SPFBO4: The Shepherd Girl’s Necklace by Watson Davis

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One of the first things I noticed when starting this book were the names, this book hits you with a bunch of unfamiliar and more complicated names like “Tuth-yoo, Basaliyasta, Uyinstrom” etc which made it a little difficult for me at first. That doesn’t let up either, the majority of the names of places and people in this are fairly complicated.

Ka-bes and her brother Ja’ast were celebrating their recent graduation from a priest’s academy when their fun times were cut short by Bishop Diyune. He calls them out in public at the after party for cheating on their exams and throws them out of the priesthood of Arenghel forever. Things move quickly after this, Ka-bes moves back in with her fisherfolk parents helping them out with their business. Since Ka-bes is a water/air mage she can really lend a hand to her parents. She leaves one day to go get supplies when she sees a group of soldiers harassing people in the center of town, trying to avoid that mess she ducks around a corner to head a different direction when she runs into Che-su a priestess who ushes her into a building trying not to be noticed. Che-su has a small infant with her, and Ka-bes has no idea what the priestess wants, and she doesn’t get many answers from the priestess as she starts to chant in an unknown language and casts a spell on the both of them. Without explaining anything, she commands Ka-bes to take the child and run far away, and not let anyone know where she goes, including the priestess herself. Unable to disobey the spell, Ka-bes flees the city with the infant.

The plot skips forward about 15 years and Sifa, the infant, is now grown. She’s not a normal child, she has horns on her head and her pupils look more like a goats than a person’s. She and Ka-bes have lived in seclusion for all her life and she’s starting to get restless. Even though she’s 15 she’s been incredibly sheltered and at times she behaves much younger than she is, she doesn’t listen and has a childlike curiosity about everything.

Ka-bes and Sifa are robbed, they go to the town priestess who works kind of like an officer of the law for that area to plead their case that a neighbor had stolen their goats and other belongings. The priestess is rude and aggressive with Ka-bes, bringing up the fact that she’s an ex-priestess and marked as a liar. Things escalate and even though Sifa was told to keep her head down, it’s revealed to the priestess that she’s not human and Ka-bes ends up killing her. They have to go on the run again, and after some tension and arguments Sifa runs away and their two plots split off for a while. Sifa gets captured by the Empress’s lackeys and Ka-bes tries to find a way to rescue her.

This is a world where magic is apparent right away, when Ka-bes and her brother were being kicked out of the academy, the Bishop touched her lips when she spoke a lie and her mouth was severely burned. Ka-bes is able to make water spouts, fly, use the wind to carry objects from one place to the next so all in all she’s pretty powerful. Being able to manipulate one of the elements leads to some super-powered people. There are non human races as well, Orcs feature quite a lot and one of the minor POV’s is from an Orc dyer who works in one of the tanneries. Necromantic magic can cause a corpse to temporarily come back to life to answer questions post-death, one of the priests who work for the Empress uses this to try and track where Ka-bes and Sifa are running to.

Ka-bes is probably in her early 30’s and is bitter about how her life turned out, not that I blame her since I’d be pissed too if someone just handed me a horned demon-baby and magically commanded me to take care of it for the rest of my life. Hard pass on that one. Despite all that she does care about Sifa even though she can be a heavy burden since being found with her can be a death sentence. It doesn’t help that the mini-death sentence you’re sworn to protect likes to get into trouble.

I felt bad for Sifa, she spent her whole life in the dark about who she is and why she has to be in hiding, and she’s not getting any answers from Ka-bes which made me frustrated on her behalf. Sifa herself could be frustrating though because she’s all impulse and no plan. She did act a bit young for her age (15) at some points, saying things like “I’ll be a good girl, I just want to go home” (she was captured) and other times she acts a bit more like an adult.

I felt like I didn’t get enough time with many of the side characters to really latch on to them, there were a bunch of smaller POV’s that did have relevance to the plot but didn’t have enough time to develop into strong entities of their own.

The writing definitely has a unique style rather than being more straightforward – there are a lot of similes and metaphors in this one. I didn’t catch many spelling or grammar errors which isn’t surprising with this author, I’ve read his stuff before. The dialogue was mostly free flowing and natural, but there were awkward points where it felt a little stiff or out of place.

The pacing was a little jarring, especially in the beginning – the main character had to pick up and start her life all over again 4 times by the time I hit 8% into the book, it was very run, run, run and didn’t leave much time for the characters to breathe. So that coupled with how unfamiliar all the names were made for a pretty slow start, but once things stopped starting over I was able to get more into the story and characters and things flowed much better. I started to get more invested in the story about 30% through when a larger plot was uncovered, up until then it had just been Sifa and Ka-bes on the run. There are also minor POV’s introduced pretty far into the book which caused some bumps in pacing as I got to know new characters and what part they had to play.

Overall this was a good book, I feel like it was well written and imaginative with engrossing prose and extensive world building.

Audience:

  • Powerful MC’s
  • lots of magic
  • classic high fantasy races
  • female pov
  • high fantasy setting
  • lots of action and running

Ratings:

  • Plot: 12/15
  • Characters: 11/15
  • World Building: 12.5/15
  • Writing: 12/15
  • Pacing: 10/15
  • Originality: 11/15
  • Personal Enjoyment: 7/15

Final Score:  75/100

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