Book Reviews

Fallen Stars and Dragonfly Heroines—My Review of Halayda by Sarah Delena White

It’s human for us to want to deal with darkness, and senseless suffering, and pain. All too often, though, these themes leave us into a dark labyrinth of despair.

What I love so much about Halayda is how it deals with darkness, bloodshed, and loss with a sense of eternal hope. This is a rare combination in a book. From the opening line, “Alchemy and velvet didn’t mix,” Sarah wastes no time in breathing life into her lovable, motley crew of characters and sweeping you along in an incredible ride that combines human hopes, magic, alchemy, shape-shifters, and half-fae orphans. The battle for both earth and Faerie rages, sometimes in the quiet of the human (or fae, or half-fae) heart, sometimes to the clash of swords and magic.

You get the sense that Sarah actually believes in things like eternal love in the face of great evil. In light being stronger than darkness, even when we see light being corrupted by darkness. In life conquering death.

Sarah’s characters are immediately relatable, mysterious, and loveable. So much so that even though 433 pages is a good solid length for a young adult book, it doesn’t seem like enough to get to know Taylan, Diza, Zad and Sylvie and their friends and enemies. (I’m glad there’s a sequel). Each has their own complex past and are still evolving into their true selves. For Taylan, love for his kingdom and for Sylvie helps him believe he is more than he was trained and conditioned to be. Diza and Zad have a beautiful way of rescuing each other and talking sense into each other. They have earned the honor of being one of my favorite couples in literature. Diza is as strong as Zad, and Zad is as tender-hearted as Diza, if not more so. They often work solo, but better together. Like is true of all marriages, their union isn’t always a perfect, fairy-tale romance. But it is a raw, healing, beautiful thing, worth living and fighting for.

Some questions don’t have answers, and Sarah Delena White doesn’t try to answer every difficult question in the book Halayda.

And that’s ok.

But there is an ethereal sense of all the things we loved when we were young, alongside the millennials of battle and betrayal. If kings and kingdoms imploding from their own selfishness is real, so is it all coming right some day. If fallen stars are real, so are promised Messiahs. In her own fantasy, steampunk, literary way, Sarah gives the sense that everything is working towards a final resolution (one that isn’t completely achieved in this book, by the way).

In the end, the battle might not be to the strong, but it is to the true of heart.

This is what the #yalit world needs so much more of.

Buy/review links:
Halayda blurb:

A mortal alchemist. A faerie king. A bond that transcends death.

Betrayed by a trusted mentor, Sylvie Imanthiya hides on the fringes of society, caring for half-fae orphans and trading her alchemical creations on the black market. She lives for the one night each season when she can see her dearest friend—a man whose destiny is far above hers.

King Taylan Ashkalabek knows better than to exchange halayda vows with a mortal. Even their friendship is a risk; love is an impossible dream. Then a brutal alchemical attack poisons his realm, unearthing a dark power within him—and leaving Sylvie with the ancient mark of Faerie’s savior.

Manifesting unpredictable abilities and aided by allies with their own secrets, Sylvie and Taylan journey into the wilds of Faerie to heal the damage and confront Casimir, an invincible star-fae determined to claim the realm as his own. But only their enemy knows Sylvie’s true capabilities—and Taylan’s weaknesses—and how to use them in his vicious schemes.

Her fate is life. His fate is death. With Faerie in the balance, Sylvie and Taylan must stand together before reality as they know it is destroyed.

About the author:

Sarah Delena White was raised by wolves in an alternate dimension. She writes eclectic speculative fiction that reworks mythology with a fine balance of poetry and snark. She’s an experienced world traveler who loves to weave world folklore and ancient concepts into vibrant, original story worlds. She is the Benevolent Firebird (acquisitions editor) for Uncommon Universes Press. When she’s not writing or editing, she can be found making jewelry, singing Irish ballads, drinking tea, and working a variety of odd jobs. She can be bribed with dark chocolate.

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