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“Althea Silverstream is far from home when threats of war break out.”

It took me longer than usual to write a review of “Pearl of Meissa” by Cloey Kinney, her debut novel. It was an astounding book. Its fast pace, at times stupendous prose, strong characterization, and brilliant ending prove that Kinney is definitely a writer to watch. “Pearl of Meissa” is not without areas for opportunity – which had me waffling a bit in terms of how to rate the novel – but there is no question this is a book well worth reading, nor is there any doubt that Kinney is a brilliant new author.

Althea Silverstream is the book’s protagonist, and she had the bulk of the POV chapters. Althea is an elite member of the guard-hunter regiment for the royal family of Monture. The rulers Althea works for, are quite the pair: an iron-fisted queen and a seemingly weak-willed king, who is more of an inconsequential consort in the face of his wife’s dominance, than a true monarch.

Althea has additional, unique skills besides combat. She is a Stratorem, who can detect the presence of monsters, in particular the Calumnia, who are a burgeoning threat to the realm. Althea’s talent comes at a horrible price. She experiences physical pain – sometimes extreme – when she senses the presence of the Calumnia, as she is somehow bonded to them. She feels the monsters’ agony when they are injured. This of course, is particularly distressing, as she is duty-bound to help destroy them.

Althea, whose colleagues in the guard include her brother and her boyfriend, are tasked with a diplomatic mission from their queen. The queen and king’s daughter is to be betrothed to the prince of a mysterious, reclusive kingdom, with whom Monture seeks an alliance. Althea and her comrades must journey to the hidden kingdom, and secure the marriage.

But the endeavour grows into a far greater challenge, as unforeseen dangers, political intrigue, forbidden romance, another dominant queen, and a new quest fraught with peril, all take Althea and those accompanying her down a road from which there may be no return.

The novel is a real page-turner, and there is always something intriguing going on in Kinney’s chapters. The author is ambitious, and their is a lot to unpack in “Pearl of Meissa”. Whether it be compelling human drama, mythology, romance, fight scenes, scheming and plotting, or big reveals, while the book is standard in terms of length for epic fantasy (around 400 pages) it certainly packs a bigger punch than it’s size.

My favourite element of any novel, the characters, gets a superlative grade from me when it comes to this book. Readers will especially enjoy the resolve and complexity of the main character. But the auxiliary players were depicted exceptionally well too. Strong, but often convoluted female characters rule the roost in this book, and they are fascinating to read.

Kinney writes her characters in highly adept fashion – they are multifaceted, and very believable. One will feel the depths of angst, fear, longing, sorrow, and a whole host of emotions experienced by the characters. Kinney’s skillful writing will evoke a strong emotional response in the reader to the trials and tribulations she puts her characters through.

The best part of the novel, and conjointly the one I struggled with the most, was Kinney’s prose. Let me say, at times, it was sublime, and I was blown away by just how good it was. Wow, can Kinney write beautiful passages!

Yet I think it was my personal preference for not mixing an older style of writing with modernisms that threw me off sometimes when it came to reading the book. There are many readers, I’m sure, who this will not affect, so take what I say with a grain of salt please. Overall though, it was simply gorgeous writing.

My other quibble was some transitioning during scenes, which left me a tad confused as to what occurred. But this is a case of the complete book being far greater than the sum of its parts, so my criticisms do not diminish how much I loved reading Kinney’s work.

Just a quick note about the book’s ending – spectacular! It’s a cliffhanger, so be warned, if that’s not your thing, but I loved it! I’ve always felt first novels in a series are the place for cliffhangers, if one is going to write them, and this one serves the purpose: to make the reader crave to read the next book.

“Pearl of Meissa”, Book One of “The King’s Guard” by Cloey Kinney is a fascinating book. The novel is steeped in mythology, with some inventive twists on ancient Greek lore, is filled with thrilling action, numerous and surprising plot twists, often gorgeous prose, and an explosive, cliffhanger ending that will force you to buy the next installment. That installment, “Court of Monsters”, has just been released, so onto my TBR it goes.

I read “Pearl of Meissa” on the Kindle, but special books belong on my bookshelves. So, I will be buying the physical copy, and those of future books, because I think “The King’s Guard” series has a lot of potential to be really special. 4 stars for “Pearl of Meissa” – a hidden gem.

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