SPFBO Finalist Review: A Tale of Stars and Shadow by Lisa Cassidy

45555280._sy475_Getting a bit more reading done, with all this not leaving the house stuff.

Dumnorix princess and born warrior, Talyn Dynan was the finest fighter of her generation. With her Callanan partner at her side, she was invincible, reckless, a death-knell to their enemies. But after her partner is torn away from her, Talyn is left broken, wracked with guilt and unable to regain the confidence she once had. Could an unexpected mission to the mysterious country of Mithranar, home of the magical winged folk, be the thing that saves her? Or will the danger and secrets she finds there finally break her completely?

The Shadowhawk lives a life in the shadows. Constantly hunted for his criminal exploits, yet desperate to help the human folk of Mithranar who are oppressed by their winged folk rulers, he haunts the streets of Dock City. The arrival of a foreign warrior threatens to upset the carefully balanced life he leads, but when she begins to offer a hope for the humans he’s only ever dreamed of, can he risk trusting her?

And unbeknownst to both, a mysterious foe stalks the dark corners of Dock City. One that answers to a single purpose…

“Yes, Captain, it’s very important we keep the pretty winged prince alive. He’s critical to the wellbeing of Mithranar, what with all the women and the partying.”

I really quite enjoyed this one! I didn’t know what to expect because I hadn’t really read up on it beforehand, but it grabbed my attention and held right on!

This is the story of Talyn Dynan, who was once a part of an elite fighting unit known as the Callanan. When her partner died unexpectedly, Talyn left the Callanan and became a Kingshield, sworn to protect the regal Dumnorix family (of which she is also a part). She receives a mission to travel to Mithranar, a country made up of winged people, and the humans whom they oppress. Her task is to guard Prince Cuinn, the youngest prince of the royal family. Cuinn is not expected to ever take the throne, and is known for being a playboy. Talyn is surprised to learn that instead of the unit of winged people she expects in the unit that she leads, she is told to pick from the human criminals in the Dock City prison. It’ll be hard work getting this unit in good shape, but Talyn takes her job very seriously.

Meanwhile, we have the Shadowhawk, a mysterious figure who lives in the shadows of Dock City. A little like Robin Hood, he steals from the winged folk and gives it to the poor humans of Dock City. Talyn’s arrival makes him curious about her, and Talyn is similarly curious about him. Perhaps they can work together to make the lives of the humans of Dock City just a little better.

Talyn is a great character who is easy to cheer for. She is dealing with a profound grief following the death of her Callanan partner, and yet she doesn’t let that stop her from doing her job to the best of her ability. Talyn takes charge of her unit of the WingGuard, and despite their being more or less a group of riffraff, she trains them. The unit itself is full of great characters who all grow over the course of the book. Tiercelin, the lone winged folk who was assigned to Talyn’s unit, is probably my favorite member of it. The winged people are very stuck up, and it takes a lot to make them a bit more… down to earth. Tiercelin starts out as a character that, just by his nature, you probably dislike, as he is part of the race of oppressors. By the end, he was my favorite character.

It was well written, well edited, and flowed well. I picked it up before bed most nights and ended up reading it until well past the time I should have gone to sleep. It was full of ups and downs, things that poked me in the feels, or made me angry. I tried guessing the identity of the Shadowhawk as soon as we met him, really. It could be anyone really, but as the story goes on, and you learn more about everyone, you realize it can’t be this person or that person. In the end, I was surprised by the reveal, but in a way that I wasn’t expecting.

This one checked a lot of boxes for me:

  • Mysterious character whose identity I need to guess, and will guess, with varying levels of success, for the entire length of this story.
  • The main character is an older woman, and a powerful one (in a few different ways), in a society where women aren’t equals. Doesn’t take any of the shit she’s expected to take. Commanding officer has no idea what to make of her.
  • Talyn is in an established relationship already, and the events of the story don’t seem to strain it whatsoever. Her and her lover exchange letters while she’s gone.
  • Rag-tag group of misfits better themselves and become badass. And friends. Or, perhaps more like…
  • A found family.

And so, if you dig any of these sorts of things, this one will likely check your boxes too! This one had me doing a 3am trip to the internet in order to purchase the next book in the series. Who knows when I’ll have time to read it, but goddamn it, I’ll get there. Because I need more of this series in my life. 8.5/10 stars.

Finalist Score:

Kristen: 8.5
Esme: 8.7

Average: 8.6

SPFBO Final Score: 8.5/10

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