Tag Team Review: Kestrel's Talon (The Stonewatchers #1) by Bey Deckard

Following the Prentish/Nemarri war, Kes is rejected by his homeland under the guise of religious purity laws. Though he's spared execution, the proud Nemarri's fate is only marginally more merciful than death when he is sold into sexual slavery at a prosperous pleasure house.

Despite his stoic endurance, Kes knows he’s reaching his breaking point, but there is nothing he can do—there is no path to freedom in the Holy Prentish Empire, only a lifetime of humiliating servitude.

That is, until a beautiful young slave and his formidable master approach Kes in the marketplace and make an astonishing offer to take him home with them. The only problem: “home” is the accursed Horthmont Castle from the scare-stories of Kes’s childhood.

Thrown into a world of living myth, powerful magic, and ancient gods, Kes learns the secrets kept hidden by Horthmont’s thick blackstone walls. There he discovers something he thought he’d never know again: hope for the future.

An average of our reviews. ;)

SheReadsALot - 4 Hearts

Bey Deckard's, Kestrel's Talon (The Stonewatchers, #1), is a fantasy based romance that stars a triad that find themselves themselves and try to heal along a twisted path. In this fictional world, there are slaves, civil unrest among those who are slaves and freemen alike, telepaths, religion/mythology, lost cultures and a QUILTBAG cast of characters.

If I had known what all was going to be introduced *cough*namely psychics*cough*, I'd...probably not read it as soon as I did. But the premise intrigued me and the main characters actually won me over by the end. So if an anti-psychic reader can say it wasn't all that bad and kind of cool, you might want to check this out.

Kestrel is an ex-soldier, now forced into slavery in a pleasure house. He comes from a bigoted country when his sexuality is against their religion. Now in the Holy Empire of Pren, where slaves are the lowest of the low, his fountain of hope is all but run out. Until he locks eyes with a young ginger haired slave by the name of Talon. Talon is infectious and his master, a gentle giant with a reputation, Count Strade, purchase Kes and change what he knew as his life forever.

This story is long, 135K. And I will admit, the first 20% took me days to finish. It was interesting but not what I expected. I went in thinking it was going to be a dark, kinky tale between two slaves. But instead there was an extra partner, an asexual partner that threw my preconceptions out the door. The next 70%? I consumed in less than a day, I couldn't wait to find out what's next. The tale might take some time to get to a point (and when the paranormal part with shifters came to play) I couldn't get enough of it.

This book would work best for fantasy lovers, but it's not for everyone.

Let's get the triggers out front and center - rape (off page) and physical violence (between partners). I wouldn't necessarily call this story dark. I thought the tone was cool, angsty in spots. But not something I'll be afraid to read in the dark alone. Though there was a few spooky bits...oh if they were only longer. I've read darker work from this author, this is a 1.5 out of 5 on the dark scale for me.

The setting was hands down the winner for me. This author is wickedly talented with setting a scene, creating a landscape and describing the smells, colors and environment. It's 5 Hearts for me.

The story is swimming in 3.5-4 Hearts pool. The plots and side plots were good, the execution was mostly solid. I don't mind flashbacks, this story has an abundance. And sometimes the branching out to a flashback and jumping back to present time could be a little jarring in spots. Or the flashback scene here and there would end a mite early. Overall, solid but it's a beginning. I want to read the entire story and then review it on a whole. Kestrel's Talon is supposed to be the base of the triad's relationship.

The characters were 4 Hearts - I don't have a definite favorite of the throuple. Each guy brought something different to the relationship.

-Kes is struggling with his recovery, struggling with his lot in life especially after such horrific conditions. He is so angry, it's justified to me. I think the author did a good job of showing why he reacts the way he does and is so possessive of his spot of happiness. Imagine if you've never had any bit of hope and then a ray of sunshine is forcing themselves into your pocket? Reactions will be bumpy.
-Talon, the nubile, naive ginger slave whose innocence (and he's not innocent the least) brings a sense of newness that is refreshing. I didn't want anything to go wrong in his world. And I hated that he was a slave (not a sexy slave - but slave with no say in the world he lived in) But his perspective on life was a nice touch. There was no ounce of jadedness to be found here.
-Count Strade or Grimma, he was the enigma for me. And definitely not what I'd imagine to go with his looks. His back story, was shared in sections throughout the story. So he's the one the reader gets the most information on. He's sweet and interesting.

The secondary characters were the ones that really helped move this story along. I think my favorite character (including the leads) so far is Hessa. And she doesn't even speak!

The story ends on a sweet, loose end note. A soft cliffhanger, if you will. There isn't as much action, more setting the groundwork of more to come. I have questions and hopes for the future of this series. I want to know about Talon's ancestry, Kes' too. What is up with the telepathy stuff? Too many question marks at the end for me and not enough periods. ;D

This story has potential, it gives more than decent framework. But I had quibbles.

- The villains/bad guys - I want retribution. Badly. Especially for the one who took advantage of the ginger.

- This triad...I'm about 75% sold on them. It might be because not all parties are equals, the hypersexual to asexual ratio or though this is super novel, I don't feel like I got enough of a sense of each character. Or it could be a combination of the three. Something about this throuple just doesn't seem rock solid. They are new partners to relationship: there is infighting, insecurities, jealousies and stupid decisions. But I'm not sure if they're hearts are all in it because they ALL wanted to or there wasn't any other choice.

-The last 10% - it was a lull for me. I understand this is a beginning all 135K of this novel. But the last 10% seemed rushed, a little too sweet and just a little anticlimactic after all that happened in the last 90%.

Though this story is long, other than my slow start, this story was pretty easy to zip through. I definitely would read more of this series. It's more on the cerebral plot heavy than swords dashing and dukes flying. I didn't know how much I liked it until reflecting on the cool twists and turns...and I'm not telling you because it's one for fantasy lovers who don't mind flashbacks and a plot slow burn to discover for themselves.

Optimist King's Wench - 3 Hearts

I hate to do this, I really do especially after having been so vocal with my excite for this book. I’ve ardently gushed and fawned over BeyBey’s writes since reading Caged, but this wasn’t a win for me. I’ll get to what didn’t work for me, but first let’s start with what did.

Kestrel’s Talon is another high fantasy with superb worldbuilding. It’s told from multiple perspectives non-linearly. The skill and creativity required to construct a unique world with this scrupulous attention to detail including a distinct language and customs for multiple countries flabbergasts me. The Prentish Empire is nuanced, exquisitely detailed and inventive from start to finish. These characters are also meticulously crafted, though if you’ve read the Baal’s Heart trilogy you will notice similarities.

Kes was forced into slavery and delegitimized by a ridiculous Nemarri law after having bravely served his country as a foot soldier in the military. After being debased in the most heinous way (only referenced) he is rightfully angry and loathes the whole institution of slavery. Talon, on the other hand, was born a slave and has been with Count Strade since he was a boy. He and Kes have an instantaneous connection in the market where Kes is on offer in his cock cage and diamond belly chain.

*bites fist*

Count Strade negotiates a price for him and off they go to Horthmont Castle. There are a few plot twists that caught me off guard and were clever. Some weighty contemporary topics are addressed in the subtext, one being discrimination. The inclusivity of the castle and acceptance of those who would otherwise be deemed societal outcasts was heartwarming. I always like stories wherein a family is created to replace a dysfunctional or non-existent one. All of the inhabitants of the castle were as well constructed as the main characters. As a matter of fact, I liked them better than the main characters with one notable exception.

And that’s probably my biggest problem-I didn’t really like two of the three MCs. I swear it wasn’t that the chastity skedaddled in a blink and this wasn’t the slave fic I had envisioned, though I was disappointed by those developments I won’t lie. Things started off on the wrong foot for me when Kes hits Talon early on. I’ve made my thoughts on this known repeatedly so I won’t beat the dead horse. Talon forgives him which is his prerogative, but he never redeemed himself in my eyes. There’s no faster way for me to disconnect from a character than to have them treat their paramour thusly. Later in the book when he treats Talon “like a slave” after becoming upset over an event those feelings compounded.

Talon is marginally better but both he and Kes are exceedingly jealous of each other’s time with Grim. I like possessive but there’s a fine line between possessive and obsessive and they tipped over that line. Talon is sweet and playful, has a “gift” which I won’t go into, and he is randy, but there’s nothing exceptional about him aside from his beauty.

Grim is the only one I really liked mainly for his equanimity and I can’t talk about him without spoiling. But the biggest problem with this relationship is I don’t know how you can sustain a triad with these sorts of dynamics happening. Maybe it was the pettiness or the fact that I didn’t care for Kes and Talon, but something integral to forming a lasting relationship just didn’t gel for me. Kes and Talon are hot for each other and they respect Grim; that they all care about each other is clear but forever ‘n ever?

The pacing was too slow. I appreciate worldbuilding and character development, but I needed more adventure. Slice of life + high fantasy doesn’t work for me. I can only take so much sex (I can’t believe I just said that), hunting, chopping wood and piddling around an enormous castle before I start drifting. The last quarter had some developments that helped but left me feeling unfulfilled. It’s clear this is the set up book for a series and while I do think the objective for an egalitarian society is a noble one, I just don’t know if that’s enough for me to continue with the series.

At the end of the day, the worldbuilding alone is worthy of 3 Hearts from me.

A copy provided for an honest review.

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