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Epic Book Rec!

Y’all, it’s amazing to me that we’ve already hit the first week in March, which feels like a month of transition from the trenches of winter to the renewal of spring. The month where snowdrops and crocuses bloom and daffodils start prepping for the Eastertide celebrations. It’s a magical time.

Winding down from the festivities of Fantasy Month during February—which got a whole extra day due to 2024 being a leap year!—I wanted to shoutout my favorite fantasy read of last month: Blood of the Stars.

Last September I had the absolute pleasure of jumping on board the Kickstarter campaign to publish and launch this EPIC indie adventure full of fascinating magic, creatures, and characters by podcast host Karyne Norton. It’s always a thrilling experience to come together with kindred spirits, support a light-bringing creative, and help bring something beautiful to life—and that’s what this story is, beauty brought to life.

Genre: Fantasy, of the High and Epic variety

Series: The Half-Light Chronicles, book 1

Author: Karyne Norton

My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Harnessing the power in her blood could turn the tides of war—if it doesn’t destroy her first.

It’s been fourteen years since Prince Gaeren lost Aeliana, the childhood friend he’d sworn to protect. Haunted by the unfulfilled promise, he searches for a way to bring her home. But with threats against the kingdom from both a rebel faction in the south and Mayvus, a power-hungry priestess in the east, he only has time to follow one last clue across the seas.

Kidnapped as a child, Aeliana is desperate to be rid of the chaotic magic in her blood, magic her captors use to ravage the land. When she’s found by Gaeren’s rebel enemies, she joins their fight to rescue her mother from Mayvus, but her unwieldy power only serves to attract Mayvus’ attention. Aeliana must learn to control her magic before they reach her mother, or risk becoming the weapon Mayvus needs to take complete control of the kingdom.

Now, the official launch date is March 19. This means that as a project backer, I received a copy of this book early and have the opportunity to tell you how amazing it is (and somehow manage to do that without spoilers?!?!?)

Because, y’all, not only is this book itself a piece of art, the story splayed out across all 600+ glorious pages is a tale of ancient woes, future hope, destructive strongholds, renewal, courage, mercy, past wrongs and the chance for redemption, broken systems, broken hearts, broken relationships, healing, heartache, home, and family.

All the good things.

I can’t talk about a story and not mention the worldbuilding, which in Blood of the Stars is vast and intricate but not at all overbearing. With its (tragic) dragon, dangerous (and creepy!) pixies, and fascinating, moon-cycling winex to add a fantastical flair, this place feels real. There’s a depth to the land, its history, its culture, that gives it a lived-in quality that both welcomes and delights.

But even more than the setting and its delightful maps, even more than the hard magic system, even more than the sweeping scale of the plot, are the characters. Without characters to live in, interact with, and engage in, everything falls short of what a good story should be, and this book is FULL of diverse and interesting people. From royals to revolutionaries, each one adds an unique spin and perspective to the tenuous events and precarious positions we find within these pages.

At its heart, it’s the story of a girl with powerful magic and a boy who once swore to protect her—and failed, spinning both of their lives into a chaotic spiral of abuse, manipulation, and lies that both struggle in their own ways to reconcile with.

Aeliana grew up as a pawn of evil blood magic, used by those who kidnapped her to do vile atrocities that have made her feel broken, corrupted, and dangerous. What I appreciated about her character is that 1) when she comes into the company of those who use magic cleanly and with good intensions, she still struggles for a long time to change her perception, to break down those long standing strongholds and realize that she’s not a ‘bad’ person. The road to healing is long and winding and honest. And 2) despite her difficulties, she maintains a compassionate heart that compels her to extend kindness and grace to those nobody else sees as deserving of it—leading to some pretty dramatic developments!

Then there’s Gaeren. He’s torn between the expectations of his family and his own convictions that set him on a precarious path. His wit and humor in the face of his circumstances are endearing, but what I enjoyed most about his character was his friendship with Riveren. Dishonored and branded (literally) a traitor, Riveren is the best friend that Gaeren felt betrayed by, shattering their once-close relationship into anger and distrust. But the beauty in it is the spark of hope for restoration, and the revelations that come later that open a new path for both of them. Theirs is a tale of brotherhood that I will never tire of and I cannot wait to see what’s in store for them as the story progresses.

Lastly, Orra. She is the third POV character in this first book of the series, and one of the most ambiguous (apart from Marnok, who is SO intriguing). The current of her story, though, speaks of mistakes and redemption, which is a theme that threads this entire book together: broken things can be restored. Orra struggles with shame for what happened in the past and conviction to mend her mistakes, to set things right.

Overall, this story is a sweeping tale of new beginnings full of heart, strung together by masterful storytelling, exciting action, powerful themes, and promise for more gripping adventures to come!

It also has Cyrus, the Sam to Aeliana’s Frodo. She would not have gotten far without him.

Learn more about Blood of the Stars by checking out its Kickstarter page for the story behind the story + get a sneak peak at book 2 in The Half-Light Chronicles! Visit Karyne’s website here, and read sample chapters here! Already convinced you need this story in your hands?

Crossing the starbridges March 19, 2024

About the Author

Karyne Norton hasn’t found the key to time travel, immortality, or infinite lives, so she’s taking a break from nursing and photography to focus on raising four human beings while writing epic fantasy. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, which is why she’s also the host of the Finding Fantasy Reads podcast, where she reads a new short story every week from a variety of fantasy authors. Check it out to find your next favorite author!

What was the last book you loved? What about that story resonated with you, or what element did you really like? (Dragons is a perfectly acceptable answer). What have you been up to since the February Fantasy Month festivities? We’re finally getting some glorious sunshine! Have you got any spring reading plans?

Published inBook Stuff

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