Saturday, August 13, 2011

Banshee's Honor by Shaylynn Rose

Publisher:                P. D. Publishing

If you are a fan of J.R.R. Tolkein's Ring trilogy, Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series or Marion Zimmer Bradley's books, then Banshee's Honor by Shaylynn Rose is the book for you. This is the story of an epic struggle, told in one volume.

Azhani Rhu'len is a hunted woman. The half-elf rose to the position of Warleader of the kingdom of Y'Dan, but evil forces came to power and stripped her of her honors, declared her an outlaw and killed the love of her life. Azhani won her freedom through a very bloody ritual that left her body almost as broken as her spirit and is hoping to hide out at her childhood home while she plots her revenge, but that isn't how the situation works out. 

A chance encounter brings Stardancer Kyrian of the kingdom of Y'Syria into Azhani's life when the warrior rescues Kyrian from a kidnapper. Kyrian is a priestess of Astariu who has the power to heal people, but is haunted by fear stemming from her own violent encounters. Forced to share a bitter winter together in Azhani's cabin, the women form a friendship that allows both to start healing their wounds, but they soon find themselves pulled into a cosmic struggle for their world. 

A prophecy says that a great evil will rise to challenge the gods and Azhani and Kyrian know instinctively that they are key to the outcome. As they rally the forces of the surrounding kingdoms, there are battles with demons, ruthless mages, political intrigue, a perverted religious force and more than one blooming love affair. Add to that a supporting cast of heroic and evil kings, strong willed women and quirky individuals and this is a book with a broad scope.

Banshee's Honor has obviously been influenced by the legends of knights fighting to save kingdoms and ladies in distress. Except for the fact that half of the characters are elves or mixtures of other species that have unique powers, this story would fit very suitably into the Medieval period. The story is character driven, so descriptions of other items are sometimes shallow. The creation and purpose of the rimmerbeasts, the biggest demon threat, is somewhat sketchy, but not enough to hinder the story. Some events that impact heavily on the story but that occurred in an earlier period are mentioned superficially, but the book could have been lost in endless details filling in all of the whats, whys and wheres of what led to the main events. 

What is more important is the detail that is spent on creating cultures, customs and landscape that don't exist, yet feel familiar. Azhani and Kyrian's behavior towards each other becomes a little cloying as the story progresses, but is appropriate for what is expected of a romance. There are also subtle messages here about racism, women's rights and religious fanaticism that, while they aren't overbearing, will cause the reader to think.

Overall Banshee's Honor is good escapist reading. The reader will find it easy to step into the world that is created and connect with appealing characters. Because of its length, it will take several hours to complete the book, but it's a story that you try to avoid finishing because it's so satisfying. Warning – if you can't believe in magic, interventions at crucial moments by gods or the existence of dwarves, elves and such, then this isn't your book, but those who have no trouble accepting the possibility of Hobbits, Tinkerbell and King Arthur will enjoy it.

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