From a high level, The Star Shard could be summed up as a fairly typical adventure book set in a medieval fantasy world. I received this book from Amazon Vine and found that it differentiates itself in many unique and intriguing ways that make it a fresh and fun read.
First of all, the setting is unique. Rather than dealing with our standard rolling hills, plains, mountains and forests, most of this book is set in the moving wagon city of Thunder Rake. The Rake is essentially a HUGE wagon that literally contains an entire city upon its back. The exact dimmensions aren't given but as our characters navigate the city, you quickly realize the enormity of this place. And yet, there is a large sense of claustrophobia as everything is built close together and vertically in order to optimize every bit of available space for homes, workshops, businesses, operational areas and the other main aspects of any city. Around the edges of the wagon, huge walls run up the sides to keep inhabitants (and buildings, possessions, etc) from falling off.
Not only do the walls serve to keep things from falling off the wagon, but they act as prison walls for some of the inhabitants. Our main character in the story is twelve year old Cymbril...and she is a slave on the Rake. She doesn't know much about her past other than that she was sold to the master of the Rake and it is her lot to spend her days at the beck and call of the master. When the Rake is traveling, this means mundane chores. When the Rake arrives at its destination and opens its doors for market days, that means she is to sing and entertain the people coming to shop.
Cymbril is a fun character. She has some of the stereotypical qualities of a character in a fantasy adventure: no parents, no memory/knowledge of her past, a couple of mementos from her parents (which have intrinsic and monumental value), more comfortable with the "outsiders" or animals than with the main class of folks. She is also extremely curious and adventurous. In the times when she's not working, she spends hours exploring the Rake and investigating the forgotten areas or the smaller areas that have been obscured as newer buildings have been built. She's very impulsive and makes many mistakes by leaping before she looks.
Shortly after being introduced to Cymbril and the world of the Rake, we're introduced to the catalyst for the story...a boy named Loric...a magical Fey creature who is brought to the Rake and sold into slavery. Cymbril's heart goes out to him as she relates to the injustice of his enslavement. She also finds herself drawn to him out of pure curiousity.
You can likely guess some of the paths the plot takes as Cymbril gets to know more about Loric. They scheme and plot. He tells her about her mementos and what he knows of her past. He sheds light on some of the other inhabitants of the Rake and opens her eyes to the world of magic and things going on right under her nose.
As to my reaction to the book, mostly I really enjoyed it. I had a little nagging sensation in my head that, for some reason, didn't resonate with the tone/voice/style of the writing...which seems odd because the writing is generally very simple and fluid, so I'm honestly not sure what it is that bothers me about it...maybe a re-read will help clear the cobwebs for me. :)
I did enjoy this book. The plot was fun and fresh. I am impressed with the overlapping and intersecting elements throughout the book and the way the author reveals them over time. I also thought it was very fun that the author worked with a musician to include sheet music and Lyrics for two of the songs that Cymbril sings through the book. I'm not enough of a musician to try and actually play the pieces, but I may have to seek out someone with adequate talent to play them for me. It was also refreshing to have a strong (yet young and naive) girl character as the lead in this adventure. Add to that the intriguing and fresh setting and this provided a fun read.
3.5 out of 5 stars
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