|Elizabeth Vaughan wraps up her successful “Star” trilogy with the riveting story of Lady Bethral, a warrior, and Ezren Silvertongue, the storyteller she secretly loves and whose life she once saved. Readers who have been following the series are going to be very, very satisfied with this book.
Bethral has been a warrior her entire adult life, and is now a guard to the young Queen of Palins. Several years earlier, Bethral and her friend Red Gloves (see Dagger-Star) stumbled across Ezren Silvertongue in the hands of slavers. He had been brutally tortured, and Bethral purchased him, then took him to safety where he could be healed. She deeply loves Ezren, but has never confessed her feelings, sure that a warrior such as herself is beneath his notice. Ezren loves Bethral in return, but thinks a broken-down storyteller filled with wild magic he cannot control is unworthy of her. So they hide their feelings, yet contrive to be near one another when possible.
When Ezren’s magic once again flares out of control, Bethral and Ezren are dropped through a portal into the land of the Plains (and I admit, the references to Plains/Palins is a bit confusing at times). There, the warrior-priests who rule the Clans sense his return. Ezren is the man they tried to sacrifice once before, believing that his wild magic would replenish their own decreasing powers. Bethral and Ezren find refuge in a camp of the Clan of the Snake. Bethral, who grew up on the Plains, is accepted, and Ezren is tolerated, especially as he begins to regain his storytelling ability.
The warrior-priests will stop at nothing to capture Ezren. Bethral, Ezren, and a group of young warriors soon find themselves on a journey that will either lead them back to the safety of Palins, or to the Heart of the Plains, where the clan leaders will soon gather to select a new Warlord. Along the way, Ezren and Bethral will finally face their own desires.
The world that Elizabeth Vaughan has created is both simple and complex. The clans of the Plains are nomads, making their way by raiding other settlements. They are entirely dependent on their bond with the horses of the Plains, which transport their camps and their warriors. Their sexual code is loose, which plays into the developing relationship between Ezren and Bethral. The warrior-priests are at a crossroads; many people of the Plains are tired of their indiscriminate use of power, and are ready to follow Keir of the Cat as new Warlord of the Plains – and Keir has openly vowed to destroy the warrior-priests for their abuses of power. Vaughan deftly weaves the story arc from her “Warlord” trilogy into this novel, and the story isn’t complete. The new Warlord hasn’t yet been chosen, and hopefully her next books will carry the story further.
Ezren and Bethral dance around each other, afraid to make their feelings known, and it takes the machinations of the young warriors to force their hands. Readers will be touched at Ezren and Bethral’s monogamous almost-relationship; dropped into a sexually-uninhibited society, they only have eyes for each other. When they do finally move forward, it’s well-done and satisfying to the reader.
The plot moves at a nice clip, and the ending is a masterstroke. It’s resolved in a way I didn’t see coming, and while some readers may feel there’s a whiff of convenience in it, I was totally absorbed. It underscores the deep love between Ezren and Bethral in an unexpected way that feels just right. These two world-weary souls, having found the one person that makes their life worth living, aren’t going to let go – at any price.
My only caveat is that readers who have not read the first books in this series will probably find it difficult to follow some of this one. Since elements of not one, but two trilogies are woven through this story, it would be better for readers to find the Warlord series and read it first, and then the two “Star” novels that precede this. Elizabeth Vaughan never pretends to present this as a stand-alone novel, so understand that going in and you will find yourself as entranced as I was.
Destiny’s Star is a terrific story, and the author’s next book, which will take readers back to the Kingdom of Xy, appears to push the Warlord tale further. I’ll be waiting for it.