Disclaimer: I am an acquaintance of the author; however, I purchased this ebook for the full price.
The only pseudo-complaint I have about this novel is that it could have been a tiny bit shorter. However, shortening the text would have involved cutting much of the hero’s internal narrative, which is a delightful mixture of wry and poignant. It took me a moment to wrap my head around a hero who is a late middle-age mother, which is a shame because those are honestly the heroes we probably need to see most in our world. Kera is not only a mother many times over but also a widow in a society that doesn’t appear to have much use for widowed noblewomen. But when her youngest child falls ill, Kera rallies the inner strength she has always had to save him by starting a personal quest to seek out her world’s mythical griffons.
Due to coincidental (but not unbelievable) circumstances, Kera teams up with the woman her husband once had an affair. It’s absolutely as awkward as it sounds, but I adored that Kera and Aurora’s dedication to the health of their children came before any animosity between the two women. Once again, too many stories already pit women against each other over a man (even a dead man), and I would not have had much patience for it here. Instead, readers are treated to a fantastic evolving relationship between women of different classes as they overcome natural distrust and systemic cultural barriers.
The Hamilton references are simple to catch for anyone familiar with the modern musical, in terms of character and a few small bits of narrative (see what I did there?) reminiscent of song lyrics. I hope those unfamiliar with the musical still enjoy, like I also did, a fantasy story set a bit further along, technologically, than most medieval- or Renaissance-inspired settings. The fantasy elements themselves trend toward the darker, but the way Byrd approaches them never dips this novel into needing any sort of “horror” label.
The ending is entirely satisfying and completely unexpected until you think back and realize that all of the clues are firmly established beforehand to excellent effect. Honestly, I almost expected to be disappointed by the griffons once the characters reached them, but overall, this is a very hopeful story with a satisfying romantic through-line. So, minor spoiler regarding the griffons that doesn’t give away any details: They are all and more.
I look forward to reading more by this debut author in the future.
Rating: 4.5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.