Kyndra's fate holds betrayal and salvation, but the journey starts in her small village. On the day she comes of age, she accidentally disrupts an ancient ceremony, ending centuries of tradition. So when an unnatural storm targets her superstitious community, Kyndra is blamed. She fears for her life until two strangers save her, by wielding powers not seen for an age - powers fuelled by the sun and the moon.
Together, they flee to the hidden citadel of Naris. And here, Kyndra experiences disturbing visions of the past, showing war and one man's terrifying response. She'll learn more in the city's subterranean chambers, amongst fanatics and rebels. But first Kyndra will be brutally tested in a bid to unlock her own magic.
If she survives the ordeal, she'll discover a force greater than she could ever have imagined. But could it create as well as destroy? And can she control it, to right an ancient wrong. From Goodreads.
I had completely forgotten Starborn by Lucy Hounsom was winging it's way to me, so I got all excited when I rediscovered it once it arrived. I really want to get back in to high fantasy again this year, and discovering new authors, so I was so happy to have this intriguing story. But, although I really enjoyed it, I was a little disappointed over parts of it.
It's Inheritance Day for the town of Brenwym, the day teenagers coming of age look into the town's relic, which will tell them their true name and their calling. But when Kyndra looks into the relic - a shallow bowl filled with water - it reacts strangely before breaking into pieces. Kyndra doesn't know what her calling is, and nor do those who were still waiting to look into the relic. When a massive, dangerous storm kills a local, the town believe they're being punished because Kyndra broke the relic, and turn on her, planning to kill her. But two strangers with strange powers save her life and whisk her away. Brégenne and Nediah are wielders, people who can harness the power of either the sun or the moon, and due to the things they observed in the town, and on their travels, they believe Kyndra is a potential wielder, too. Kyndra knows they are wrong, she's just an ordinary girl, and believes herself proved right when they reach Naris, the secret home of the wielders, and the test, that brings forth a potential's affinity to solar or lunar energy, very nearly kills her. But Kyndra has been having visions of a past war, people are losing their minds, and the Breaking, the storm that destroyed Brenwym, is getting worse - quicker and stronger and more destructive. There are those who think these things mean something, and Kyndra must be tested again. What are Kyndra's visions? And why are people eager to help her pass the test?
I found the premise of Starbound to be really intriguing. I felt the pacing was off a little at the beginning, because things have and are happening, but it just dragged for me. Despite this, it soon picked up, and I was absolutely gripped by the story. In places it was kind of predictable and obvious where things would end up regarding Kyndra, but I was really interested to see how it the book would lead to that point. There's a lot of intrigue, and characters with their own agendas. There were elements that reminded me of other fantasies, which were kind of comforting in their familiarity.
But there's a lot we're not told. What is the purpose of the wielders? Once you've completed your training and are no longer a novice, now a master wielder, what do they do? All these wielders living in Naris, what are they doing? I understand that the world no longer knows or understands what wielders are since before the war, and so now have to live in hiding, but what do they do?! I have no idea! Brégenne and Nediah are out to track and observe the Breaking, but otherwise, the wielders as a whole? I just don't understand. Speaking of the Breaking, I don't really get why the Breaking is here. We're told why it was caused, but that why isn't explained. I don't want to spoil the story, but it's as in, the Breaking was caused because X happened. Ok, buy why did X cause the Breaking? There are a lot of things like this in the book that aren't explained well enough for me, and it left me with a lot of questions.
There are slight spoilers below. But it's on a very serious topic, and so I feel it's important to spoil this element. However, if you'd rather go without spoilers, don't click the button.
There is also the threat of sexual assault in the book. Which happens, so that's not exactly what I have a problem with. What I have a problem with is how Kyndra forgives these boys who were bullying her and threatened sexual assault when she was magically immobile, and becomes friends with her. WHAT THE HELL?! At first I genuinely thought the boys - and the girl who was part of the group, but not involved in the bullying/sexual assault - were spies for someone else, befriending her to get information out of her, but no. They were forced to work with her for a punishment, and friendship grew from there. And Kyndra lets it. She forgives the boys and lets it go. This is not true to life. This guy straddled her and kissed her when she couldn't move, and told her he could do anything he wanted. You do not just brush that aside and let it go and become friends with someone like that. You just don't. And I thought this whole element of the story was just completely misjudged. I think the friendship is supposed to continue in the next books, and how I'm supposed to get on board with that and like this guy, I just don't know. I really don't It left me raging.
I was really surprised by the climax and ending of this book. Every major plot point for this story is wrapped up, which I'm not used to; normally, some things are left open to be read about in consecutive books, but it's all wrapped up in Starborn. It's the wrapping up that leads to what will happen in the next book. But the climax and wrapping up happens so quickly! Not in a rushed way, but just that everything is resolved much sooner than I expected. And it's actually brilliant. During the lead up to the climax, I was completely lost to who the "good guys" were, and who Kyndra should be putting her trust in. I was completely turned around and so invested, that the last pages just flew by. Although, as I said earlier, there were elements of the story that were predictable, there were a number of surprising elements I was completely blown away by.
I will probably read the second novel to see where things go, but I'm not sure it's a book I would rush out to read. I do hope the book gives further explanation in the second novel. I guess we'll see.
Thank you to Pan Macmillan for the review copy.
Published: 28th January 2016
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Lucy Hounsom's Website