A Star Reckoner’s Lot is one of the more original, inventive Fantasy novels I have read in some time. The magic system is of particular interest since while its inner workings are kept vague (and while that’s not a criticism I think it would be nice to know the mechanics of it a little better), it’s rooted in astronomy – power is given by the stars and planets, and it can be favorable or not – in fact, drawing a lot can go very badly indeed. This additional element of risk is deeply appealing to me – I don’t enjoy overpowered characters as a rule, and magic as a no-fuss-no-muss solution to everything bores the pants off me. The main character having to seriously weigh up whether or not she should use her magic before doing so is something I’d like to see more of in general. The antagonists are (mostly) Divs, which seem to be Iranian mythological Demons who spread plague and sickness, versus the Star Reckoners who are sworn to kill them.
I’m so used to pseudo-medieval Europe at this point that I have come to pretty much expect it in a Fantasy novel, so the ancient Iranian setting was a nice change. My knowledge of Iran’s myths and legends is practically nonexistent, so it was entirely unfamiliar and fascinating to read. There was everything you would expect from an ancient desert setting, but also some trippy sequences out of left field that were Alice-in-Wonderland level weird and entertaining. Drake is careful to keep some variation in the setting, including forest and coastal areas which prevents us getting too bogged down in endless sand dunes.
The characters are interesting, well written and deeply flawed. I am particularly fond of Waray, a mischievous, bloodthirsty and oddly vulnerable half-Div who spends the majority of the novel fighting against her own nature. The overarching plot is engaging and well written but also dense and fast-moving, so be prepared for that. There are also genuine eyebrow-raising surprises to be had, including a twist that was well-foreshadowed but I did not see coming at all.
One criticism I do have is in some overly complex word choices that pop up occasionally and stick out like a sore thumb where a simpler word would be more effective and make for smoother reading. Rather than adding to the atmosphere, it jarred me out of it – I love to learn new words, but when I needed to look a word or two up in this case I found that it didn’t really add anything of value to the sentence. Sometimes it detracted from it, feeling more like big words for the sake of big words – this needs work, I think.
Overall though, a lovely experience that I would recommend to anyone who is looking for something a little different. This is no Hero’s Journey.
/r/Fantasy Bingo Squares
- A Desert Setting
- Features a Non-Human Protagonist
- Writer of the Day