SPFBO Review: The Lord of Stariel by A.J. Lancaster

41838393Getting near the end of my slush pile now! It’s happening!!

The Lord of Stariel is dead. Long live the Lord of Stariel. Whoever that is. 

Everyone knows who the magical estate will choose for its next ruler. Or do they? 

Will it be the lord’s eldest son, who he despised? 

His favourite nephew, with the strongest magical land-sense? 

His scandalous daughter, who ran away from home years ago to study illusion? 

Hetta knows it won’t be her, and she’s glad of it. Returning home for her father’s funeral, all Hetta has to do is survive the family drama and avoid entanglements with irritatingly attractive local men until the Choosing. Then she can leave. 

But whoever Stariel chooses will have bigger problems than eccentric relatives to deal with. 

Winged, beautifully deadly problems. 

For the first time in centuries, the fae are returning to the Mortal Realm, and only the Lord of Stariel can keep the estate safe. 

In theory. 

“You think I did this on purpose? You think I lied to you all, used my magic to fool you, all so I could stay here in this crumbling pile and let down my friends back in Meridon, who, I might add, were depending on me coming back as quickly as I could! You think I wanted to be saddled with piles of debt and love-addled teenagers and discussions about the best way to drain fields?”

This is the story of Henrietta Valstar, who is an illusionist working with an acting troupe, happily living her life exiled from her home of Stariel, an estate across the land. But, her father has died, and as tradition states, she returns home for the funeral and a ritual known as ‘The Choosing’. You see, Stariel, while it is not necessarily sentient, is a magical land, and it chooses its own ruler. So, when Choosing day rolls around, Hetta, as well as her brothers and cousins and everyone else in her family, touch a magical stone to see who Stariel chooses. And it’s not her older brother Marius, nor is it her almost-certainly-the-most-qualified-for-this-job cousin Jack. It chooses her.

Meanwhile, Stariel is more than just a magical land, it is a fae land, sitting right on the magical border of Faerie, and with the death of one Lord of Stariel and the new one being not-quite-so-powerful, the fae have plans to take advantage of this fact and come into the human world to enact some fae shenanigans.

This was a very entertaining read, to me! It takes place in a very interesting world, which is not unlike our own. The days of the week are the same, the months are the same. There is electricity, telephones, and cars, but these are fairly new technologies, so this one felt, not Victorian or Steampunk, but sort of adjacent to them at times. Turn of the century-ish. There is of course magic in this world, as the fae are a fairly big presence in this story, though to the humans, they are as much fairy tales as they would be in our world. There is still magic outside of that, however. Hetta has some skill with pyromancy, and is an illusionist by trade, and she is very good at what she does. But, her talent and desire to work magic put her at odds with her father, and so she has been exiled from Stariel for some years.

Before really diving in here, I was under the impression that this was a YA novel, but it is not. The main character is in her twenties, for a start, but there are a couple of love interests present as well who are in their later-ish twenties. Hetta is not a pure virginal flower. She enjoys flirting, and it is fairly heavily implied that she enjoys the thoroughly enjoyable things in life that flirting can lead to. Hetta often speaks her mind, and doesn’t generally take crap from anyone, and as such I cheered for her, and cheered for her hard. I absolutely loved Hetta as a character, which as you can imagine, made this one an easy read for me. I wanted her to win the day, to find out the mystery, to get the guy, to give the antagonists their comeuppance, and all sorts of other good things one wants for a good protagonist.

There is enough romance and potential romance here that I was lead right along in the story hoping that canoodling between people I wanted to canoodle would happen. There are two potential love interests, but I would not consider the relationship between Hetta and her two potential beaus a love triangle, which was nice. I tend to like romances less when there is all sorts of spitefulness and fighting for affections, and whatnot. Usually. Sometimes I am surprised. 😀

It was well written, flowed well, was never boring, so I can safely say that I thoroughly enjoyed The Lord of Stariel. I even bought the sequel about halfway through it, because I think I kind of need more Hetta in my life at this point, and I am going to go ahead and just have that thing. It ends in a way that encourages reading the next book without being a cliffhanger. This one gets a pretty easy 8.5/10 stars from me! And as the book I have enjoyed the most so far, is pretty easily a semifinalist too. ^_^


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