Darkspire Reaches is a fantasy novel written by a wonderful story teller.
Lesley’s alternative world of First Born peoples, Angressi, Samara maidens, wyvern/drakken, et al, is inventively imagined. Her characters, even when their motivations are not well explained, are distinctive and compelling. The main plot––a young girl searching for her identity––while not original––is originally handled.
One of the themes, however, fell short: her world contains people who fear magic and those who possess and exploit it. The basis for this dichotomy is not developed nor it is used in a way unlike its use in dozens of other books.
Darkspire Reaches reads like two separate books that are loosely tied together.
In the first half, a young woman named Raven finds she does not belong in either of the communities that inhabit her world. The woman who raised her to age 15 turns against Raven, forcing her to flee the magic-fearing Angressi community. She thinks she’s found a home with the First Born, an older more primitive people, only to find herself chosen as a virgin sacrifice to the wyvern, a dragon-like creature. The first half of the book ends with Raven being rescued from the pyre by the very creature she was brought up to fear and hate.
The second half of the book is where Lesley gets to the heart of her story––Raven’s true nature is slowly revealed despite her resistance to accepting who she is. The conclusion is satisfying. Raven not only finds her place, but is a star in its firmament.
Lesley’s use of language is in general excellent. A few sentences, however, require a second reading, often because they contain an unnecessary word or phrase, and some word choices caused this reader to puzzle over their meaning.
“. . . he dreaded the look on her face when she knew the truth.” Knew should be ‘learned’.
“. . . he had wondered by the last sacrifice to the wyverns was with the aggressive conquering race.” I still don’t know what this sentence means. It may be an editing oversight.
That said, Darkspire Reaches is an enjoyable read, driven by a character in search of her identity in a world conspiring to keep her in the dark.