I don’t often review books on my blog. This is because I read a lot of books, and I’m as lazy as I want to be with book reviews. Therefore, I must have a compelling reason for reviewing books in my very own space of the internet where I am dictator. For example, a book might feed my obsession for the Enlightenment period of history, or it might intrigue my sense of the Gothic, or it might contain a heroic journey of Jungian proportions (most Gothic texts will do this). Or it might fuel my sense of curiosity and/or absurdity. The last book I reviewed here, Vox Day’s A Throne of Bones, fit the last category, owing to the oddness of the Hinterlands marketing strategy. Of course, now that Vox Day has been excommunicated from SFWA in a farcical way, I would probably read his book and review it for that reason alone: I enjoy eating my dinner with absurdity a la mode. However, I’ve already done so and can’t repeat myself.
I only bring this up because it is somehow relevant. Oh, yes, it is relevant. When I clicked over to the Vox Popoli blog, I noticed he and his readers had compiled a list of the twenty best epic fantasy novels. Some I would agree with; others I do not. Some I haven’t read at all. But the list itself left me feeling a little wistful after having finished Robynn Tolbert’s fantasy, Star of Justice at one this morning. Her book wouldn’t have fit Vox Day’s criteria for best epic fantasy, anyway, because it’s only just over 400 pages in length. Yet, it is a surprisingly good book that isn’t getting the acclaim it deserves. It deserves to be on a best-of list somewhere. If I had read it prior to voting for the Clive Staples award, I would have voted for it. Why didn’t others?!
I know why. It’s published by a small indie press that also doesn’t get the acclaim it deserves due to the clamoring fans of Gerke and his Marcher Lord Press. Don’t mistake me; I have nothing against Gerke or MLP (or Hinterlands, the offshoot). Gerke filled an important niche in Christian publishing, and I don’t blame fantasy fans for loving him. He gave their favored genre a fighting chance within Christian circles. At the same time, though, Tolbert’s publisher, Splashdown, publishes worthy fantasy novels that are often overlooked. Splashdown deserves a prominent place at the epic feast table of Christian fantasy, too, and will probably make it there in a couple of years (MLP has been around a couple of years longer). And hands down, Star of Justice is the best Splashdown book I’ve devoured thus far. In fact, it has made it to my private top-books list for 2013 (yeah, it was published in 2012, but I’m a little slow).
Star of Justice gets five stars from me. I love the world-building. I love the cerebral female protagonist, Caissa. I love the goofy male protagonist, Merritt, even though he annoyed me at times. He’s witty; the book is full of dirty humor and double entendre and phallic symbols. Well, it is! This isn’t a criticism. The female protagonist, a scholar, finds herself on a heroic journey to “save” the world, and part of this journey is becoming one with the masculine principle in order to fight dragons, which, of course, represent her shadow self. *Oh, there goes Jill with her symbolism again!* Ahem, without giving spoilers, that is what happens in this book. At one point, she literally becomes one with a giant tree. In case I just gave you the impression that this is a silly book with sexual humor, it really isn’t. It is beautifully written, filled with sensory details, and is classic mythos in the making.
I’m trying REALLY hard to write shorter blog posts due to excessive, pending busyness. Let me wrap this up: If you like fantasy that verges on science fiction with a little non-gratuitous romance and plenty of humor, you’ll love this book. I encourage you to buy it (it’s only $2.99!), read it, and tell others what a good book it is.