I’ve noticed a recurring trend in YA these days which is — entice the reader with a cleverly, vague title and breathtaking cover art. I’m currently taking up an entrepreneurship class in school and this week we were talking about product marketing. What sells/what doesn’t for the consumer. And for this consumer of books, Even the Darkest Stars is an example of marketing done right.
Even the Darkest Stars revolves around our heroine, Kamzin, who dreams of becoming one of the Emperor’s royal explorers which is basically a fancy title for elite climbers and cartographers. When the eccentric River Shara, the greatest explorer ever known, arrives in her village and asks for her help in his next expedition, Kamzin seizes this opportunity to prove herself worthy of becoming an explorer. But already this expedition is a tough mountain to conquer given the high stakes — they have to climb Raksha, the tallest and deadliest mountain in the region, to retrieve a rare talisman.
But then her older sister Lusha sets off on her own mission to Raksha with a rival explorer who is determined to best River. What, oh what, will Kamzin do?
First of all, let’s talk about the setting.
Set against the wintry, mountainous backdrop of the Himalayas where magic rules the land, Even the Darkest Stars is unlike anything I’ve read in YA before. It caught my attention when I was scrolling through my Kindle with it’s a) cleverly, vague title and b) breathtaking cover art.
Yes, really! The author conjured up this cool (pun intended) world of royal explorers, witches and magical talismans, and healthy dose of mountain-climbing. It’s definitely something new to me, something fresh. There’s a vast world out there, and I’m honestly quite tired of YA being confined to one or two alternate universes. Or continent/region for that matter. It’s high time for more representation!
Next, let’s talk about the characters.
Unfortunately, the breathtaking setting of the novel overshadowed most of its characters. I thought Kamzin was a great albeit dull heroine. For the majority of the story, she had this fire stirring up inside of her and I was waiting for that chapter wherein she would finally catch flame and have her big moment. But it didn’t happen lol. Save it for another book, as the author leaves us in anticipation.
The same goes for Kamzin’s best friend Tem. I’m actually intrigued by his character since he reminded me of Mal from the Grisha, with their dormant powers stirring inside of them, and he’s a powerful shaman at that. But again, no big hero moment here. River Shara, on the other hand, I’m conflicted. I thought he had a good character introduction, but got lost in the snowstorm towards the end.
There was also supposed to be a love triangle somewhere with Tem and River. It tried to be a triangle…? But ultimately I thought it was all off and awkward especially given the situation they’re in (expedition and deadly mountain and all).
Now, let’s talk about the story.
Though the novel presents a very interesting and out-of-the-box premise, I thought it didn’t quite hit the storytelling mark for me. We spend chapters upon chapters with Kamzin and River’s crew trekking on snowy mountains with brief stopovers due to winged monsters and avalanches. And that’s all there is! The foundation may have been settled down but the interior design wasn’t quite finished.
Because of this, it also affected my feelings for the characters. I wish there was a better resolve between Kamzin and her sister Lusha in the end. Again, it’s like every big moment is overshadowed by the mountains lol.
It may look like I’m throwing this book under the bus, but really, for all its missed potential I enjoyed the read. The ending sets things up for an exciting sequel and I hope the author delivers more on the action department and capitalises on its fantastic premise.
So in a way, I was sold with the marketing of Even the Darkest Stars even though it didn’t quite meet my demands. And that’s me applying school in my blogging.
Final rating: B+
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