Another Chance to Dream

Dreams of Stardust

From This Moment On

The More I See You

Opposites Attract

This Is All I Ask

The Very Thought of You

 
Star of the Morning
by Lynn Kurland
(Berkley, $14.99, G) ISBN 0-425-21212-2
***
Star of the Morning is an entertaining fantasy with a barely-there romance. It’s not going to satisfy readers who are looking for a love story, but given that this is the first in a planned trilogy, it might be best to consider the romance to be just a set-up for the next book and concentrate on the fantasy, instead. Then it won’t feel quite so disappointing at the price readers are asked to pay.

Miach, archmage of Neroche, is the youngest brother of the king, Adhémar. When the story opens, Adhémar finds he has lost his ability to cast spells, and his sword has lost its magical power. This means danger, as Adhémar needs the sword to keep the threat of dark magic out of the kingdom. Miach believes that a second sword, fashioned by an earlier queen, might be an additional source of magic, if only a sword-wielder can be found. Miach sends Adhémar on a quest to find such a person, since he can recognize magic.

Morgan of Melksham is a young woman who is also a mercenary. She hates magic, but as a favor to her foster father and mentor, she agrees to take a magical knife to Neroche and deliver it to the king. Three friends and a stranger who calls himself Adhémar agree to accompany her. Morgan thinks little of the coincidence in the stranger’s name, as many men are named after the king. Adhémar’s imperiousness and bad temper set her teeth on edge. But one day Morgan picks up Adhémar’s sword while in the middle of a fight with some magical creatures, and the magic in the sword flairs to life.

Later that evening, Miach arrives in the form of a hawk. He’s been searching for Adhémar, and he transforms just in time to catch Morgan as she faints from seasickness and fatigue. He is instantly captivated by her. But what will happen when Morgan discovers the truth – that Miach is not a rough farmer, and Adhémar is not a wanderer? And if Morgan is the sword-wielder they’ve been seeking, how can he allow himself to fall in love with her?

This is basically a road romance, though there’s precious little in the “romance” area. Morgan and Miach get to know one another through conversations and a few touches, but that’s it for the extent of their physical relationship. And the ending, while no doubt seguéing into the next book, felt like manipulation. As in, “If you want to get to the real romance, buy the next book” manipulation. I’ll bet I’m not the only reader who is going to feel cheated.

Cheated aside, the storyline is engrossing, and saves this book from two-heart status. Miach is especially intriguing as he fights his deepening love for Morgan. Adhémar is basically the arrogant ass that he appears to be, and his actions at the climax reinforce the readers’ feeling that maybe the wrong brother is running the kingdom. As for Morgan, she’s unable to believe that Miach would be interested in her, a woman who fights for a living. Her past starts to be unveiled at the end, and no doubt will play a role in the future books.

All in all, fantasy lovers will probably be entertained, romance lovers will probably close the book in exasperation, and at $14.99 apiece, the rest of us will have to decide whether to come back for the rest of the trilogy. It’s a tough call.

--Cathy Sova


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