We are used to fantasies that involve either the magical, fey beings of Northern Europe, or those of Victorian horror novels. Darrell Drake’s historical fantasy A Star-Reckoner’s Lot introduces us to the mythology of Sassanian Iran, its beings of good and evil, and the complex idea of star-reckoning, a type of sorcery that channels the warring powers of the heavens to the benefit – or detriment – of humankind.
Revolving around three main characters: Ashtadukht, the Star-Reckoner; Tirdad, her cousin and bodyguard, and Waray, a half-div (half-demon, more or less) stray befriended by Ashtadukht, A Star-Reckoner’s Lot is a long story in terms of passing time; it unfolds in a series of vignettes; the reader may sometimes have difficulty in grasping the immediate importance of the events, or the connections between them. Nor is the reader given much backstory; the world, both seen and unseen, its characters, and the interactions between them unfold gradually, but the story moves inexorably towards its climax and conclusion.
Ashtadukht is a difficult character to get to know, and perhaps too a difficult character to truly like, stoic and bitter, but our understanding of her and what drives her develops over the story; in the end, we understand her, and likely have sympathy for her. Tirdad is perhaps the least developed of the three main characters, but he too is a character of dimension faced with difficult choices. Waray, the half-div, is on the other hand the most developed character: at times appealing, at times annoying, and at times amusing, all those facets hide a depth of sorrow and regret, and a desire for redemption that drives her.
It would be easy to read A Star-Reckoner’s Lot as a simple adventure set in an unfamiliar mythos, but the themes of love and honour, exclusion and belonging, and regret for the prices paid for actions raises it above many fantasy novels. Do not be misled by the author’s light hand (and occasional bad puns); this is a story with some haunting imagery and deep themes, and not one I’m going to forget quickly. Five stars.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.