Title: Kestrel’s Talon
Series: The Stonewatchers #1
Author(s): Bey Deckard
Publisher: Self Published
Pages/Word Count: 426 Pages
Following the Prentish/Nemarri war, Kes is rejected by his homeland under the guise of religious purity laws. Though he’s spared execution, the proud Nemarri’s fate is only marginally more merciful than death when he is sold into sexual slavery at a prosperous pleasure house.
Despite his stoic endurance, Kes knows he’s reaching his breaking point, but there is nothing he can do—there is no path to freedom in the Holy Prentish Empire, only a lifetime of humiliating servitude.
That is, until a beautiful young slave and his formidable master approach Kes in the marketplace and make an astonishing offer to take him home with them. The only problem: “home” is the accursed Horthmont Castle from the scare-stories of Kes’s childhood.
Thrown into a world of living myth, powerful magic, and ancient gods, Kes learns the secrets kept hidden by Horthmont’s thick blackstone walls. There he discovers something he thought he’d never know again: hope for the future.
Deckard is one of those authors I pick up when I want a guaranteed good reading experience, and this novel was no exception. There are many great things to say about this book, but I’d like to focus on the author’s syntax, worldbuilding, and the use of LGBTQ+ characters in the novel.
One of the things that has always impressed me about Deckard, even with his first novel, was his use of diction. His words are often stark but full of imagery, and while this novel was a bit more verbose and flowery than his other works, he painted a beautiful picture with his prose. I love reading a sentence, and marveling how it couldn’t be worded more perfectly. That respect is something I reserve for very few.
The worldbuilding was fantastic. I realize, this being the first in the series, there was probably more explaining than I was comfortable with. The author tried to ease some of that through the showing of flashbacks, and while they didn’t all work for me, I still appreciated the vast richness of the world he built. It had it’s own language, customs, and complicated history–a great feat of fantasy storytelling.
The characters were rich and detailed, but what really won me over was how nearly every character was LGBTQ+ in some form or another. There were gay men, genderqueer people, sexually fluid people, and an asexual. Wow. Quite the representation. And as with most of Deckard’s other works, he doesn’t shy away from representing characters with many different body types, and portraying them in lovely ways. As an LGBTQ+ reader, these sorts of works are invaluable to me and how I see my place in this world… even if it’s fantasy.
I realize I haven’t said much about the plot. To be honest, I thought it was a bit slow in places, but I attributed that methodical attention to detail as a way to convey the world in the first of a series. I assume the next books will be faster paced.
In a way, this book was menage. Not your typical menage, but a sort of emotional menage. I remember Deckard mentioning long ago how he was sick of writing MMM, because of all the pronoun confusion, and I had to laugh at him a bit for this work. Indeed, those pesky epithets were glaring at me from the page. But I could certainly sympathize.
When I read, I like to look for little tidbits of the author in the story–because they are always there–and to be honest, at first I was a bit disappointed in this work. It didn’t speak to me as a Deckard novel usually does, but then I hit a point somewhere in the latter half of the book, where Kestrel mentions how he loves to dance, and not just the dances he was made to perform at the Aviary, but dance dance: at weddings and in celebration. I remember smiling when I read that piece, an inexplicable tension left my body, and I resumed reading with ease.
I purchased this copy through the Kindle Unlimited program.
Link to Bey Deckard’s Website: http://www.beydeckard.com/blog/buy-my-books/kestrels-talon/
B. A. Brock is a reviewer for The Novel Approach and Queer Sci Fi. He enjoys reading, writing, running, family and food, and fills his life with bent bunk. He especially loves to discuss LGBTQ+ literature. His website is http://www.babrockbooks.com. You can find him on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/BABrockBooks.