Book Review: Starborn by Lucy Hounsom
A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Series: Book 1 of The Worldmaker Trilogy
Publisher: Tor UK (Paperback: January 28, 2016)
Length: 495 pages
Starborn is the wonderful debut of author Lucy Hounsom, kicking off The Worldmaker Trilogy in style. I found it elegantly written and imaginative, and there’s also a familiar yet down-to-earth vibe that will make it accessible to a wide audience whether you’re an avid reader of fantasy or new to the genre, and whether you’re a teenager or adult.
In Kyndra Vale’s village of Brenwyn, there is an ancient rite of passage. When a young person comes of age, he or she would partake in a meeting with a relic-keeper to find out their true name and the path they are destined for. However, on the day of Kyndra’s ceremony, she receives a strange vision. And when it is her turn to view the relic, it suddenly breaks, putting an end to a centuries-old tradition. Worse, immediately following the incident, Brenwyn is set upon by a Breaking, an unnatural storm that destroys the village.
Frightened and superstitious, the community is quick to blame Kyndra, but before they can act upon their anger, she is whisked away by two mysterious strangers who had come into town the day before. They are Nediah and Brégenne, a pair of bonded Wielders who can harness the power of the sun and moon to do amazing things, and for reasons unknown to Kyndra, they seem to have their eye on her. But while agreeing to be taken to the Wielder’s faraway citadel of Naris may have saved her life, Kyndra also becomes their prisoner. As her visions become worse, the Wielders suspect Kyndra may have some magic of her own, and she is kept from leaving until she can pass a brutal trial to determine the nature of her abilities.
It was easy to become drawn into this world Hounsom has created. As Kyndra travels to Naris with Nediah and Brégenne, snippets of history and magical lore can be gleaned through their conversations. Learning about the Wielders’ powers was fascinating, and the magic was perhaps my favorite part of the book. Based around the energies of the sun and moon, those who can use the former are known as Solars, while those that harness the latter are called Lunars. Often they travel in pairs while working in the field, so that they can watch each other’s backs. For example, Nediah is a Solar who can protect Brégenne, a Lunar, during the day while her powers are latent, while at night she can do the same for him. This way, a Wielder team is never left helpless.
Hounsom also doesn’t resort to overwhelming the reader with a flood of information. I felt that a lot of the world’s background had to be deduced, which might be a stumbling block for some, especially in the last quarter of the book where most of the big reveals and connections are made in a very short period of time. The pacing is a bit uneven for this reason, with the plot being slower to build in the beginning, but coming in fast and hard towards the end. There’s a lot going on, with multiple characters being driven by different motivations, and it can get confusing if you let your guard down. Still, the many plot threads kept me guessing, especially when it came to the question of whom Kyndra could trust.
In the end, the pleasure and satisfaction are in the details. Past some of the more common tropes in the story, there are a good number of innovative twists on familiar themes, such as the world-building and mechanics behind the magic system. Characters are likeable, even the supporting ones like Nediah and Brégenne (and speaking of the two of them, can I say what a breath of fresh air it was to see a romance sub-plot that actually did not involve the main protagonist?!) There’s a good amount of crossover appeal here that will make this a potentially attractive book to both Young Adult and Adult readers, and despite some minor issues with the flow, this book was intense enough to be very satisfying.
I can definitely see fantasy fans enjoying this novel, especially if the description of the magic appeals you. At the same time, I also would not hesitate to recommend it as a light introduction to the genre. All told, Starborn is an entertaining read and perfect for when the mood for a lighter kind of fantasy strikes you.