I know that a lot of readers have come to the main books of the series because of the intrigue of “sex wizards” and/or “kink-based magic system.” That’s not a bad thing, and I’ll admit those added to my curiosity when I gave them a shot, but the downside to the first descriptor especially is how it simplifies the incredible fantasy world-building Faust has also done with this world. My love affair with fantasy started with traditional fantasy epics, but that interest shifted as I grew older and recognized many of the problematic elements of the genre. Faust subverts the casual racism of a standard fantasy world by centering the story on the characters and effects rather than using it as a lazy storytelling shortcut. The result here is an intriguing stand-alone novella that both tells the origin story of two of the more fascinating secondary characters of the main series and explores more of the world outside of the insular Crux.

For full disclosure, I read an earlier draft of Starshine via the author’s Patreon. This meant that I both already had a good grasp of the overall story going in but that I also had more context for exactly why Garrett originally left home. For the first bit of the final version, I wasn’t sure about Faust’s decision to drop us later in the action, but by the time we got the full unfolding of Garrett’s past, I will admit that it worked quite well as a revelation that added to character development. As a writing process nerd, I understood why Faust probably worked out the initial story the way they did for the initial draft and appreciate that they took the chance on rearranging text to improve the full arc.

In contrast, we get fewer glimpses of Bridgette’s life before meeting Garrett and none of the story from her direct perspective. However, this never detracts from the connection that builds between the characters, especially since it means we get to share Garrett’s intrigue in her. A significant (and appropriate) difference to this novella compared to the rest main series is that a sweet friendship develops between Garrett and Bridgette before anything steamier. Though this story ends long before they get to the Crux and receive any formal training, seeing the seeds of how these characters might turn into the older ones we meet in the main series is effortless.

For those looking for the “kink-based magic system” promised in this world, I promise that hints of it are still here. However, Garrett and Bridgette have zero formal training and only instinct to rely on, which makes the magic they do produce even more clever and a relevant part of the climax of the book (pun not intended).

Whether you’re already a fan of the main series or only curious about it, this novella is a worthwhile read. I’m glad I got to see Faust further develop as a writer and storyteller by reading both versions, and I hope new readers enjoy it as much as I did.

Disclaimer: I received a digital review copy of this book from the author.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars
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