Thursday, October 13, 2016

"Star of the Morning (Nine Kingdoms, #1)" by Lynn Kurland

I'm 90% sure this was a Goodreads recommendation, as I can't recall anyone I know that read it. It's put in the category of fantasy romance, so I was expecting something like a historical romance in a fantasy setting... and it really wasn't. I'm still perplexed by the label, as yes, there is an extremely slow-building romance in this book, but there isn't any kissing (except of hands). Mainly, the plot feels more like a YA fantasy with some adult tropes thrown in- but keep in mind that this is the first of a trilogy, so it may get more adult-oriented later on.

Because I was expecting a heavily romantic fantasy, I was continually confused as to why there were no romance-y subplots going on. Instead, this book focuses on Morgan, who is trying to get a magical blade to the king of Neroche, and the king of Neroche and his archmage brother, who are trying to find someone who can wield the magic sword that they possess, since Adhemar's (the king of Neroche's) magic has failed. From what I've read so far, the world of the Nine Kingdoms is a relatively familiar fantasy land (there are mentions of elves and dwarves), but I found myself charmed by it nonetheless.

The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'Darkness covers the north, since the black mage has begun his assault on the kingdom of Neroche. Legend has it that only the two magical swords held by Neroche's king can defeat the mage. Now the fate of the Nine Kingdoms rests in the hands of a woman destined to wield one of those blades...
'In this land of dragons and mages, warrior maids and magical swords, nothing is as it seems. And Morgan will find that the magic in her blood brings her troubles she cannot face with a sword-and a love more powerful than she has ever imagined.'

There were some elements of this story that seemed a bit off to me. One of the stories of a friendship Morgan gained through fending off male attackers, and then allowing another male (who was a stranger to her) to buy her a drink afterwards seemed more than a bit odd. However, she doesn't always seem the smartest girl in the Nine Kingdoms, so I was willing to let that pass. If I see a review touting her as a Mary Sue after this, I might laugh, because although she seems to be "the best" with swords, and picks up magic like it's magic or something (forgive that awkward phrase), she doesn't catch on to things that quickly, and I found her rather gullible.

Miach, the archmage, is probably one of the more interesting characters in this book. I was disappointed that Morgan was really the only female character, but given the plot I was somewhat unsurprised. Miach almost makes up for it- he never lets his "masculinity" get threatened by Morgan's supremacy with blades, despite everyone else being irked by it. Even when Morgan challenges him outright, trying to bait him into acting like everyone else, he refuses to fall for it. He came close to becoming another of my favorite characters, but I'm waiting until the next book to pass judgement on him.

Star of the Morning is a fantasy that isn't particularly light or heavy, nor does it linger on romance overmuch. Instead, it reads more like the perfect diversion for someone weary of the world events right now, or maybe just the U.S. election. In any case, you'll find plenty to love if traditional fantasy appeals to you- magic, enchanted objects, and naturally, horses. If you like fantasy tinged with romance that has the potential to get more romance-infused in the future, you might consider this book for your next read.

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars for a comfortingly traditional fantasy with unusual characters!

Age Advisory: Ages 14+ for fantasy violence, mentions of child-murder, and two adults acting smitten.

Page Count: 336 pages

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