HEIR OF STARLIGHT by Nicole Kimberling

HEIR OF STARLIGHT by Nicole Kimberling
Heir of Starlight
by Nicole Kimberling

Series: Sea of Stars #2
Published by Samhain Publishing Genres: Fantasy, Gay
Source: Publisher

Reviewed by Cassie

Trust is the only light that will guide them home. Sea of Stars, Book 2It’s been seven years since Karl Alton sublet his human body and let his soul be transferred to an orangutan. Now that the contract is up, Karl is ready to live a less hairy existence. Except his body has been stolen. Devastated, Karl turns to his boss, Lord Adam Wexley, for legal advice. But instead of using his noble connections, Adam realizes they need to fight magic with better magic. And there’s only one man for the job: Adam’s ex-lover, Grand Magician Zachary Drake. Once, Drake sacrificed his prized independence to save Adam’s soul. Now under the thumb of the West Court, he’s been forced to create a terrible weapon and bound to a vow of silence. Yet when Adam comes to him for help, no amount of bitterness over his lot will let him refuse. Soon they discover that Karl’s missing body is only one thread connected to a plot to destroy the kingdom. And now the desperate race is on to find who—or what—has a finger on the trigger. Warning: Contains vengeful bankers, noble lawyers, waxed divers who don’t wear wetsuits, and one trip to the vice principal’s office.

Seven years ago, Karl Alton sublet his body to an agency and agreed to have his soul put into the body of an orangutan.  No longer able to pursue his dreams, he takes a job as a chauffeur.  Working for Lord Adam Wexley, a courtier turned lawyer for the rights of soulless humans and inhabited animals, is interesting and helps him pass the time until he can reclaim his body.  Unfortunately, when he goes to get it back, he learns it’s been stolen.

Not knowing where else to turn, he asks his boss for help.  Adam Wexley, in turn, seeks help from his former lover, Grand Magician Zachary Drake.

Bitter about the breakup of their relationship and about being bound to the West Court, Drake wants to say no.  His lingering feelings for Adam won’t let him, however.  Besides, looking for Karl’s missing body will let Drake avoid working on the weapon the West Court is forcing him to create. 

In the course of their search for Karl’s body, Adam, Drake, and Drake’s ward, Tom Gantry, discover that Karl’s missing body is just the tip of the iceberg.  The true problem is far more severe than they could ever have imagined, and more dangerous.  Can they foil the plot and all make it out intact?

I really enjoyed Ghost Star Night, and Heir of Starlight is a worthy sequel.  Nicole Kimberling builds on the creative, fascinating world she created in the first book.  Years have passed since the terrible battle at the end of Ghost Star Night.  Thomas, reduced to a child in the first book, has grown to an eighteen-year-old in body, although his mind is older.  The orangutan chauffeur Karl is preparing to get his human body back.  Grand Magician Zachary Drake has been forced into servitude at the West Court due to a technicality in the contract he signed with the manipulative Lady Langdon.  Lord Adam Wexley and Grand Magician Zachary Drake have broken it off since the first book, which upset me a lot, especially since it’s obvious they’re still in love. 

Karl’s discovery that his body has been stolen sets off a series of events that leads to shocking revelations.  Karl’s missing body, while it starts the story, is nowhere near the only conflict.  Drake’s forced service to the West Court, and the horrific weapon he creates, is another conflict.  Drake and Adam’s estrangement is another.  A fourth problem the characters face is Thomas’s ascension to his full powers as the Guardian of the City.  Add Thomas and Karl’s fledgling attraction, and you have what could have been a muddled story.  Fortunately, Kimberling does a marvelous job of weaving the many disparate threads of her plot into a tapestry of fantasy, intrigue, and a bit of romance.  All four main characters are sympathetic and likeable, despite their flaws.  Drake is bitter, sarcastic, and melancholy, yet beneath his hard shell he is a good man who feels things deeply.  Adam has matured since the first book.  Rather than being a flighty courtier, he is now a man who knows what he wants and values doing the right thing.  I was angry at him for what he did to Drake, but he managed to redeem himself over the course of the book.  I loved watching uncertain Thomas come into his own, both as a man and a wielder of magic.  As for Karl, I adored him as both an orangutan and a man.  He’s strong, self-sacrificing, and honorable, no matter what life throws at him.  Together, the four men must fight to get to the bottom of the sinister plot before it’s too late—and what a team they make.    

I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll leave off the super-detailed plot descriptions and say I hope readers won’t let the unusual nature of this book scare them off.  It’s a great read, and definitely unlike any other series I’ve read.  When Heir of Starlight ended, I felt both the sense of satisfaction on having read a very good book, and a bit of sadness and saying goodbye to the fascinating world and characters.  I don’t know if Ms. Kimberling plans to write another book in this particular world, but if she doesn’t, she certainly ended on a high note.  

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