Taerith by Rachel Starr Thompson
Amazon Book Description:
When he rescues a young woman named Lilia from bandits, Taerith Romany is caught in a web of loyalties: Lilia is the future queen of a spoiled king, and though Taerith is not allowed to love her, neither he can bring himself to leave her without a friend. Their lives soon intertwine with the fiercely proud slave girl, Mirian, whose tragic past and wild beauty make her the target of the king’s unscrupulous brother.
In a land of fog and fens, unicorns and wild men, Taerith stands at the crossroads of good and evil, where men are vanquished by their own obsessions or saved by faith in higher things. The king’s rule is only a knife’s edge from slipping—and when it does, all three will be put to the ultimate test.
Rachel Starr Thomson is also the author of Angel in the Woods, Lady Moon, the Seventh World Trilogy, and other novels and short stories.
Taerith is one of the Romany Epistles, a nine-author series about nine exiled siblings abroad in a hostile world.
I picked up this book after reading the Romany Epistle by Rachel Rossano – Wren.
Plot – B+
The plot was good for the most part. I wasn’t able to predict every turn, just some of them. The only true trouble came from the middle of the book. The original plot that drove the story is resolved around the halfway mark (52-60%) and the minor subplot threads sort of drag along for several chapters. It does pick up again toward the end as the secondary plot is pulled together. Overall, I liked the ideas behind the main plot and the secondary plot but I wish it had been more tightly woven together so the pacing didn’t slow to a drag in the interlude between them. The book is one of a series but it can stand on its own well.
Content – A-
This is a clean book. There is no language, all cursing takes place off the page. Sensuality is nonexistent.
There is violence but it is not gratuitous. Actually, the first two fights written about are barely described. I don’t want gratuitous violence or bloodshed but I wish the description of how the fight took place had been more than something along the lines of “he attacked and his opponent fell” so I could better picture the fight and have a clearer idea of what’s supposed to be happening in that scene. Later on it’s revealed that Taerith has never killed a man and the impression is given that he doesn’t like to even wound to the point of bloodshed. Most of his action in the battlefield involved winding and knocking down/out opponents. I did like the struggle for him over whether he should take lives to protect lives Characters die in battle, through starvation and disease, and murder. Vengeance is tackled and dealt with fairly. I liked how Thompson showed just how destructive a quest for vengeance can be to the person seeking that vengeance.
The romances shown in this book are…complicated. The romance shown at the end of the book is the one that didn’t sell me though. It felt too much like a convenience for the characters involved and not like a true love match, which is okay for the beginning or middle of a story but not so much for the end, at least for me. That said, I did like Taerith’s honorable love for Lilia a lot. Courtly love at its purest.
There is some magic in this world as shown through the presence of unicorns, who are implied to have healing gifts based on the one we are introduced to in the story. However, this is balanced by a very strong spiritual message. The image of Deus, or God, as a dove or winged man was an interesting portrayal. I thought the scenes involving the priest were good. I liked how he not only spoke about Deus but he also does things, lives out his faith. The salvation encounter for Taerith was well done, not in your face but it was clear that he had been touched/changed by the encounter.
Technical – B
This book had good bones. There were only one or two typos in it. However, the narration hampered my ability to get into the story. There is a lot of head-hopping, more than once this happens in the same paragraph, so it was hard for me to tell if I was reading Character A’s thoughts or Character B or C’s thoughts or if it was an omniscient narrator. I usually prefer character changes to occur in a more orderly fashion, e.g., with section or chapter breaks, to help keep the narrative puzzle from occurring. Because of the fluidity of the narrators, their individual voices became more important but they didn’t really sound different from each other even when moving from men to women or vice versa. I went into the book expecting two or three POV characters but there are a lot more. These details along with the fact that there’s a tendency to tell instead of show kept me at arm’s length from the characters so to speak. I couldn’t really sink into the story or their lives.
I mentioned earlier that there’s very little description for the first two fights in the book, which are supposed to be important because they place Taerith in two key places. The second fight is literally three sentences revolving around Taerith “being prepared” and then he basically steps forward and in the next sentence the fight is over. I am a visual reader, so I prefer descriptions that engage me and let me SEE what the character is doing. In the same vein of telling and not showing, there is a lot of repetition occurring in the narration and there are some odd punctuation choices. Semicolons and colons being used when a comma and a transition phrase would have helped the flow. Or where a period would have sufficed.
Final Grade – B or 4 Stars
Overall, I liked the story of Taerith. I think that Rachel Starr Thompson has the talent of a great writer and I could see it even with the narrative gaffs. I couldn’t determine for sure whether this was Thompson’s first book but it did have the feel of a first or even sophomore novel where the author is still working the kinks out of her writing process. Because it is a nine-author series, the voice between books definitely changes but the ending of Taerith made me eager to read Aiden since that Romany sibling also makes an appearance. While I wasn’t drawn in to the point of devouring the book in hours, I never had to force myself to pick the book back up again. I would recommend this book to Christians looking for a clean fantasy with strong Christian elements and fans of medieval-esque fantasies. Recommended for ages 16 and up.
Taerith is available through Kindle and paperback.
Next – Luminosity: Book Two of the White Road Chronicles by Jackie Castle