Ghost Star Night by Nicole Kimberling
Desire. Destruction. Destiny.
Thomas Myrdin knows that intrigue is part of life at court, but that doesn’t make his king’s betrayal any easier to take. Yet heartbreak troubles him less than the apocalyptic visions that haunt him. Fiery premonitions that show the world burning in ruins—and the cause, the king’s daughter. Visions and vengeance awaken a strange new power within him, but not even he is sure if he is the kingdom’s savior, the king’s pawn.
Lord Adam Wexley harbors a secret longing for the elegant Thomas, but his duty is to protect the newborn princess. When a sudden threat arises, Adam seeks to procure services of Grand Magician Zachary Drake. Even if it means sacrificing his own soul—and his body.
Drake has seen the worst of kings and courtiers. Now he protects himself with powerful sorcery and the adamant refusal to affiliate with any of the Four Courts. But the grand magician isn’t without weaknesses and Adam may be the one enticement that could draw him to ruin.
In a rising storm of magic with the power to strip away men’s souls, the thread of desire connecting three men could be the kingdom’s last lifeline…
Without a doubt this is a stunning piece of fantasy fiction. The fabulous and intricate world building explodes and overwhelms the story as the creativity and imagination of the author expand to offer a new unique, absorbing world. The story itself is just as complex with twists, turns, assassinations, betrayals, possessions, murders, and a thin romance. The short length of the story – a mere 116 pages – doesn’t do the entire plot justice as the romance is definitely the weakest aspect. However, fantasy lovers will clamor for this world and forgive the almost non-existent romance element in favor of the intricate world building.
The plot is complicated with a large cast of characters and the intricacies of the world often come into play. This is a world with all the seedy court politics where magic, favors, and souls are the currency over money. The city is ruled by four courts of power and the jockeying for power, souls, and position happens almost constantly. The large cast involves kings, heirs, courtiers, magicians, and a bevy of inhabited creatures. Inhabited creatures are animals, insects, and objects inhabited by a human soul that has been stolen, bought, transferred, or bartered. The most precious commodity is a soul and that is also the most often used in negotiations. These apes, spiders, rings, lions, birds, and so on perform a variety of jobs from nanny to driver to family pet. These souls are also the source of power for all magic.
The plot is dense with details and world building. While this fantasy creation is truly wonderful, engaging and fascinating, it is also riddled with information and detail so it’s thick to read. There is a large cast that is all important, many more characters than just the blurb suggests, but they are easy to follow once the basics of the world are established. The theme and central plot at its core is timeless with greed, avarice, and selfish choices of revenge and regret. Although the story changes point of view several times to follow various characters and their thought process, the main character could arguably be Grand Magician Zachary Drake. His point of view offers the most information with regards to the plot while Lord Adam Wexley’s point of view enhances the complexities of the courts and their politics.
For all the wealth of information and characters offered, this is a completely engaging and entertaining read. The ending is slightly complicated, yet beautifully drawn with evocative imagery and a solid resolution. While the plot does have extraneous information, the details add such flavor and color – it’s easy to see where the author got carried away and a pleasurable trip for readers to do so as well. If there is anything lacking, the romance element and characters lack some depth. The intricacy of the plot and world building overwhelms the story, so much so that the characters themselves are often very superficial. Their motivations are explained, but often just stated without the complexity of their personalities. This plays into problems with the shorter length for such a packed story. Along those lines the romance between two of the characters is very superficial and poorly developed. There is almost no chemistry and interest between the two men as politics, intrigue, and soul catching dominate their interactions.
The modern aspects such as cars, cell phones, elevators, clubs, and shops mixed with court politics make for a somewhat jarring reading experience at first until the pacing and flow get their stride. The absentee romance may frustrate some but the brilliant fantasy world should engage readers even over objections. The tight writing and descriptive prose create a story within the story, and a must read for fantasy lovers. Such a complex and creative world demands a sequel (or maybe that’s just me) but hopefully there will be more of this wonderful new fantasy in the future.
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