cover image Shield of Stars

Shield of Stars

Hilari Bell, . . S&S, $16.99 (267pp) ISBN 978-1-4169-0594-3

The first book in the Shield, Sword, and Crown trilogy by Bell (The Goblin Wood ) transports readers to Deorthas, a medieval kingdom tenuously divided between town dwellers and country folk, and by those who follow "the One God" versus the Hidden, who clandestinely worship a pantheon of ancient deities. Weasel, a 14-year-old former pickpocket, is now employed as a clerk to Justice Holis, a respected judge. However, Holis is secretly mounting a conspiracy to overthrow Regent Pettibone, the ambitious, murderous advisor to the 15-year-old prince and ruler of Deorthas. When the regent's guards arrest Holis under suspicion of treason, Weasel slips away and, disguised, sneaks into the palace to petition the prince on behalf of his master. While he does gain an audience with the prince, Weasel is captured and imprisoned with a teenage girl, Arisa. The two manage to escape, and, with the guards in hot pursuit, high adventure follows as they devise an elaborate plan to rescue Weasel's master. Bell's lengthy set-up to explain this world's political intrigue, superstitions (e.g., that "the true king's power comes from the sword and shield," which were stolen), portents and legalities can be difficult to keep straight. With the exception of a climactic revelation and an intense showdown, readers may not feel that there's enough of a payoff for following Weasel's circuitous journey. Ages 8-12. (Mar.)