Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Wednesday #Review - Even the Darkest Stars by @heathermfawcett ‏ #YALit #Fantasy @BalzerandBray

Series: Even the Darkest Stars # 1
Format: E-Book, 432 pages
Release Date: September 5, 2017
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Source: Edelweiss
Genre: Young Adult / Epic Fantasy
Ages 13 And Up, Grades 8 And Up 

A sweeping and action-packed debut fantasy—the first in a duology—about a teen girl who is hired as a mountain-climbing guide for a mysterious and eccentric explorer and is faced with climbing the most dangerous peak in her 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 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 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.

Even the Darkest Stars is the first installment in debut author Heather Fawcett's Even the Darkest Stars duology, with the sequel scheduled to be released in the Fall of 2018. 17-year old Kamzin is the protagonist. She lives on Mount Azmiri, and is the youngest daughter of the village elder. Her sister Lusha is all about astrology and studying the stars to see what the future holds. Kamzin is also apprentice to the village's Shaman, but she is a much better at being a climber, a mapper, and explorer than she is with magic. 

Kamzin is ecstatic when River Shara, the Royal Explorer, shows up in her village looking for a guide to lead him to Mount Raksha. River claims Emperor Lozong needs a powerful talisman that the witches left in their sky city on the top of Raksha, the world's tallest mountain. Nobody has ever climbed that mountain, but Kazmin and her sister Lusha are the only ones left alive who know how to get their. That's because of their mother Insia who lost her life climbing.
River's lure is that if the witches get their power back, they could destroy everything. Including the village Kazmin calls home.

This is a series that is set in a fictional kingdom reminiscent of Nepal. Even the Darkest Stars is inspired by both Eastern mythology and the early climbers of Mount Everest. What makes this story so fascinating, is the mountain setting. It is a place filled with dangerous cliffs, sheer rock faces, ice and snow, and Mount Raksha isn't know for being easy on climbers. It laughs in the face of climbers and spits them out leaving nothing but bones & ghosts when its through with them. But, before they even get to Raksha, Kamzin, River, & Tem, Kamzin's best friend who joins the expedition, have to deal with the elements, and enough peril to keep you on the seat of your pants.

There is a lot of dark power at play throughout this novel. There are shamans, witches, familiars (Kamzin strangely enough has one, and so does her sister), and one unforgettable character that I won't spoil. From fiangou-bird-human-like creatures to shapeshifting witches, dragons, ghosts, wolf-like jinns, and familiars (including an adorably mangy fox!), Even the Darkest Stars is full of fantastical and unique creatures. The story is a suspenseful fantasy with a strong voice anchored by Kamzin: a funny, smart, self-deprecating, yet totally confident heroine readers will love.

The last chapters of this book were quiet possibly the best ones of the entire story. This is a story that has a whole lot of conversation, a whole lot of traveling, a whole lot of twists, and some interesting questions regarding Kamzin and how she came to having a familiar. One could say, and has been said that there is a twisted romantic triangle involved in this story between Kamzin, her best friend Tem, and River. I say let the story play itself out before worrying about a love triangle. With the combination of gorgeous setting, thrilling action, dangerous magic, and a lively and accessible voice reminiscent of The Crown’s Game, Even the Darkest Stars has everything YA fantasy fans are looking for.

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