“The path of blood and chaos she carves will tip the precious balance of Minalav, and the world around it.”
Starlight Jewel is a story that is unconventional in every sense of the word, and yet that’s exactly where its charm lies. Filled with intriguing sprygan folklore, cutthroat political scheming, a guild of dangerously seductive assassins and thieves, dysfunctional yet wholesome family dynamics, and some delicious dashes of slow-burn romance, this wonderfully complex gem of a fantasy novel will keep you on your toes from start to finish.
For the past year, the human-sprygan Axly has been living in hiding from the Starlight Company in order to protect her peculiar human half-brother. But now, her past as an assassin and seductress thief has come calling again, and she is brutally drawn back into her role as the Starlight Jewel. Her latest mark offers her the opportunity of a lifetime, and even as love, lust, duty, divided loyalties, and fate start to intertwine, Axly will stop at nothing to protect those she loves.
Starlight Jewel has a lot of things going for it, especially in terms of how wholly unique and refreshing it is. The world building is incredibly imaginative, and I loved learning about the sprygan culture and their wondrous magical abilities. What’s more, the complex inner workings of the alluring undercity of Minalav and the Starlight Company had me glued to the page, as betrayal and deceit are lurking around every corner there.
This diverse cast of enigmatic characters also really pulled me in, especially because they were all equally charming and fearsome. The dangerously thin line between love and hate is masterfully explored here, which is exactly what makes all the character dynamics so compelling and complex. Themes of friendship, parenthood, found family, loyalty, memory, and forgiveness just permeate every aspect of this story, and that only made the characters feel more realistic and relatable to me.
Lyons also absolutely shines in the way she writes her dialogue, and all the interactions between these characters just had my heart in my throat. I especially loved the dynamic between Axly and her mark Grim, which is one of the most complicated yet beautiful love stories I have ever read. Axly definitely doesn’t make it easy for you to love her, but her sheer badassery and willingness to make morally questionable choices to protect those she loves is ultimately why I ended up rooting so hard for her.
Now, I do have to admit that I personally had quite a rough time getting through this book as I simply couldn’t seem to find my footing. The first couple of chapters are quite chaotic, and after that the story transforms into the most slow-burn of slow-burns I have ever read. For a long time, the plot felt rather aimless to me and I found some unexpected time jumps and shifts in perspective quite jarring, especially as each character’s inner voice felt so indistinctive to me.
However, every time I came close to putting the book down (which was more often than I’d like to admit), there was a new intriguing reveal or a compelling shift in the character dynamics that just roped me straight back in. You see, this story is practically oozing with intrigue on every single page, so I simply could not stop reading.
There is zero exposition and hand-holding in this story, which you are either going to love or hate. Some of the reveals or explanations could have come a little earlier so I wouldn’t have felt so lost, but in the end I can only applaud Lyons for how well-crafted her world is. If you are willing to be patient and put a lot of trust in the author, Starlight Jewel will be an absolute treat for you to sink your teeth into.
All in all, I am quite impressed by this highly ambitious and wholly original debut novel. If you like the sound of an incredibly slow-burn and character-driven fantasy novel that will ensnare you with its rich complexity, dangerously alluring characters, and wondrous world building, then you have to check out Starlight Jewel!
Thank you to the author for providing me with a free ecopy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.