Starlight: Book 1 of the Dark Elf War, by William Stacey: A Review

When Cassie Rogan returns home to northern British Columbia, she’s expecting nothing. Unable to deal with her survivor guilt after being the sole survivor of an accident that killed both her parents, she’s been expelled from university, and, with nowhere else to go, has come home to her small town. But when what appears to be a powerful lightening storm hits the area, killing some but leaving three people – including Cassie – unconscious but apparently unscathed, her life is permanently changed. Soon Cassie will be involved in a deeply classified military mission hidden deep in the BC wilderness, fighting to keep her family, friends, and the wider world safe from powers accidentally brought back to Earth from another dimension.

A combination of classic fantasy and military action genres, Starlight had me hooked from the first few pages. Author William Stacey hasn’t created new fantasy beings so much as re-interpreted familiar ones in a unique manner, placing the creatures of fairy tale in a grimmer, darker setting, exiled, angry, and revengeful. Weaving in elements of Native American and northwest North American folklore and belief firmly roots the story in its British Columbia setting, while Stacey’s military background ensures that those aspects of the story are accurate and believable, creating a world which I found (within the bounds of the genre) plausible. The explanation for and descriptions of the channelling of ‘magic’ were both very well handled, as were the differing reactions of the three people left with this ability after the ‘lightening storm’.

Stacey’s writing is crisp and competent. The plot grows slowly but steadily, the action building nicely towards the climactic scenes. Cassie’s character grows throughout the novel; other characters perhaps develop less, but for the most part are well rounded enough; the motivations for their actions are clear and consistent. There were a few production errors: ‘fae-seelie’ is sometimes hyphenated and sometimes not, and there were one or two other minor errors, but not enough to be irritating.

My personal rating for Starlight is 4 1/2 stars, and it falls short of five only because there were aspects of the world-building that I felt were incomplete. This may be unfair to a book that is the first of a series, as those aspects may become more fully explained in the subsequent books, books which I hope are out soon, so I can continue reading this entertaining story.

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