Star of the Morning
by Lynn Kurland
336pp (Trade Paperback)
My Rating: 5.5/10
Amazon Rating: 4.3/5
LibraryThing Rating: 3.91/5
Goodreads Rating: 3.87/5

Book Description:

Darkness covers the north, since the black mage has begun his assault on the kingdom of Neroche. Legend has it that only the two magical swords held by Neroche’s king can defeat the mage. Now the fate of the Nine Kingdoms rests in the hands of a woman destined to wield one of those blades…

In this land of dragons and mages, warrior maids and magical swords, nothing is as it seems. And Morgan will find that the magic in her blood brings her troubles she cannot face with a sword-and a love more powerful than she has ever imagined.

Star of the Morning, the first book in the Nine Kingdoms series by New York Times bestselling author Lynn Kurland, is also the first installment in a fantasy romance trilogy following Morgan, a fierce warrior who loathes magic, and Miach, a prince and archmage. Their story continues in The Mage’s Daughter and concludes with Princess of the Sword.

As darkness threatens the land, the king’s magic mysteriously vanishes, leaving him with a non-magical sword that seems as if it never contained any power at all. With the kingdom’s defenses on the line, he brings the weapon to his brother Miach and demands that he solve the problem. When Miach does not immediately discover a way to restore the sword’s magic, he suggests that his brother search for the mage who can awaken a second legendary sword possessed by the royal family. Their undercover mission to find the wielder sets the two brothers on the same path as Morgan, who is on a quest she finds most distasteful: delivering a magical blade to the king. But Morgan has no idea that the pompous jerk she knocked out and stole from is the very same king she set out to find—or that his far more compelling younger brother is not just a farmer who knows a few minor spells related to growing crops.

As the first of three books, Star of the Morning does not tell a complete story, and it seems as though the tale is just getting started toward the end of this novel. There’s a lot of traveling, reading about Morgan and Miach getting to know (and then starting to fall for) each other, waiting for Miach to realize Morgan is the wielder, and waiting for Morgan to realize Miach is actually Prince Miach the Archmage. The latter was quite enjoyable since I do enjoy the secret identity trope, but there were times Morgan’s obliviousness was overdone.

The secondary characters are one dimensional, and although they are certainly more complex than the others, the two main characters also do not have a great deal of depth. Most of the focus is on Morgan’s development as it delves into her past and her struggle with accepting that she does indeed have magic, which she has long despised as being inferior to strength and steel. Morgan is outspoken and doesn’t take crap from anyone—even the king, and I doubt that having known his true identity would have made any difference to her whatsoever!—and her serious nature contrasts with Miach’s easygoing nature, which makes him someone she comes to feel comfortable around. I liked both main characters and thought their budding romance developed believably, and it seems like they are well matched.

The fantasy world and elements are rather generic and there are very few surprises. Although this is partially because readers have the advantage of getting both main characters’ perspectives, there’s also a distinct lack of subtlety or originality. The kingdom, magic, and legends are all very standard and vaguely familiar, but of course, it’s possible that the setting and its history are fleshed out more later in the series.

Overall, I found Star of the Morning to be conventional and slowly paced, yet lightly entertaining as a quick read with some fun interactions between the main characters. However, it was not memorable enough for me to add the next installment to my massive, constantly expanding to-read list even though it had its moments.

My Rating: 5.5/10

Where I got my reading copy: I purchased it.