 'sassy' protagonists. I say sassy in inverted commas because, more often than not, I read them as rude, insufferable and arrogant. So it was wonderful to read a strong-willed, fiercely determined character who didn't once insult anyone, threaten them with violence if she didn't get her way or throw a tantrum when someone didn't show her proper respect.
Kai’s best friend Emi was back in Sunburner, much to my delight! This straight-talking, take-no-shit moonburner was one of my favourite characters in the last book. Her burgeoning relationship with bitter sunburner Daarco felt a bit trite at first, but the messages of forgiveness and growth that played out through it made it worthwhile. I had to love Emi putting the arrogant Daarco in his place time and time again!
The story itself – of an age-old war between gods and demons playing out to the detriment of the innocent humans that are caught up in its effects – felt like a huge step up from Moonburner. That’s not to say there was anything wrong with the first book’s story, it’s just that this felt like everything great from that book, turned up to 11. The stakes were higher, the world bigger and the consequences more severe. I loved the idea of the gods being somewhat weak and ineffective. It makes sense of course – they’d relied on the Burners they’d created to fight for and defend them – and was a great twist on the usual trope of the protagonist racing to raise an all-powerful being or uncover a magical MacGuffin to save the day, leaving the characters themselves in the dust. These characters weren’t going to be saved. They had to save themselves.
As for the ending … well, I won’t spoil anything, but it was absolutely note perfect. The story is wrapped up and the characters have come full circle, although the door is open for new stories in this world. And I, for one, will be snapping up any sequels.