White Star by Elizabeth Vaughan (2009) is the second book in the Star Series. I thought I read the first book, Dagger-Star, but I soon realized from reading this second book that I haven't read it yet. Regardless, I was fine reading the second book without the background from the first one, though I'll be backing up to read Dagger-Star soon.
This excerpt from p. 58 is why I really enjoyed the book:
If, in fact, one answered for one's choices in life, Orrin Blackhart knew he was damned. But there was one thing he'd done right and well, and he was fiercely glad of it. He'd saved her. He didn't think it would count for much in the balance. But it mattered to him.
It hit him then, hit him hard. The striving was done; the battle, over. Death was here, waiting, and part of him welcomed the possibility of oblivion. It settled in his chest, an odd sense of peace. Let it be done, then. He was ready.
Orrin Blackhart, Lord Marshal of the Black Hills, has done much in the name of Lady Elanore, Baroness of the Black Hills, that can only be described as evil and horrific. No sugar-coating, no waving away being blamed for something he hasn't actually done for this hero of the novel. He pursued the wrong path at a certain point in his life, and now he must face the consequences of his actions.
Fortunately for Orrin, life is about second chances and where you're heading, not where you've been.
Enter Lady High Priestess Evelyn, a healer and a warrior working to put the proper person on the throne, and Orrin's prisoner at the beginning of the book. A prisoner he's immediately drawn to for her shining goodness. Treated well by him during her captivity, Evelyn soon has the chance to repay his kindness when Orrin becomes the prisoner.
Soon, the two are engaged in a quest, along with his men, to save the Black Hills from the odium (think: zombies) and win a pardon for all of his men for their actions in the name of Lady Elanore.
Not quite up to the standard of my favorite Vaughan book, Warprize, this one shines brighter than the other two entries from the Chronicles of the Warlands series, Warsworn and Warlord.
Although housed in the romance section at the bookstore, White Star actually reads more as a fantasy with an element of romance to me. There's a great deal of time spent on outlining this other, magical world and the relationships between, for example, Orrin and his men. Although I very much enjoyed the book, I wouldn't recommend this one to a reader interested in finding a romance novel to read.
My overall personal rating of White Star is a B+.