Destiny's Star by Elizabeth Vaughan
published by Berkley in April 2010
She fell from the sky... Bethral is a warrior, as fierce as she is beautiful. But when she is dropped through a portal to the harsh land of the Plains, she is badly injured and must summon all her strength to save the man she secretly loves.
She didn't fall alone...Ezren Silvertongue is a quick-witted story-teller, a weaver of mesmerizing tales, but a man scarred and banished to the Plains along with Bethral for the rogue magic he possesses but cannot control.
Now they must stand together... In an unforgiving land, Bethral and Ezren are confronted with a civil war and a tribe of warriors who have their own code of honor and their own rules of pleasure and partnership. To stay alive, they must learn new customs, confront their enemies, and conceal Ezren's fiery power...
Genre: fantasy romance
Series: Epic of Palins, Book #3
The Story: Bethral used to be a mercenary, but turned a new leaf after the events of Dagger Star and became the leader of Palins' Queen Gloriana's guard. She's about to set out on a recognition mission, when Ezren's magic goes out of control and literally drops the pair in the Plains, Bethral's maternal lands. With a broken leg, Bethral does not expect to survive, but still want to insure Ezren's security... Luckily for her, the ways of the Plains are changing.
It is in these harsh lands that Bethral and Ezren finally discover the truth about the rogue magic that was forcefully inserted into Ezren. It turns out that this magic belongs to the Plains and was used in the past by the warrior-priests to perform their rituals and healings... in order to reclaim it, they will have to kill the Sacrifice, i.e. Ezren. Thus, it becomes even more imperative for Bethral and Ezren to return to Palins, no matter how long the journey is. However, they won't be alone as a group of intrepid youths have demanded to accompany them to ensure their safety as their quest to prove their worth.
My Opinion: I really loved Ms Vaughan's Chronicles of the Warlands series and really enjoy her writing. Unfortunately, after the first trilogy, I felt the first two books of Epic of Palins, Dagger Star and White Star, were a bit of a let-down. It had nothing to do with the writing, but the storyline. It felt a bit too typical while Ms Vaughan had wowed us with her imagination and world building in the Chronicles of the Warlands. So to tell the truth, I was a bit wary coming in Destiny's Star... However, it turned out to be the best book of the trilogy and a very fun read :D
Another confession... I wasn't looking forward to Bethral as a heroine either ^_^; I think it has to do with her first apparition in Dagger Star. Bethral was a mercenary and for some reasons, I was under the impression that she was... buff. Perhaps it's her choice of weapon - a mace, but I didn't see her as heroine material... but Ms Vaughan definitively turned things around :) It turns out that Bethral's mother was from the Plains and thus, Bethral knows the languages and the customs, but never imagined to use the knowledge! Bethral was an interesting heroine because she's different than what we're used. She is tough, quick, can assess the situation with a glance, pragmatic and loyal. Okay, it might sound like I'm describing most kick-ass heroines in urban fantasy, but she's not. She's not savvy or snarky, she simply has this quiet strength that makes her seem almost imperturbable. She isn't very outwardly feminine (her attitude, not her look), but she does have a soft spot for Ezren, the story-teller she rescued.
Ezren was once on the brink of death, sold as a slave and rescued by Bethral. As a result, he doesn't feel like his worthy of her. He might be healthy again, but he's not good enough. His voice is changed, his body is scarred... he'll never be the story-teller he was before. I liked his character because once again, he's unusual. He's not the Lord or the warrior that we're accustomed to. I loved his curious mind always inquiring, trying to pick up the language and stories, soaking up the customs and way of life of the Plains. It was cute to see him baffled and shocked at times LOL.
The romance was a bit subdued and I think the reason is because Ezren and Bethral's relationship has been building up since Dagger Star. All they really needed was to spend time together and just let go of their issues. I loved the part where Ezren finally realized that in Bethral's eyes, he wasn't less. That she hadn't known the old Ezren and didn't care one bit. Instead, she admired the man that has overcome such adversity.
While I liked Bethral and Ezren, what really made the book for me is that Ms Vaughan transported us back to the Plains. I love this part of Ms Vaughan's world building and was very glad to revisit it. I like the way of thinking of the Plains and their customs and how shocking it seems... when in reality, it's very logical. These people don't have the same society barriers as us and it makes for some fun and interesting scenes. I also liked the fact that Ms Vaughan integrated the events of the Chronicles of Warlands series... changes are coming and so important decisions loom ahead, so how are these people dealing with it. I think it was very clever from Ms Vaughan to introduce the group of youngsters. It showed another facet of the Plains that we have not seen previously and at the same time, it suited well the storyline. I mean these youngsters have fulfilled their required 5 births, they are on the brink of becoming warriors, theas, singers, warrior-priests... and most of them are so excited. They are impetuous and looking forward to a life of adventure... So yes, I really enjoyed discovering the Plains more through new eyes.
I also liked how Ms Vaughan tied Destiny's Star with the Chronicles of Warlands series. Not just the mention of Keir and Xylara, but also the warrior-priests element - it was quite interesting. It says that they lost the magic for 10 generations already and has been keeping it a secret. This explains the segregation between warrior-priests and the rest of the Plains people... I'm really looking forward to see how they are going to change now that they've regained their magic :D
While I really enjoyed the book, this was a long way from perfect. There were a few holes in the plot and this makes me wonder if it has always been Ms Vaughan's plan to have Destiny's Star take place in the Plains. Quite frankly, my feeling is that the first two books in the trilogy didn't work very well and so, Ms Vaughan tried to find a way to go back to the Plains. The result though that Destiny's Star feels quite disconnected from the rest of the trilogy... We're not going forward in the Epic of Palins trilogy - which ends on a loose note. I wonder if Ms Vaughan has plans to come back to Palins - most probably. My biggest complaint throughout the books has been that I've always have difficulty to reconcile the magic in Palins with the world we've discovered in the Chronicles of Warlands and this remain an issue.
My Grade: B+. Definitively not perfect, but it sure was an enjoyable book to read. I'm really glad Ms Vaughan went back to the Plains and I can't wait for her next release, WarCry which is going to be Xylara and Keir's journey back to the Kingdom of Xy so Lara can give birth, told from Heath and Atira's POV :)