Reviews · Summaries

Girls of Storm and Shadow by Natasha Ngan (Book 2)

# of Pages: 397

Time it took me to read: 3 days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 57

Rating: 5 out of 5

Despite having completed her mission to kill the Bull King of Ikhara and fled to safety with Wren at her side, Lei still cannot seem to catch her breath. Hiding in the mountains with their new allies, they are simply waiting for their instructions for the difficult time to come.

When Ketai Hanno, leader of the Hanno clan and Wren’s father, arrives, it is apparent that the work is far from done. Lei and Wren must travel to three different vital clans to secure their alliance in the war that is coming – because though Lei felled the Bull King herself, the kingdom will not be remade so easily.

Given these instructions, Lei and Wren set out with Bo, Nitta, and Merrin, allies who, though demons themselves, wish to see a new era for Ikhara and the end to the oppression of papers. They are joined by Caen, Wren’s childhood sensei, and Hiro, a young but powerful shaman who will assist Wren in using magic to protect them as they travel.

But their journey will be long and difficult, especially because it seems that everyone else has a different idea of what must be sacrificed to win this war. And despite having escaped his clutches, Lei cannot help but feel that the King still hunts her, wherever she may go.

Filled with excitement, love, and betrayal, Girls of Storm and Shadow is sure to delight fans of the first installment, Girls of Paper and Fire.

Review:

Having read the first book only a few months ago, I was thrilled to get my hands on the sequel so soon. First things first, there is not nearly enough LGBTQA+ characters in YA fantasy, and I was so thrilled to get a story with a queer protagonist.

While reading the first book, it took me quite a while to adjust to the whole Moon, Steel, Paper caste thing in this world. Briefly, Moon caste people are fully “demon”, meaning they are human shaped, but present as animals. Paper caste are fully human. Steel caste are originally the byproduct of Moon and Paper caste people having children, so typically are mostly human, but may have antlers, or hooves, or patches of scales. They all speak the same language and are all sexually compatible, and while Moon caste are the ruling class and certainly more obviously powerful, it doesn’t give off a beastiality or furry vibe, which would have been horrible. Instead imagine something like BoJack Horseman or Tuca and Bertie.

Anyway, while the first book was certainly dark and deals with dark themes (trigger warning for anyone who doesn’t want to read about sexual assault), this second installment was equally as dark, but in an unexpected way. Lei and Wren both deal (very differently) with their assaults at the hands of the Bull King, and Lei finds herself using substances to deal with her feelings for a while, which I thought was a realistic reaction in a fantasy world. But the dark themes of the cost of war and rebellion are dealt with here in ways that I find are rarely explored on the protagonist side of these sorts of fantasy war stories. I really thought that each individual in this rather large (7 person) traveling group had their own way of dealing with, not dealing with, or avoiding the consequences of the upcoming war.

To wrap up the review, I don’t think anyone who loved the first book could possibly disappointed in this second one, though I do think that this one hurts a little more and cuts a little deeper (thought in different ways) than the first installment.

!!!SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

Cast:

Lei – protagonist, stolen from her homeland and brought to the palace to be a Paper Girl (royal concubine) for the Bull King. With the help of Wren, her fellow paper girl and love interest, they conspire to kill the Bull King and flee the palace. Lei has unusual golden eyes, which some say give her a demon spirit, once word gets around that she killed the Bull King, people start calling her Moonchosen.

Wren – adopted daughter of the leader of the Hanno clan, last living member of the Xi warrior mage clan. Trained her whole life in secret to assassinate the Bull King, which Lei ended up doing instead. Was given as a paper girl to the Bull King in order to get close to him, and was also sexually assaulted by the King. Love interest of Lei. Powerful magic user, will do anything to end the Bull King’s reign and the oppression of paper clans.

Nitta – Moon clan, snow leopard type. She and her brother Bo are thieves that were exiled from their clan and hired by the Hannos to aid their cause. Often reigns in her brother’s antics, but is just as mischievous if not more.

Bo – Moon clan, snow leopard type. Brother of Nitta, was exiled from his clan due to being a thief. Often laughs too loud and at the wrong time. Hired by the Hannos to aid their cause. Love interest of Merrin.

Merrin – Moon clan, owl type. Rescues Wren and Lei from the palace after Lei slays the Bull King. Skeptical and practical, is often at odds with Bo, as bird and cat types are natural enemies, but their attraction soon overcomes their enmity. Love interest of Bo.

Hiro – young shaman who was taken in by the Hannos after his whole clan was slaughtered. Quiet, meditative, always eager to heal and protect along with Wren. Pays the price for his magic with his own blood, which is considered a bad practice.

Caen – warrior for the Hannos, Wren’s teacher her whole life. Stern, but stout in his defense of the group. Secret lover of Ketai Hanno, the clan leader. Unwaveringly loyal to the Hanno cause.

Ketai Hanno – paper clan leader of the Hannos, the most powerful paper clan in Ikhara. Adopted father of Wren, mastermind behind the whole plan of toppling the Bull King and ending the oppression of papers. Willing to do whatever it takes to win the war.

Lova – clan leader and general of the Amala cat clan. Moon clan, lion type. Former lover of Wren, wants her back. Powerful fighter and brilliant strategist. Likes Lei and is generally kind to her, but with that snide mentality of someone who is sure she can win back Wren.

Aoki – paper girl and best friend of Lei. Sweet and naive, convinced she loves the Bull King and he loves her back. Her whole family is killed during a raid of their lands, but Aoki likely doesn’t know. Despite her love of the Bull King, she is loyal to her friend Lei and hopes she’s safe.

Summary:

Act 1

Wren and Lei have escaped the castle and believe that the Bull King is dead. They are hiding in the mountains with their allies waiting for her father, clan leader Ketai Hanno, to arrive with updates from the capital. When he does arrive, he confirms the rumors that the Bull King was slain by Lei, who they are calling the Moonchosen. The Court is trying to project strength, and publicly they say the king still lives. But Ketai Hanno says they are vulnerable, and now is the time for Lei, Wren, and their allies to go around to three powerful Moon clan leaders to convince them to fight with the Hannos against the current crown.

Ketai brings with him Sensei Caen, Wren’s teacher from her childhood, the man who taught her to be a warrior, and when Ketai leaves, he sends Caen with the group as further protection. All in all, by the time Lei and Wren set off for the White Wing clan, they are joined by siblings Bo and Nitta, Moon clan snow leopards who were exiled from their clan for being thieves and are now loyal to the Hannos, Merrin, the Moon clan owl who saved Wren and Lei from the palace, and Hiro, the quiet young shaman who’s whole family was slaughtered by the crown in a raid.

Caen starts teaching Lei to fight in the mornings before they set off each day with a special dagger that was gifted to her by Ketai that is imbued with magic that is specific to her. Despite believing that he is dead, Lei is always having to look over her shoulder because she believes the King (or at least his ghost) is hunting her.

After a long and difficult journey, they reach the White Wing, the first clan. Though they had a plan, that all goes out the window when they are literally plucked off of the ground by the members of the White Wing and flown to the palace as prisoners. They are granted an audience with the Lady of the clan, Dunya, who does not seem particularly inclined to help them, but after a passionate speech from Lei, the White Wing agrees to ally with the Hannos against the crown. At dinner that night, Lei speaks with the eldest daughter of Lady Dunya, who wants to fight for the betterment of Ikhara, but thinks that allying with the Hannos is a mistake because she does not trust Ketai Hanno. Lei gets drunk and tells Wren later that evening about how the eldest White Wing daughter doesn’t agree with the rebellion. Wren tries to soothe her that the alliance is already set and it doesn’t matter.

The next morning they wake to find that the second eldest daughter of the clan Lady had been murdered, and it appears that the Bull King had done it. It is revealed that the Bull King does in fact still live. Lady Dunya, though she mourns her daughter, says that the alliance is still on, but hustles the group out of their palace and onto their next destination.

Act 2

The group is traveling down the mountain to the next clan, where they would have to travel to the far south, when they pass a settlement that appeared to have been raided by the crown. Lei insists that they stop and hunt for survivors, but there aren’t any, all the people there are dead. It’s at that point that Lei realizes where they are, and that the dead farmers are her friend Aoki’s family, and Lei gets very upset.

That night, they camp nearby, and when Lei gets up to use the bathroom, she’s nabbed by Naja, the King’s right hand soldier, but Lei uses her newfound training to fight her off pretty handily, but Naja had already set their carriages and the surrounding fields on fire. They are able to pin Naja down and leave her to her fate and flee.

Once they reach the coast, the group is worn down, but they have to steal a boat, since the town where the White Wing was supposed to have a boat for them has been raided and taken over by the crown. There are a bunch of Papers that are hanged, bloody and beaten, in the town square. Lei wants to cut them down and fight back, but they’ll be outnumbered if they’re caught.

Right as they’re about to get in the boat, Lei notices that one of the hanging men is still alive. Before anyone can stop her, she runs back and cuts the man down. They’re being chased, Nitta is dragging her back to the boat, Lei jumps, but Nitta doesn’t make it and can’t swim, so Merrin has to dive in and save her. This cements things in place for Bo, who admits his feelings for Merrin.

They set sail through the ocean, and the group has time to recover. Wren and Hiro have both been having a harder time drawing on their magic due to the Sickness that is in the land, that no one knows why the magic is harder to access.

Lei continues to practice her fighting and gets more and more proficient. They are almost at the palace of the Czos, the lizard Moon clan that they must convince next to join the Hannos. Then, suddenly they are under attack from an imperial warship that comes out of nowhere. Bo is shot with an arrow. They all fight with their lives, but all hope seems lost until Lei watches Wren use her own blood to draw her magic and summon a powerful storm that allows the ship to escape. They wash up on the isle where the Czos reside, but Bo is dead. Merrin blames Hiro and Wren for not saving him, and Nitta is deep in grief. They bury Bo and Merrin goes off on his own for a while to try and cool off.

Act 3

They have to move on, so Wren and Lei go together to the palace of the Czos, where they sneak into a party to meet with the clan leader. But when they find him, he is speaking with the king’s top general, and talking about helping the crown using the supplies they mine using paper slaves, which are illegal, but it clearly doesn’t matter to the clan leader or the general. Lei wants to bail on the mission, but Wren is convinced they have to try. They follow the clan lord to where his soldiers have captured Merrin, Caen, Nitta, and Hiro, and plan to interrigate them while they search for Wren and Lei. Wren fights off the soldiers while Lei helps to free the rest of the group.

They flee the palace, but there are too many of them and they are about to be overwhelmed again. Wren seems to be willing to sacrifice herself to save the group, but Hiro tells her to “use him” instead. He willingly cuts his own wrists, offering his own blood, Wren enters her ultra powerful mode and tries to wipe out the soldiers, but it still appears that there are too many. Suddenly a ship with the Amala clan, their third target for allies, arrives on ships to save the day.

Wren nearly wipes herself out with magic, but the general of the Amalas, Lova, takes everyone away on their ship except for Hiro who sacrificed himself so they could live.

While they sail toward the Amala’s camp, Lei finds out that Lova is Wren’s ex. During the time when they’re traveling, Merrin also accuses Wren and Caen of letting Hiro sacrifice himself unnecessarily and taking advantage. He thinks the Hannos, Ketai in particular, are willing to compromise any morals to find victory in this war. He flies off away from everyone else and is gone for some time. He is clearly grieving the lose of Bo in his own way. Lei has a bad realization about Wren, that she is the one who killed Lady Dunya’s daughter, not the King. It was on her father’s orders, and Wren argued that it was a strategic move. Wren also admits that her father ordered the raid of Aoki’s village in a way to scare the White Wing into allying with them, even though they didn’t need it, but the order was already given. They get into a big fight, Lei feels very betrayed.

Right before arriving at the Amala’s camp, Merrin returns and recommits himself to the Hanno’s cause. He also exposes Caen as Ketai Hanno’s lover. When they arrive in the camp, Nitta and Merrin stay at the ship while everyone else goes to feast. Lova announces before everyone that she wants Wren back, and Lei runs back to the ship, where Merrin is trying to convince everyone to gather. Wren, Lova, and Lova’s two lietenants arrive and they see that there is a huge imperial battalion approaching, that’ll outnumber the Amala’s numbers four to one, and all of the Amalas are drunk from the feast.

The group comes up with a plan to draw the first wave to the ship, and then when they’re all aboard to blow it up from afar.

That plan works in taking out a bunch of them, and gives reinforcements the time to arrive. Lei is fighting fiercely, Wren powers up in to her Xi warrior magic mode. Lei comes face to face with the giant alligator general who is close to the King. She knows she won’t win so she runs. She finds Nitta, who tries to protect her but gets hurt. Merrin picks both of them up and carries Lei and Nitta far away from the battle, leaving behind the Amalas, Caen, and Wren. Lei screams at him to take her back, but Merrin refuses.

When they land, Merrin reveals that it was he who brought the army here. When he left them on Lova’s ship, he met with the White Wing, who had just had a coup within their ranks, with the eldest daughter dethroning her mother and wiping out the alliance with the Hannos. The White Wing promised Merrin a place in their ranks if he helped them capture Lei and their group so they could be held until the war was over. But the White Wings betrayed Merrin, they were supposed to send a small group of their own soldiers to capture them, but they’d sent an imperial battalion.

Lei, sure that Wren is going to die in battle thinking that Lei hates her, runs away from Nitta and Merrin to try and cross the desert back to the battle, but she’s injured and moves slow. The book ends with Lei walking right into the hands of Naja, who has tracked her down again and will be bringing her back to the king.

End Book 2

!!!End of Spoilers!!!

Have you read Girls of Storm and Shadow? If so, let me know how you liked it by leaving me a comment. I’m so in love with these characters, and I’m dying for the next book, which is set to release November of 2021.

If you enjoyed Girls of Storm and Shadow, try:

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong

Blood Heir by Amelie Wen Zhao

Reviews · Summaries

Forged in Fire and Stars by Andrea Robertson

# of Pages: 371

Time it took me to read: 3 days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 53

Rating: 4 out of 5

Ara has always dreamed of the destiny she was promised her whole life of becoming the Loresmith, chosen defender of Saetlund, like her father was before her. But just as she’s beginning to think she’ll never leave her small village and the life she’s always known, her fate finds her.

To free Saetlund from the crushing hands of the Empire that took over her land, she’ll need all the help she can get. Along with the royal twins, heir to Saetlund’s lost throne, a thieving servant of the god of travelers, and a secretive Summoner who’s power comes from the abundance of nature, Ara must find the reclusive gods of Saetlund if she hopes to reclaim her birthright as the next Loresmith. Though helped by some surprising allies, Ara and her new friends must travel far to find parts of Saetlund many consider to be only myth. But before Ara can help Saetlund become free again, she must prove her worth not only in the eyes of the gods, but to herself.

Review:

As a preface to the summary, I’ll provide a brief review. Some friends and I have formed a book club, we’ll be reading one book a month together, and once everyone is finished we’ll gather virtually and discuss. I got the opportunity to choose the first book of book club. I chose Forged in Fire and Stars from the various options I had in my to-read stack because I was nervous to “recommend” a book for our book club that I hadn’t read before, but I’d read other books by Andrea Robertson (who used to write under her maiden name, Andrea Cremer), so I felt confident that this book wouldn’t totally tank.

Despite having taken away one star from a perfect score, I’m thoroughly hooked on this as the first book in a new series. The world-building is creative and engaging, and the pantheon of gods Robertson has created are diverse and unique. My biggest criticism is that I feel as though I’m not particularly invested in the characters themselves. I’m certainly invested in the plot and where the storyline is going to go, but the characters aren’t particularly engaging for me. I’m certainly rooting for them, but I don’t feel for them, at least not yet. I’m certainly excited for the next installment, where hopefully there will be a bit more character-building now that the plot is fully set up in this first book.

!!!!SPOILERS AHEAD!!!!

Cast:

Ara – fifteen years old, daughter of the last Loresmith who was slain when the Empire took over Saetlund. Raised by her grandmother, who taught her all she could about her destiny, she is bold when necessary, but often doubts herself. Interested romantically in Teth.

Eamon – eighteen years old, twin of Nimhea, royal child of the deceased King and Queen of Saetlund. Hidden away from Saetlund and raised in secret, he and his sister have returned to Saetlund to help Nimhea take her throne. A well-read scholar, he has been prone to bouts of illness his whole life and is not a capable fighter. Brilliant storyteller. Seems to have betrayed the group at the end of the book by leaving the rest and going to the Empire.

Nimhea – eighteen years old, twin of Eamon, royal child of the deceased King and Queen of Saetlund. The firstborn over her twin by a few minutes, she bears the distinctive fiery hair of the heir to the throne of Saetlund, and is determined to sit on that throne someday. She and her brother have returned to Saetlund to find and help the Loresmith gain power to help the rebellion take Saetlund back from the Empire. Well trained and very skilled with a sword. Romantically interested in Lahvja.

Teth – sixteen years old, a thief and and orphan. He was adopted by Lucket, the “Low King” of his province, and is a faithful servant of Eni, the god of travelers. Unwillingly agrees to help Ara and the twins reach their destination, but after finding out that Ara will be the next Loresmith, joins their quest, with the Low King’s blessing, to help Ara win the favor of the gods so that she can become the next Loresmith. Skilled with a bow and arrow. Romantically interested in Ara.

Lahvja – eighteen or nineteen years old, a member of Eni’s Children, a group of traveling artists who are known by the Empire as Imperial Players. A talented singer and by trade a Summoner, a magic practitioner who can communicate with the divine spirits of nature. She is very in-tune with the natural world, and often seems to know things the others do not. Unwilling to interfere with what she believes is the natural order of things. Romantically interested in Nimhea.

Lucket – Low King of Ara’s province. Adopted father of Teth. After meeting Ara, offers to help the rebellion by providing supplies and sending Teth with Ara and the twins on their quest to find the gods.

Eni – The genderless god of travelers in the Saetlund pantheon. Teth is their devoted servant, and they appear disguised throughout the story to help the questers along. Briefly disguises themself as Fox, the furry companion of Teth when Ara found him. Firmly on Ara’s side in wanting her to succeed to become the Loresmith.

Review:

Act 1

Ara has lived her entire life in her small mountain village, far from the eyes of the Empire. Her father died before she was born, fighting off imperial invaders. His death told the emperor that there were no more Loresmiths, as her father appeared to be unmarried with no children. Ara’s mother went to live with her parents. When Ara was young, a fever took her mother and her grandfather, so she was raised by her grandmother and a family friend, who taught her the art of being a blacksmith. Ara’s grandmother taught her how to use Iron Branch, the stave of the Loresmith, given to Ara’s grandmother for safekeeping before her father died.

Ara had begun to believe that her destiny of becoming the Loresmith would never come to pass, and that the gods perhaps weren’t as interested in restoring Saetlund as she’d thought when she was little. But one stormy day twins Nimhea and Eamon arrive and tell her that they’re here to help her fulfill her destiny in becoming the Loresmith, and that they needed her for their rebellion to succeed and to free Saetlund from the Empire.

Ara joins Nimhea and Eamon on their journey to meet up with the rest of the rebellion. On their way, Ara catches a thief stealing from the twins. She chases after him through the woods, only to find herself in the ruins of a shrine to Eni, the god of travelers. She confronts the thief, who calls himself Teth, and convinces him to give back the jewelry and coins he’d stolen off of the twins. Ara calls upon his duty as a servant of Eni to help her get back to her camp. Unwillingly, Teth does so, and is thus roped into joining them on their journey into town to meet the rebellion.

They end up fighting off some bandits in the woods, where Ara successfully defends herself with Iron Branch, as she is not allowed to ever attack anyone, or else she will never be a Loresmith. Nimhea and Teth successfully kill the bandits. That night, they meet a mysterious traveler in the woods, and Ara feels compelled to offer this old woman Iron Branch to use as a crutch on her way home. The old woman denies her offer, which is a relief, but Ara feels as though she passed some kind of test.

Upon arriving in town, Teth is about to split from the group, but he asks Ara to meet him later that night. She is intrigued by this roguish thief, so she agrees.

Ara and the twins meet with the rebellion, which consists of a leader from each of the provinces. They want to bundle Nimhea up and keep her safe until the rebellion is ready to make a strike against the Empire. Eamon says that he and his sister must help Ara to find the gods and gain their blessings so that she can become the Loresmith. The rebellion says they’ll have to talk more about it later, but don’t seem inclined to let their prized heir go off on her own.

That night, Ara goes to meet Teth. After a scuffle in the bar, Teth takes her to a secret location which turns out to be the court of the Low King Lucket. Ara learns that every province has a Low King that is ruler of the thieves, assassins, prostitutes, etc. Basically anyone who operates outside of the law. And the Low Kings have a habit of being able to pay the Empire to keep its nose out of their business. Lucket is intrigued by Ara, who won’t admit to him or to Teth that she is going to be the Loresmith.

Teth walks her back to the inn, and Ara realizes she’s interested romantically in Teth. Nothing happens, but she does tell him that she’s the Loresmith, and Teth reveals that Lucket is his adopted father, who saved him from starvation when he was a young orphan.

The next day, Ara and the twins work to convince the rebellion to let them go off on their own to search for Ofrit’s Workshop, which legend says will help Ara on her quest. The rebellion is about to shut that all down, when Teth shows up with a deal. Lucket the Low King and the other Low Kings want to help the rebellion, and in exchange they must let the Loresmith continue on her journey with the twins, and Teth would go along for protection. All the rebellion had to do was look into the children that had been going missing from the province lately. They were worried the Empire was taking them, as they had taken all children of a certain age away when the Empire first took over Saetlund. The rebellion agreed, and travelers were off on their journey.

Act 2

Near the end of the first leg of their journey, the group came upon a band of Eni’s Children, nomadic performers. The questers joined Eni’s children for food and performances. At their own camp later that evening, they are set upon by shadow hounds, sent by the emperors wizards to track them down. But before the hounds can reveal their location to the Empire, a mysterious figure is able to dissolve the shadow hounds and protect them. The stranger is revealed to be one of the performers from Eni’s Children, who’s name is Lahvja. She is a powerful Summoner, and says the gods have told her she is to join them and help the Loresmith on her quest. Though weary, they accept her help because they would have been toast without it.

(Throughout the story, the reader is given glimpses of the two sons of the emperor. The eldest is a military leader who is in charge of all the Empire’s armies, and with keeping an eye on the powerful but unpredictable younger brother, who is the ArchWizard. The ArchWizard is determined to find and capture both the Loresmith and Nimhea on behalf of his father, who “collects” such magical rarities from the kingdoms he controls. It is the ArchWizard who had his minions send the shadow hounds).

The travelers, now five, join a caravan controlled by Lucket’s people, to travel through dangerous bandit country. The group takes to Lahvja joining them pretty quickly, except for Eamon, who doesn’t seem to trust her. Nimhea and Ara both worry the long journey has been too tough on him, but he holes himself up alone every night, reading and rereading the legends that will help Ara find Ofrit’s workshop.

Their journey is pretty smooth, until their caravan is taken over by imperial recruiters, who are there to find any able-bodied men and women to join the army of the Empire. They are able to avoid detection, but the caravan is destroyed and they must continue on their own.

Soon after, they enter the Scourge, a dangerous desert known for being all but impassible. The questers forge on, and are nearly to their destination, the Bone Forest, when they are attacked by giant ants. Ara is able to save them and all of their horses using Iron Branch, but not without the seeming sacrifice of Fox, who sacrificed itself to stop the swarm of ants.

Teth is inconsolable, but the weary travelers reach the Bone Forest. Lahvja says that she and Teth will stay behind, that the rest of the journey is for Ara and the twins alone. They follow the path into the Bone Forest, where servants of Ofrit have traveled for centuries hoping to find Ofrit’s workshop, where they will learn his mystic ways and use them to become his holy servants in their communities. But first the trio must make their way through a number of tests.

Act 3

Their first test comes in the form of two doors, one of which is said to be the correct entrance to the Labyrinth they will need to solve to enter Ofrit’s Workshop. The other will lead them into a part of the Labyrinth that they will never be able to escape. Eventually, Ara solves the riddle, in that neither of the doors are correct, that they must travel up the “stairs” in the center of the doors, which allows them to continue on the path that they’d been on before. Upon solving the puzzle, they are in the Labyrinth at last, which is yet another set of riddles that are custom to Ara, who is the main quester. Eventually, they are able to find themselves on the correct path after figuring out the order of the pathway is set based on the Loresmith attributes from the stories. They have passed the test and are able to enter Ofrit’s Workshop.

In the workshop they meet Ofrit, who is grumpy and does not appear to want to help them. But then Eni appears, and the god of travelers reveals that they’ve been helping Ara and her group all through their travels. She convinces Ofrit to help them, and Ara, Nimhea, and Eamon are given two scrolls to help them find the rest of the gods to petition for their help. Eni also tells them that Ara will need to re-form the Loreknights, which in the past have been the protectors of Saetlund who wield special weapons forged by the Loresmith. Eni also tells Ara to let Teth know he need not mourn, that his companion Fox is safe at home waiting for him, that the Fox that sacrificed itself for them was in fact Eni wearing the disguise of Fox to help keep them safe on their journey.

Then, in the blink of an eye, the trio is gone from Ofrit’s workshop and back with Teth and Lahvja. The group celebrates the success of their first mission, and Ara and Teth share a long awaited kiss. But when they wake the next day to start on their next journey, the group finds that Eamon is gone, and he leaves a notes that suggests that he betrayed them to the Empire and has left to join them, though he says that he only did it to protect his sister.

Nimhea is beyond grief and Ara just can’t understand how their friend betrayed them like that. Clutching the note that spelled out Eamon’s betrayal, but also was clearly soaked in his tears as he wrote it, Ara finds that she has meditated herself into the forge of the Loresmith. There, Eni is waiting for her and tells her that now is the time to forge her first weapon as Loresmith. She has all the materials she needs, along with a special ingredient that she finds she is able to imbue the weapon with. When she is done, she has forged a bow and five arrows, which are tipped with the solid form of Eamon’s tears. This weapon is meant for the first LoreKnight, which Eni says will be Teth.

Ara returns to the real world and regroups her friends to continue their journey, as Eamon did leave one of the two of Ofrit’s scrolls behind.

In the epilogue, we are once again given a glimpse of the eldest son of the Empire, and it looks to be that he is the high-ranking double agent that the rebellion said was helping them from within the Empire, code name “The Dove”.

End of Book 1

A few last remarks. I picked up on the identity of “The Dove” pretty early on, but I was impressed by how surprised I was at Eamon’s betrayal. There were several little clues sprinkled throughout that I was able to see afterward, but I did not see it coming, and for that I tip my hat to Robertson.

!!!End of Spoilers!!!

Have you read Forged in Fire and Stars? If so, let me know how you liked it by leaving me a comment. I’m pretty happy with this first book club pick of mine, and I’m excited for the second installment of the Loresmith series, which is set to release June of 2021.

If you enjoyed Forged in Fire and Stars, try:

The Inventor’s Secret by Andrea Cremer

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Defy by Sara B. Larson

Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian