In order to ensure that I read both older and newer books in my ever growing library, I force myself to read one book from each shelf of my double bookcase, moving in a clockwise fashion. I am always pleased when a book on my older fantasy shelf turns out to be such a delightful story. This one was full of revenge, change, and redemption, a perfect coming-of-age story, albeit the main character is eighteen and vehemently protests she is not a child at every turn.
Strands of Starlight follows the tale of a young healer, persecuted in the age of the Inquisition for having abilities she must have received from the devil. When the story begins, she is on the run after committing a daring escape from the torture chamber, especially given the physical and emotion damage that has been wrought upon her. Her escape is hampered by her being a slave to her healing powers; if she sees someone in need of healing, she must help or face the dire consequences of her body betraying her. Unfortunately it's during one of these healings that a man that she saves does not treat her as kindly. Vowing revenge, she flees to the Free Towns, where people like her are at worst, watched, but at best, they are appreciated for the gifts that they bring. The people she meets in these towns begin to touch her life, and bring a flicker of happiness and redemption to that dark spot that only wants revenge.
Strands of Starlight meshes the human and elvish populations in one of the friendliest pairings I've seen. Although the inquisitors fear and despise the elves, the other humans respect and are in awe of them. The interesting part is how the elves treat the humans. Often in fantasy, elves are seen as self-centered or isolated, sticking to themselves fully and letting the humans get what they deserve. Here they are helpful and care deeply about the humans, going out of their way to help, keep the peace, and heal the ill.
Strands of Starlight is a charming and often heart-breaking tale of a young woman who needs to find herself. It is a story of distrust turning to trust, of selfishness turning to selflessness, and of hate turning to love. And despite the lack of a steamy romance, finding love for others is a perfect lesson to remember for the upcoming Valentine's Day.