UNCONQUERABLE SUN (The Sun Chronicles #1), by Kate Elliot (DNF 62%)

I had high expectations for this novel – maybe too high – based on the story’s premise: an interstellar backdrop where conflicting powers measure their strength through politics and open war, where intrigue between influential families leads toward a constant shift of alliances and betrayals, while at the center of all this we follow a main character described as the female equivalent of Alexander the Great – the potential for a Dune-like epic was irresistible, but unfortunately Unconquerable Sun did not fulfill its promises as I hoped.

The Republic of Chaonia has managed to subdue or assimilate most of its enemies, and queen-marshal Eirene built her power-base through military victories and political alliances, a few of these signed though marriage contracts, like the one binding Eirene to Prince Joao and producing the heir, Princess Sun.  Sun is struggling to make a name for herself, moving out of her mother’s encompassing shadow, by taking an active part in Chaonia’s military campaigns, but a sudden shift in the political winds turns her almost overnight into a fugitive, so she must rely on her finely-honed wits, the support of her Companions, and the help of a rival family’s member to regain her rightful place and overthrow an insidious conspiracy enacted by Chaonia’s most dangerous foes.  The other two main POVs in the novel come from Persephone Lee, who unsuccessfully tries to escape her powerful family’s machinations by enrolling in the military academy under an assumed name, and ends up among Sun’s Companions; and from Apama, a pilot in the fleet of the Phene, Chaonia’s main adversaries: this was the most interesting character for me, and one of my main disappointments in the story came from the almost negligible “screen time” allotted to her after she was introduced.

At the start of the book I was intrigued, both by the fascinating background of this vast galactic milieu and by the potential shown by the characters: sadly, after a while it all seemed to turn into a confused and confusing jumble of daring escapes, heated battles and things going spectacularly boom, which might be all right if one wants only *adventure* and a plot-heavy story, but I prefer relatable characters in my reading material, and I soon realized that there was too little of that in this novel. More than once I thought that this story might work better as a movie – and as such it reminded me of The Wachowskis’ Jupiter Ascending, where the action overwhelmed any other consideration – but as a book I found it unfortunately lacking.

The sheer number of characters makes for a distracting experience because there is no time or space to get to know them, or to be able to differentiate between them – which is particularly true for Sun’s Companions –  to the point that any harm befalling them leaves no lingering traces, and even when the story focuses on the main ones, like Sun or Persephone, it’s difficult to see them as people rather than stereotypes. Sun is presented as very determined, but from my point of view she comes off rather as an overbearing spoiled brat, and Persephone – who is strangely given a more detailed focus than the actual main character – is an unpleasant combination of meanness and self-pity, while the author keeps telling us that she is a shrewd operator, mostly by calling her “the wily Persephone” in the title of each chapter where she is the focus. And goodness, does she make a lot of embarrassing mistakes for someone who spent the last few years in the academy being honed for military service!

Despite these problems, which became evident after the first handful of chapters, I kept on reading in the hope that the story would find its footing and become the compelling tale promised by the blurb, but as the page count progressed it became more and more apparent that I would not find what I looked for: even skimming over the most repetitive sequences of Sun & Co. running for their lives and then being involved in a long, drawn-out battle that went on and on and on, I failed to find anything that would hold my interest.  Once the characters started to adopt the less palatable traits of the YA mold, like unnecessary cattiness or insta-lust for anything moving into their field of vision (yes, Persephone, I’m looking right at you…), I knew that Unconquerable Sun would turn into a lost cause: as Sun took over a Chaonian vessel, ousting a seasoned captain to take command of the operations, I knew that this “Mary Sue maneuver” would be the proverbial straw, and decided to put an end to my suffering.

I’m aware that my personal biases are responsible for my negative reaction to this novel, which is the main reason I must warn you to take my opinion with a grain of salt, but when all is said and done, this is certainly not a book for me.

My Rating:

26 thoughts on “UNCONQUERABLE SUN (The Sun Chronicles #1), by Kate Elliot (DNF 62%)

  1. I am sorry that this book was such a disappointment! I was a bit undecided toward this one, because on one hand I have read some interesting things about it but, on the other hand, I always thought that this was one of those books that “I would love or hate it depending mainly on the mood I am once started”. But after reading your review I think I would pass it on. I strongly prefer characters driven stories and I am growing tired of YA so I think this would not right for me, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I usually love the author’s works and yet I couldn’t get into it the two times I tried. I thought it could be me mood or pandemic brain fog. But this review makes me questions whether to try again.
    x The Captain

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh too bad! You got pretty far, though, I’m not sure I would have lasted so long. One of my pet peeves is falling in love with a character only to be disappointed that they only play a small role, so I feel your frustration.

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  4. That’s disappointing! I had some high hopes for this one too, but the review copy that I was supposed to be receiving never arrived so it got put out of mind – not I wonder if I might have dodged a bullet! As I recall the last book I read by her had some of these weird shifts of focus as well, but I actually enjoyed it (it was a fantasy novel though, Black Wolves). I had to laugh at your term “Mary Sue maneuver” though, as I know exactly what you meant by it…I might have to steal that one day! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Feel free to use The Maneuver as much as you want: it’s not copyrighted 😉
      I might give a peek at some of her fantasy, because here the ideas were good, although not explored well, so there might be hope for me with this author, who knows?


  5. Looks like for a change I was the more forgiving one here… I did finish this book, despite sharing all of your gripes – man, Persephone was just a character I couldn’t stand! And Sun herself was not much better. I persevered mostly because I wanted to see if there’s indeed the advertised Alexander the Great somewhere beneath the YA… The answer is no 😂

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  6. I had to really push to get 20% of the way in, then was happily distracted by the action and ended up quite enjoying it 🙂 However, I really liked Persephone – if I hadn’t, I’d definitely have bailed as Sun is such a pain in the ass; I appreciated having a POV that confirmed the princess was an arrogant brat.

    Apama was so underused that in spite of being my favourite character I would rather she hadn’t appeared as a POV (my pet peeve: a Special Guest POV that seems to exist purely to set something up for later books. Commit to a POV or cut it and so the work differently).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Apama looked to me like the only *real* character in there, and that’s the reason her “cameo role” was more annoying than anything else: it could also have been a way to portray the enemies from an interesting angle, but no, we had to suffer through a lot of Sun’s posturing… SIGH…

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I actually really enjoyed this one, though I did find it took a while to fully bond with the main protagonists. But I can see that if you found them obnoxious, then all the action kicking off around them would be so much noise, because you simply didn’t CARE. I’ve read plenty of books like that in my time – and these days, I generally don’t give them longer than 20%, so I think you were generous in reading as much as you did.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That 20% is usually my turning point, but in this case I kept hoping to see the promised potential finally taking flight, which from my point of view it didn’t. I also have to confess that I moved forward so much because I kept skimming over the oh-so-long ground battle scenes… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I hate not finishing a book, but even worse than that is taking the time to finish it and not get anything in return for that. Sorry to hear this one didn’t work out for you. I’ve yet to try anything by the author so I’ve no clue how it’d work for me, but I do know YA is hit or miss and I tend to very much dislike the stories full of insta-lust, so there’s a strong chance this one wouldn’t be for me, either. Thanks for the review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re very welcome! 🙂
      And yes, there is always that slight feeling of guilt when I have to abandon a book I can’t connect with, but on the other hand I’m aware of the huge amount of potentially better books waiting on the sidelines, so the guilt is usually short lived… 😉


  9. Well, I have to applaud you for giving this such a good chance. I would have had to put it down long before 60% as my reading would simply grind to a halt. I haven’t the patience these days to finish books that I’m not enjoying.
    Lynn 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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