A Star-Reckoner’s Lot by Darrell Drake
Ashtadukht is a star-reckoner. The worst there's ever been.She commands the might of the constellations... though her magic is as unpredictable as the die rolls that decide its fate. But star-reckoners are humanity's first defense against divs, so if Ashtadukht is to fulfill her duty, she must use every trick at her disposal—risks be damned.An excuse. A lie she tells herself. All that remains of a life she should have had. She travels the empire to hunt down the div that brought her world to ruin. The longer her pursuit, the more her memories threaten to consume her. The darker her obsession becomes.Every spell is a catastrophe waiting to happen, every div a tale of its own, every tale a thread in her tapestry of vengeance. This is the story of her path... a warning to those who would follow in her footsteps.Ashtadukht is a star-reckoner. The worst there's ever been. Hers is no hero's journey.
Drake tells the story of Ashtadukht, a star-reckoner in Sasanian Iran. She is contracted on missions to hunt and defeat the curse of the people - the divs. In addition to this, she is hellbent on finding and destroying the div who once ruined her life.
At the beginning of the novel, Ashtadukht’s missions tend to span only one chapter, with her showing up and sealing the deal for her contractors pretty quickly. This gave a vignette style feeling to plot until it began to grow and spawn and larger tale centric to Ashtadukt’s history.
A star-reckoner is someone who can command the magic of the stars in order to create some sort of reaction. This is usually useful when defeating enemies - divs - in a fight, but I’ll be damned if I could work out the method of reckoning, the history of it, or how it worked. Later in the novel, planet-reckoning is also introduced, and I was truly, truly stumped. I feel the reason for this is the massive time leap from Ashtadukht being a young girl and identified with reckoning abilities, to her being a fully-fledged reckoner. A little bit of learning alongside the character would have gone a long way for my tiny brain.
I found it difficult to concentrate throughout. I struggled to follow along with the plot, and certain events would occur which would throw me completely as I’d no idea where I was, who I was amongst, or even why I was there. There’s a real disjointed feel to the way the plot progresses, and the confusion began to affect my motivation for reading on.
The characters were pretty interesting in their interactions with each other, but there was a noticeable lack of backstory for each of them, and where we were gifted with some commentary, it was sparse, and often raised more questions than it answered.
Despite the above, this is a rich tale. Sasanian Iran is not a common setting for any type of contemporary novel, never mind fantasy novels. Reading of the lore and myth from this time was enlightening, and it’s clear to see Drake has a strong passion here. His premise was excellent, his writing beautiful.
My disconnection was in how it was all put together; the lack of backstory, the jarring flow. I honestly couldn’t say whether this would have an impact on anyone else reading this novel - I imagine it’s something that would only affect certain readers. I definitely wouldn’t discourage anyone from reading this; it just wasn’t for me.