I read A Tale of Stars and Shadow as a judge for the SPFBO contest, as it is one of the few finalists.
When I started this book, I felt a bit underwhelmed. It was well written, with solid characters and a clear plot. But there was nothing really unique about it that drove me on.
But then the 50% mark hit, and it just clicked. It wasn’t a gradual change, it was just sudden. One moment I was persevering, the next I was completely immersed and involved in the action. Brilliant second half!
Talyn Dynan is an incredible warrior who has been involved in multiple elite warrior groups, now part of the Kingshield. She is sent to a different county to train a group of warriors to protect a prince. But in very mysterious circumstances…
There are two PoV characters:
- Predominantly the female lead Captain Dynan. She was interesting and pretty cool. Really came into her own in the second half. She is torn between her duty and the horrors of her past. The fear of former mistakes weighing her down every second of consciousness.
- The other part was the Shadowhawk. A kind of Robin Hood type outlaw, who steals from the rich to give to the poor. In the first half, I yearned for more from him, and I gladly received it! A myserious character who hides his face from all, and fights a daily battle to avoid the winged security.
A key element of this story is the social divide. Between the humans and the winged people, who believe themselves superior, and even separate themselves to live in the great raised citadel, almost like another city. Again this was good at first, but became incredibly interesting beyond the halfway mark.
Easily my favourite part of the story was the camaraderie between Captain Dynan’s trainees. She is hindered by the prejudice winged people at every opportunity, hence being given only criminals to pick from to form a guard. But she knows her duty, and attempts what she can. Surprising the group with genuine kindness and dedication, the bonds slowly grow, and by the end I loved the interactions between characters. I laughed along with them. And I experience genuine worry when their lives hung in the air.
If you start this book and feel slightly bored, persevere! It started as a standard book with little to differentiate it from all others. But by the end it formed its own unique style and I loved it!
So I will give this a 7.5/10. Because of the slow start but great ending! I will definitely be reading the second book of this series, as A Tale of Stars and Shadow ended superbly!