Books & Literature

Book Review: The Fire Star: A Maven & Reeve Mystery, by A L Tait

YA FICTION: A period murder mystery for ages 12+, set in the time of knights and maidens.

If you love a good mystery set in a castle with knights and horses, you will love this new story from A L Tait.

Allison Tait, who often writes under the pen name A L Tait, is an Australian author. She is best known for her middle grade series The Mapmaker Chronicles, consisting of three books.

The Fire Star is the story of Reeve and Maven. Reeve has just begun realising his dream of one day becoming a knight when he takes up the position of squire to Sir Garrick. Maven is the servant girl of Lady Cassandra who has been promised in marriage to Sir Garrick.

We meet both Reeve and Maven when they come across each other on the road. Maven is trying to gather a group of goats and Reeve is having to help her herd them back into the crate. They instantly clash but little do they know their lives will become entwined in murder, theft, and secrets.

Lady Cassandra has a jewel, The Red Star, which she has inherited from her mother. The Airl Buckthorn wants to own this jewel so, by organising a marriage between his knight protector Sir Garrick, and Cassandra, he hopes to have the jewel for himself.

Reeve and Maven, an unlikely pair, are thrown together when the jewel is stolen. Both characters must tread lightly, using skills gained during their formative years when their prospects were different. And so begins the uncovering of secrets until now tightly held. Who can be trusted and who is telling the truth?

The Fire Star is set in the times of knights, castles and political intrigue. It is a time when women have no rights and are given to men in marriage to gain political leverage and secure position and power. Women must be seen and not heard. They are pawns in the chess games of men.

The Fire Star is written in the first person from Maven’s point of view, but we follow both characters throughout the book.

For those young people who love a good mystery, this one will not disappoint. We are taken from intrigue to murder. It gives the reader an interesting insight into the lives of those living in a different time. Tait is able to paint a picture of castle life, from the lowly stables and the kitchens below the castle to the upper halls of those in power. She describes the beautiful gowns of the ladies and the tunics of the lowly servants. The characters also use the language we would have heard in that time.

This book doesn’t talk down to the reader, but leads them through a time in history and a language that may not be a familiar, but will nonetheless draw them in. All threads are pulled together at the end to give a satisfying conclusion. A great read.

Reviewed by Sue Mauger

Distributed by: Penguin Books Australia
Released: September 2020
RRP: $16.99

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