This is another one of the books I've picked up on Netgalley because the blurb sounds interesting, though it's taken a while for me to actually finish (real life intruding!) and then review it.
The basic premise of The Lord of Stariel is that it's the first of a series, set in a pseudo-Victorian world where our protagonist, Hetta, has left the family estate and established herself as an illusionist in the theatre. This means she's using magic to support the performances, which is shocking both from her being of the nobility and working for a living and also because she's a woman. When we first meet her, she's returning to the family home after the death of her father because of a ritual which chooses the next Lord.
There's so much foreshadowing going on, and not subtly either, that it's no surprise at all when the ritual chooses Hetta rather than her older brother or younger cousin, the latter having been the expected heir. Hetta is forced to give up her plans to return to her life elsewhere, only to make a number of discoveries about her family and people she cares about. Saying much more would lead to massive spoilers so the fact this is book 1 of 4 will probably tell you that things are going to be complicated long-term.
The main problem I had with this book, other than the unsubtle way Hetta spends a good chunk of the first part going 'oh, but this ritual is just a formality for someone else to be chosen and I'm fine with that' (which of course lets you know that she's going to be chosen and then have issues with any problems that subsequently arise) was the tendency of the writer to info-dump. There's a whole chapter which is pretty much two characters talking and one of them giving his back-story to fleshing out a sudden piece of world-building, which I have to confess I skimmed. They are, alas, not alone in having a number of 'as you know, Bob...' style conversations! This is, however, the writer's first novel so maybe this is an area in which they can improve....
I wasn't massively impressed with the romance sub-plots going on either, but then I'm not an easy sell where this kind of thing is concerned - I thought Wyn, Hetta's main love interest, wasn't particularly three-dimensional other than being a competent person who she used to have a crush on.
I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.