by A.J. Lancaster
Series: Stariel #1
Also in this series: The Court of Mortals
Publisher: Camberion Press
Publication Date: November 1, 2018
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
The Lord of Stariel is dead. Long live the Lord of Stariel. Whoever that is.
Everyone knows who the magical estate will choose for its next ruler. Or do they?
Will it be the lord’s eldest son, who he despised?
His favourite nephew, with the strongest magical land-sense?
His scandalous daughter, who ran away from home years ago to study illusion?
Hetta knows it won’t be her, and she’s glad of it. Returning home for her father’s funeral, all Hetta has to do is survive the family drama and avoid entanglements with irritatingly attractive local men until the Choosing. Then she can leave.
But whoever Stariel chooses will have bigger problems than eccentric relatives to deal with.
Winged, beautifully deadly problems.
For the first time in centuries, the fae are returning to the Mortal Realm, and only the Lord of Stariel can keep the estate safe.
This is a sweet historical fantasy romance, set in a sort of alternate 1910s England where magic exists alongside technology – Downton Abbey with Fae, if you will.
“After the funeral and the Choosing, she would leave, back to her own life. She was dependent on her family for neither shelter nor occupation nor affection now; she’d built those things for herself, and her family had no ability to threaten her by withholding them.”
Hetta is returning home after the death of her father. Rather than grieving, Hetta is more exultant. Her father was, by all accounts, a pretty horrible person, and Hetta has thrived during her six year’s exile in the big city, making a place for herself as a master illusionist with a theater company. She’s staying long enough for the choosing of the next Lord Stariel, a magical process that’s viewed as nothing more than a quaint tradition to everyone but her family. But Hetta, like the rest of her family, feels a mystical tie to the land, and it’s the land that chooses the next Lord Stariel. When the choosing goes unexpectedly, Hetta is forced to question her place at Stariel and her relationships with her family. Luckily, she has plenty of time to process that – oh wait, no! Instead, it soon becomes clear that the Fae are real, and they’ve set their sights on claiming Stariel.
Hetta stared at him with disbelief. “Does everyone in this household have some deep, dark secret they’ve been keeping from me in order to reveal it at the most dramatic moment possible?”
Hetta was a delightful main character. As an accomplished self-made young woman returning home, Ms. Lancaster struck a good balance between Hetta’s pride in her place in the big city and her feelings about being estranged from her home and family for so long. What really made the book excel for me, though, was the (often dysfunctional) relationships between Hetta and the various Valstars – her siblings Marius and Gregory, her Aunt Sybil, her cousin Jack and stepmother Phoebe. There’s also the sweet relationship with Wyn, her childhood friend and also Stariel’s butler, and a possible romance with the neighboring lord, who Hetta had a crush on as a child. The romance itself is very slow-burn, though Hetta thinks of herself as quite modern, which basically means that she’s open to kissing a guy on the first date. There’s no other sexual content in the book, so this would definitely be suitable for a young adult audience. There’s definitely a comforting feel to it, as well, even with all the threats of fae invasion, and this was the perfect book to curl up with on lazy afternoon with a cup of tea and some biscuits. The pacing drug a bit in the beginning, due to the need to introduce Hetta individually and then as she related to her large family, but then picked up after the choosing. The plot was good, with a few twists I didn’t expect, though there were, in contrast, some that were glaringly obvious (like Wyn’s mysterious background).
Overall, I very much enjoyed this book, and I’ll definitely be picking up the next in the series. If you’re interested in a light historical romance with fae, magic, and a bit more talk about drains that I expected, this will be a good read!