Starless by Jacqueline Carey
I really enjoyed reading this lush, compelling, standalone fantasy. Richly detailed with a strikingly unusual narrator, this story definitely exceeded my expectations. Khai has been raised in the desert by the Brotherhood of Parkhun, chosen to be the shadow or protector of a royal princess born the same day. Khai is trained by warriors and a thief, as well as an unlikely seer, facing his first opponent at age 9. Khai’s gender is non-binary, but that’s not a spoiler to anyone but Khai. The princess Zariya, youngest child of a very long lived king, has some physical problems from a childhood illness, but is brilliant, beautiful, and strong-willed. Later the pair journey across their starless, island-filled world in search of answers to a prophecy and companions to help in their quest. One reviewer compared their quest to Tolkien, but it reminded me more of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis. The gods are creatively depicted, and include a giant octopus who’s an oracle. Giant sea worms tow their ship, and not all their companions are human. This is the first book I’ve read by Jacqueline Carey; I may try her Kushiel series next.