White Star
by Elizabeth Vaughan
(Berkley Sensation, $7.99, PG-13)  ISBN 978-0-425-22701-5
If you haven’t read Dagger-Star, the first book in Elizabeth Vaughan’s “Star” series, White Star is going to be a rough road.  Numerous references to people and events in the first book are likely to leave readers confused.  For those who have read the first book (as I did), a refresher course might still be necessary.  Having said all that, White Star is an entertaining read and a fine addition to the fantasy romance genre.

Lady Evelyn is a high priestess of the Lady of Laughter.  She can channel the powers of the gods to heal the sick, and she is well-loved for her gentleness and kindness.  The land of Palins is still in upheaval, even though the woman known as Red Gloves now sits on the throne as the Chosen leader.  The usurpers to the crown have not all been vanquished, and Evie will play a part in one of the most horrific battles yet.

Orrin Blackhart is a warrior who served the Lady Elanore, a supporter of the usurpers to the throne of Palins.  Elanore created a legion of undead, called the Odium, to serve her in her quest for the throne.  Orrin is known as the Scourge of Palins for his ferocity in battle, but he’s become disillusioned with Elanore and is tired of the killing. When Evie is captured, Orrin can’t bring himself to kill the beautiful priestess. Then word comes that Lady Elanore is dead, but the Odium, instead of dying with her, are now controlled by someone else. Wishing to spare his men, Orrin surrenders himself to the Chosen. Evelyn is freed.

Yet she can’t turn her back on the man who could have killed her, but resisted. Evie asks for Orrin’s life to be spared. The Chosen agrees, providing he destroy the Odium and bring back proof. Evie is banished for thirty days for disobeying a high priest, and Orrin follows her. Together, they’ll use their talents to defeat the Odium, and fall in love in the process.

Elizabeth Vaughan once again creates a complicated, engrossing story for readers. Her Warlord novels were set in this same world, and threads of those stories occasionally wind through this one.  Evelyn and Orrin are wonderful characters, mature and experienced in life without being cynical. Orrin doesn’t believe he’s good enough for Evie because of his background as a killer; Evie wants the earthy emotion only Orrin can make her feel. They make a wonderful team.

The romance builds nicely, and Vaughan gives Evie and Orrin time to get to know one another.  Orrin’s sidekicks play a role, as do Evie’s friends, as this is primarily an action-driven story with a strong romance. Elanore has left a few surprises behind, and the whole team will need to work together to defeat the Odium.

A few characters from Dagger-Star appear, notably the warrior, Lady Bethral, and Ezren Silvertongue, whose wild magic is uncontrollable. They are destined for their own story in the next book.

White Star would have received a four-heart rating were it not for the heavy dependence on backstory, which is going to leave many readers in the dark. For those who are familiar with the series, it’s a fine blend of adventure and romance.   

--Cathy Sova

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