As a soldier for Nemarri, “Kestrel” is taken prisoner by the Pren, where he is raped by a fellow prisoner. When the war is over, the Nemarri view him as ‘unclean’ and refuse to take him back so the Pren sell him off as a sex slave. Kestrel (the name the pleasure house that owns him gave him) is on display in the market one day when he catches the eye of Count Strade, or rather, the count's rather quirky and very beautiful slave, Talon.
The imposing Count purchases Kestrel in short order and takes him away. Strade's black stone castle in the middle of a dark forest is the stuff of legend, the kind of place parents threaten their children with if they don't eat their vegetables, or teenagers tell stories about around the campfire. But Kestrel is about to find that reality can be a lot stranger than children's stories.
“Kestrel's Talon” is quite a distinctive fantasy tale. It has some very common elements of such stories, like shifters and paranormal powers, but these things play a rather minor role in the story. The characters are front and center in this tale. Kestrel, Talon and Strade are all very real people, even though their circumstances are bordering on the bizarre. On top of that, they are surrounded by a small group of people that constitute a family of sorts, the kind that misfits and outsiders make for themselves when their blood families desert them for whatever reason. All of members of this ad-hoc family are likable, although none of them are perfect, which makes them all the more real despite the fantasy setting.
The length of the book (418 pages in print) may be a little daunting, but the writing flows very easy, making for an enjoyable read. The style is also very episodic, with several chapters devoted to giving us the backstories for the main characters or to give us more insight into the secondary characters. The chapters are introduced naturally, such that they don't interrupt the flow of the book. It makes for a very solid and enjoyable introduction to a new series, without boring the reader or leaving too much unanswered at the end.
It's hard to discuss just how distinctive this book is without spoilers, so suffice it to say that it's a refreshingly realistic fantasy. “Kestrel's Talon” is available from Amazon.