Genre: Fantasy Age Range: YA Star Rating: 3 stars Series: Yes - first book in duology
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 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.
Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
This is an interesting book, more of an adventure/quest than common – which made me excited to read it. I LOVE quests, but they’re not really in vogue. However, this book ended up being a bit of a disappointment because it was lacking some spark.
It felt like a long book, when it’s not really. 400 pages is pretty standard for fantasy according to my shelves. However EVEN THE DARKEST STARS read like there was way too much happening that didn’t advance the plot enough, as if scenes weren’t pushing the characters far enough out of their comfort zone or delve into issues as far as it could.
This meant the pace was really very slow and didn’t vary. It was like climbing a mountain valley; even seeing the ending near (increasing page count) after a day of incessant walking, you can’t see the finish because you’re walking up yet another switchback so it still feels MILES away. It just kept plodding along even as avalanches and demons attacked them. In turn, this then reduced the tension of those scenes.
I liked the idea of the setting – a Himalayan fantasy, which I haven’t seen before. While it’s a very pretty setting, it did feel like a very shallow world. There wasn’t much culture, which meant there wasn’t a sense of place deeper than a surface brush of paint. At times, it was as if only the words were making it non-European/Himalayan.
Maybe this shallowness was because I lived in Kathmandu for a year, so I had an expectation about what I was going to read. I didn’t see any of the rich history and culture I’d experienced, but maybe that meant I had blinkers on. I’d love to hear what an #ownvoices reviewer thought of it, considering (as far as I can tell) the author is white Canadian.
Little side note – I have no idea what the title refers to. There was a brief mention of stars at two points, but it’s not a pervasive idea.
Overall, it’s a book that probably just wasn’t for me. I might read the next one, if the friend I borrowed this one off has it, but that’s because I hate leaving series unfinished.
Read my reviews of other books by Heather Fawcett: