Thursday, September 28, 2017

Even the Darkest Stars by Heather Fawcett

Title: Even the Darkest Stars
Author: Heather Fawcett
Genre: Young Adult, High Fantasy
Source: Balzer + Bray via Edelweiss

Set in a fictional Himalayan kingdom, this is the story of a girl enlisted by a legendary explorer to help him climb the kingdom’s deadliest mountain – only to discover that his true mission may threaten her whole world.

Kamzin has always dreamed of becoming one of the emperor’s royal explorers, the elite climbers tasked with mapping the wintry, mountainous Empire and spying on its enemies. She knows she could be the best in the world, if only someone would give her a chance.

But everything changes when the mysterious and eccentric River Shara, the greatest explorer every known, arrives in her village and demands to hire Kamzin—not her older sister, Lusha, as everyone had expected—for his next expedition. This is Kamzin’s chance to prove herself—even though River’s mission to retrieve a rare talisman for the emperor means cimbing Raksha, the tallest and deadliest mountain in the Aryas. Then, Lusha sets off on her own mission to Raksha with a rival explorer, and Kamzin must decide what’s most important to her: protecting her sister from the countless perils of the climb or beating her to the summit.

The challenges of climbing Raksha are unlike anything Kamzin expected—or prepared for—with avalanches, ice chasms, ghosts, and other dangers at every turn. And as dark secrets are revealed, Kamzin must unravel the truth about their mission and her companions—while surviving the deadliest climb she has ever faced.
Review by Nara

While Even the Darkest Stars could be classified as an adventure novel, with our characters on a quest to "save the world", the main driver of the plot was probably more character development. The story itself is quite slow, and sort of like Lord of the Rings where there's a lot of walking around. The characters were perhaps a bit typical, but I found I didn't mind so much because somehow it felt like the novel was setting up for the sequel. I feel like I might actually enjoy the novel more on the reread now that I know where the plot is heading throughout.

The strongest aspect of the novel was probably the world building. Fawcett creates a world based on the Himalayas, which is a setting that I have not personally seen in YA before. There are all sorts of dangers that the team face while climbing the mountain, including natural ones like avalanches, and not-so-natural ones like creepy monsters and ghosts.

There is a big twist at the end, and I have to admit, I didn't expect it. But, to be honest, the reveal was also not that surprising- I'm not exactly sure why, but it lacked the punch to leave me reeling as the reader. I guess in a way, I hadn't really thought about that twist as a possibility, but it made sense on the reveal rather than having me shocked. On the other hand, the twist did leave a lot of possibilities for plot progression in the sequel, leaving the book on quite the cliffhanger.

Overall, Even the Darkest Stars was an enjoyable read set in an atypical world. I will definitely be reading the sequel.

Really liked it
Overall: 8/10
Plot: 4/5
Romance: 3/5
Writing: 4/5
World Building: 4/5
Characters: 3.5/5
Cover: 3/5