Friday, February 23, 2018

Review: Even the Darkest Stars by Heather Fawcett

Title: Even the Darkest Stars 
Series: Even the Darkest Stars #1 
Author: Heather Fawcett 
Publisher: HarperCollins 
Publication Date: September 5, 2017
Format: Hardcover 

Page Count: 427


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. (taken from

“The wind seemed to have voices in it - witches' voices, or perhaps those of long-forgotten spirits. 

Sometimes, you just know you're going to have a great experience with a book before you even turn the first page. Everything about Even the Darkest Stars intrigued me as soon as I read the synopsis and glimpsed the beautiful cover. Thankfully, I wasn't disappointed by this icy, magical tale of adventure.

So, the basic premise: Kamzin lives in a small village surrounded by treacherous mountains and dark forests, which makes her an excellent climber and mapper. When unexpected circumstances lead to her involvement with the Royal Explorer on a quest for the Emperor, Kamzin is more than happy to make the dangerous trek up the highest mountain in the realm. They face strange forces, supremely deadly environments, and secrets that might be more threatening than they seem.

Obviously, this book has a lot of things going for it. It's a well-crafted fantasy blended with a realistic survival theme, and I was more than pleased to see Kamzin defy many of the annoying cliches presented by YA heroines. Give me a fierce girl on a quest through the wilderness with a good head on her shoulders and I'm happy. The plot continuously kept me intrigued, despite the fact that much of it centers around travel and camping, which I attest to the writer's skill at keeping her reader's attention.

In fact, I would argue that the wild setting and quest were the largest strength the story has. It's not every day you stumble across a fantasy novel that follows a trek of explorers determined to scale a mountain that's renowned for its deadliness. Points for originality, there.

Perhaps my only real complaint was the Tem/River/Kamzin love triangle. Sure, it's not overwhelming or too gag-inducing, but it's still there, and I think the story could have been much stronger if Tem and Kamzin's relationship was more than the classic childhood-best-friends-turned-more trope.

Overall, I'd definitely thrust this book into the hands of my fellow fantasy/adventure lovers. Kamzin is awesome, and the magical elements of Even the Darkest Stars only add to its thrill. Give me book two ASAP, please, because that ending just left me hanging.