Even the Darkest Stars by Heather Fawcett
Release Date: September 5, 2017
Genre: YA Fantasy
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 ever 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 climbing Raksha, the tallest and deadliest mountain in the Aryas. Then Lusha sets off on her own mission to Raksha with a rival explorer who is determined to best River, 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 even worse at every turn. And as dark secrets are revealed, Kamzin must unravel the truth of their mission and of her companions—while surviving the deadliest climb she has ever faced.
I was so excited about this. It was definitely not a bad book, but it could have been so much better! I did love the setting though. 10/10 would recommend checking this book out from the library or something just so you can see it.
5 Things About Even the Darkest Stars
1. The setting is stunning. Okay, so I spent all summer thinking this book’s setting was inspired by ancient Mongolia, but it is actually ancient Nepal. WHICH IS SO COOL. How many YA books (or books in general?) are set in Nepal?? With mountaineers?? And winter? It was great. The setting was definitely my favorite part of the book. I loved how creative and just unique it all was. I also loved how the author described the setting. I legitimately felt cold while reading this book, especially toward the (stressful) ending. I also really liked how the mythology/magic of the story tied into and influenced the setting.
2. The whole story is super imaginative. There are witches, and ghosts, and so many maps. I really liked how all these things tied into the story. I did wish that there had been, well, more to the magical aspects of the story. The witches could have been scarier. The ghosts could have been more threatening. The culture could have been explained better and with more detail. Basically, while the story and world were really imaginative and I LOVED them, everything left me wanting more.
3. The characters were sooo flat. I know nothing about the main characters. NOTHING. I have NO sense of anyone’s personality, motivations, backstory, or ANYTHING. The only character who was remotely interesting was the villain, and he could have been SO MUCH MORE INTERESTING if only his character was expanded on. Look, guys, this guy could have rivaled KAZ BREKKER for his awesomeness if only he were fleshed out. I can’t believe I’m saying this. I feel like I should go wash my mouth out with soap. But really – there was so much potential in this character especially that was wasted. I am very perturbed.
4. The book was kind of boring. This is probably because I hate traveling books. Pretty much this whole book was the characters traveling, and while some of the details about them climbing mountains and like nearly dying were exciting, most of the book consisted of setting up/taking down camp, and I can only read about so much traveling without wanting to stab my eyes out. So if you like traveling plots, you probably wouldn’t think this book is boring. The ending was super stressful and slightly scary and exciting, though, and I really wish the whole book could have been like that. Also, there’s no tension throughout the book. We’re told the characters are in danger and in a big hurry but we’re never shown that. Nothing was ever threatening enough for me to care about anything that was going on.
5. This book had sooo much potential, but I’m just left with wanting more. This book had so much raw potential. Just the premise (I seriously cannot get enough of this) was FANTASTIC and I’m just super sad that it wasn’t as great as it easily could have been. Basically, after reading this book, my biggest emotion is dissatisfaction. The setting just barely missed the awesomeness level. The characters were just barely not fleshed out enough to be memorable. Everything about this book was almost there but not quite. I am sad. Probably “this had potential” will be written on my tombstone.
Have you read this book? What is the most unique setting you’ve found in a book? Are you going to come hunt me down for saying anyone could be as great as Kaz Brekker? Because I might need to hunt down myself because, like, goodness, the scandal.
Content guide: There were one or two instances of very mild profanity.
Thank you to the publisher and my local bookstore for providing me with this arc!