Starborn by Lucy Hounsom

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Starborn by Lucy Hounsom

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Luke Marlowe
Reviewed by Luke Marlowe
Summary: A new fantasy voice that captivates and intrigues, whilst paying tribute to the tenets of traditional fantasy.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: April 2015
Publisher: Tor
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1447268451

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On the day Kyndra comes of age, she accidentally destroys the relic of an ancient ceremony, ending centuries of tradition. So when terrible phenomena target her community, Kyndra is blamed. Fearing for her life, she is saved and rescued by two mysterious strangers – one who wields the power of the Sun, the other – the Moon. Together, they flee to the hidden citadel of Naris. And here, Kyndra experiences disturbing visions of the past, and is 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?

We really seem to be in a golden age of fantasy at the moment – something that was once classed as niche and shameful is now very much in the mainstream, what with wizards, hobbits and superheroes constantly appearing on our cinema screens, and dragons, zombies and knights on our televisions weekly. Fantasy sections in bookshops have now expanded from the single sad bookshelf they often used to be, and new fantasy books are being published thick and fast. A recent trend, no doubt popularised by George R R Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, has been for gritty, adult fantasy, that really ramps up the sex and violence to a point that often make it rather difficult to continue reading. In this case however, Lucy Hounsom has decided to hark back to traditional fantasy ideals in this, her debut novel.

Kyndra is an interesting lead – lead characters in fantasy novels often tend to be rather blank ciphers, letting the reader empathise and associate with them, whilst adding the more extreme characters in supporting roles. Kyndra is certainly not as interesting as the other characters who appear throughout the course, but she does manage to hold her own – a girl who is both tough and vulnerable, and who is more than enjoyable to watch coming into her powers and herself over the course of the book. I did find her a little passive at times however – for most of the book things happen to her, rather than her making things happen. The supporting characters really give the book its personality though, and Bregenne and Nadiah are the best examples of this – an intriguing couple who develop as the reader learns about their relationship, their abilities, and where their loyalties lie… Gareth is also an interesting character – although it is very hard to trust and like him later in the book, after his actions earlier on. I hope he will be expanded upon in later books.

With regards to abilities – the system of magic here is a new and intriguing one, with the user dependent on either the help of the Sun, or the Moon – and weak and helpless when the one they depend on is out of sight. It’s a refreshing change from the often limitless magic abilities that are often displayed in fantasy, and goes a way to prevent deus ex machinas from cropping up as a regular plot device. That said, there is a lot that is familiar about Kyndra’s world – comparisons have been drawn with the work of, and sections recall the work of both Patrick Rothfuss and JK Rowling, which is no bad thing – I think just evidence that the author has a great deal of love for the fantasy world.

This is a debut novel – and as such it’s not perfect. Some character motivations seem odd, the plot sometimes drags, and Kyndra needs a little more development to make her a fully rounded character. This is, however, the first in a series – and I have no doubt that the author will improve as things go along. Despite my grumbles, this is a genuinely impressive debut, and Lucy Hounsom is definitely one to watch in the future. Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.

For further reading – Feast of Souls by Celia Friedman is a book that explores intriguing and dark new systems of magic, in a fantasy book with a horror twist.

Buy Starborn by Lucy Hounsom at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Starborn by Lucy Hounsom at

Buy Starborn by Lucy Hounsom at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Starborn by Lucy Hounsom at


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