Star of Justice
by Robynn Tolbert.
ISBN-13: 978-1927154229 (Trade Paperback)
Pub Date: May 2012
Publisher: Splashdown Books
A diversity of works have tried combining fantasy and science fiction themes, from Anne McCaffrey’s Dragon Riders series to the Star Wars movies. Well, add Robynn Tolbert to the list of successful blendings with her novel, Star of Justice, which includes a sense of humor giving his piece of work a unique voice.
When we meet Caissa Ocren, knight of Golor and so identified by the star of the title tattooed on her arm, is riding a horse while writing a letter to her patron which gives us an idea of her mission. Caissa is not so much a sword-wielding knight (although it seems she can handle a weapon when she must) as a scholar. So it comes as a shock when she is the target of an assassination attempt in the first tavern she visits.
If you are expecting the first well-styled knight she meets to become her protector, guess again. That role is taken by a shaggy Scottish-sounding drunk-well, that’s the first impression the reader gets of him-who hides some surprises himself. Their conversations throughout the story will leave you wondering and chuckling at the same time.
What seems to be the typical Medieval-like setting of a quest tale changes its nature well into the story. Tolbert weaves all this together seamlessly. Aside from Caissa, hardly any of the characters we meet are who they seem to be initially, and the surprises keep coming – including Caissa’s own mission, which changes and grows to world-shaking proportions as she goes along.
Readers will find themselves enjoying Tolbert’s characters and pulling for them to succeed, or at least survive. There are no cheap victories to be found; Caissa suffers injuries and bizarre perils, and she does not bounce back from them any more easily than would you or I. But, whether becoming an intended human sacrifice or battling a dragon, she draws on very human resources to survive (her only power, if you want to call it that, is that typical magic spells do not work on her).
The situations encountered by Caissa and her growing and diverse coterie are intense, but the manner in which she faces them is going to endear her to you as it does to the other characters. She is far from a typical sword-and-sorcery heroine, but all the more real for that. And even at the worst of times, author Tolbert manages to retain that light touch that marks this novel as truly something different. It’s exciting, sure-but it’s also a lot of fun. — Paul Dellinger