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Excellent new book from Elizabeth Vaughan,
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This review is from: Dagger Star (Berkley Sensation) (Mass Market Paperback)Elizabeth Vaughan's writes romance novels that pack a real punch. Her books have emotional depth and a real plot, they have wonderful, vivid characters who are part of compelling relationships and inhabit beautifully rendered worlds.
Dagger-Star takes place in the same world as the Warprize series, but in a different country - the tribes of the plains are alluded to occasionally which make a nice connection with the previous trilogy.
The book is set in Palins a kingdom once ruled by a monarch and a high council of Lords, but the sudden death of the king, his wife and the heir in mysterious circumstances has plunged the kingdom into chaos and civil war. It becomes clear that the rule of the Regent is cruel and that atrocities are being committed and permitted.
The book follows Red Gloves, a mercenary, who has come to Palins hoping to find employment in these troubled times. She finds herself at the centre of the rebellion when her dagger-star birth mark is revealed - for the people of Palins it marks her out a one of the Chosen, who a prophecy says will cast out the usurper and return the Kingdom to wise rule. The story follows Red Gloves and the rebels as they build alliances to take back the kingdom.
The story is built up beautifully, gradually revealing more of the history of Palins and of Red Gloves and slowly bringing out the details of the characters and their motivations.
The characters in the book are wonderful.
Red Gloves is a fascinating mix of characteristics - she is a powerful warrior and beautiful sensual woman, she can be crude and brutally practical, but also demonstrates considerable political savvy and tactical skills. She also lives with the scars of a terrible past. The changes in her outlook on the world, while still retaining the essence of her character is beautifully described.
Josiah, a High Baron whose lands have been laid waste and lives alone, is another wonderfully drawn character. His strength, his love of growing things and the terrible sorrow of all that he has lost is so compelling and you can't help but he drawn in by his slow rebirth at Red Gloves' side.
There are a fleet of other characters, all given life and depth.
Evelyn, a High Priestess and cousin to Josiah is an interesting leader of the rebellion. You sense her unshadowed goodness through her actions, but her purity and sense of purpose make her leadership of the rebellion convincing rather than seem naive. There are hints of more to ponder about where story will lead - a feud with a baroness, a half-even priest in love with her and a clear hint of further complications towards the end of the book.
Bethral is Red Gloves sword-sister and fellow mercenary. She is a lovely character and her gentle compassion is an interesting contrast with her professional. Her unspoken love for a man whose life she saves is almost painful in its quiet, almost invisible intensity.
Each of the High Lords and Ladies have clearly drawn personalities, flaws and strengths. A hunter with a reputation with the ladies. A young mage thrust into ruling too early and with a jealous streak. A cold elf whose human wife softens his hard edges. A very stroppy battle mage.
There are a lot of loose ends at the close of the novel and many directions a sequel could take.
This is a world and these are characters who I want to see more of and hope that there will be more tales from Palins.