Book Summary: SECRETS OF THE STARCROSSED by Clara O’Connor

I was given an eARC of the book by the publishers through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinions.

Title in white on green above a celtic knot
Genre: Dystopia Romance
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 1 star
Series: yes - first in trilogy

Synopsis:

Book cover for SECRETS OF THE STARCROSSED: title in green above a celtic knot on dark green

In a world where the Roman Empire never fell, two starcrossed lovers fight to ignite the spark of rebellion…

Londinium, the last stronghold of the Romans left in Britannia, remains in a delicate state of peace with the ancient kingdoms that surround it. As the only daughter of a powerful merchant, Cassandra is betrothed to Marcus, the most eligible bachelor in the city.

But then she meets Devyn, the boy with the strange midnight eyes searching for a girl with magic in her blood.

A boy who will make her believe in soulmates…

When a mysterious sickness starts to leech the life from citizens with Celtic power lying dormant in their veins, the imperial council sets their schemes in motion. And so Cassandra must make a choice: the Code or Chaos, science or sorcery, Marcus or Devyn?

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


I have never done a book summary before, but as I took notes on the plot of every chapter when trying to write my review, I thought it would be a waste to not use all those words. Besides, I sometimes search up summaries of plots when I cannot remember, so I’m putting this out there for people like me.

It should be noted that I didn’t enjoy the book, and so that has rather coloured my summary/recount. I have tried to edit out some of my incredulousness, but it was impossible to make this summary entirely neutral.


Summary

Chapter 1 – Cass, a girl who follows the code of the dystopia way of life absolutely inexplicably, takes an illegal object from a boy without asking when guards come from him. She’s always know the boy, Devyn, but never noticed before but is handsome and heart pounding moment as he catches her when she stumbles.

Chapter 2 – Cass sees public punishment for the crime of hacking (later revealed to be Devyn, who had the memory erased) and realises how serious her action was. Cass feels stifled by the city. Introduce concept of people being “matched” by science (?) and her matched person is Marcus, a mini celeb with old Briton blood.

Chapter 3 – Cass confronts him about what’s happening when Devyn asks for illegal device back. Cass wonders why she agrees to go for a walk with him and why she helped him, but has another heart pounding moment when they touch (4 references to not having enough oxygen around him in the space of 2 kindle pages) which distracts her from questions.

Chapter 4 – Cass hosts a party but spends the time wondering about Devyn. He’s there and she flirts with him (darkly glittering eyes used twice, three paragraphs apart). Parents interrupt charged moment, and she lies her way out (apparently her first lie)

Chapter 5 – Cass gets passed a note by Devyn – tingle shooting up arm – to meet again and hand over device. Goes but denies having the tech. Wants to get rid of it, she says, but he points out she doesn’t (in a flirty “you want to see what’s behind the curtain” way) and she internal monologues about it. He says he’s been watching her for a long time – claiming he’s wasted years of his life wanting her to be something else with no reason WHY he’s been fixated on her. They have no past, and he has literally listed off why she’s bland. And yet he’s been “hoping [she was] someone else” for years. Ends chapter resolved to prove she’s not insipid and self-obsessed.

Chapter 6 – Cass worries over not seeing Devyn again. Decides that her first act of rebellion to prove herself to him is going to be to get a dress from an apprentice who was one of the people in the public doling out of justice in chapter 2. While there, finds out that the apprentice’s sister is sick, but all sickness is curable so why doesn’t he want her to get help? Why is he nervous the authorities will take her away?

She asks around after Devyn at school, but no one really remembers much about him. He arrives and she bargains to give him back the device (which is still hidden in her school library,) in exchange for his help. He reacts badly to news of the sister being sick and drags her across the city before he is willing to talk. Then Devyn reveals he is a hacker looking for someone and that Cass had fit the criteria. But she’s not so he’s leaving (stuns her and disappoints). He reveals info about the criteria. She already knows she’s adopted, but doesn’t know she’s not city born.

There is a disease that only seems to affect those with “old blood” – aka Briton blood, that gives them the potential for magic. Magic is forbidden. that is forbidden in the city as it’s dangerous. Devyn thinks that might be why the sister is sick and not seeking help – too much Briton blood – and Cass makes a deal to work with Devyn on some unknown project if he’ll help her get the apprentice’s sister (who she’s never had a conversation with, just had the heart strings tugged seeing her sick) out the city to someone who might be able to help.

He gives her a necklace to help stop the system tracking her when she activates it. She shivers as he puts it on and they have a conversation about how everything they do is tracked. The theme of consumerism is buried in it, under it being a revelation to her that the government can monitor what she says.

Chapter 7 – Cass and Devyn spend time together and she reveals she’s been taking pills since she was little to stop having “dizzy spells”. He very obviously hints at her potentially having magic but they’ve been suppressing it. He says he thinks she might be full-blood Briton and so asks her to stop taking the pills. She shudders at thought of magic as it’s *evil* because it helped the Britons resist the Romans. Modern tech stops outside the walls.

Cass stops taking the pills and her parents get suspicious as she pays attention to the reports of sickness on the news. Suddenly, they have to move the date for getting Apprentice’s sister (Marina) out of city and Cass decides that she needs to stop thinking about Devyn and put him behind her once Marina is safe.

Chapter 8 – Cass realises that she’s been looking on Marina as someone to help, rather than a person like her. Marina gets very unwell as they travel, so they have to take a cab rather than walk, and Devyn isn’t there to meet them where he said he would.

Chapter 9 – Devyn arrives with boat and they go down the Thames. A magic power line under the river fries the motor as they approach Greenwich so they turn it into a sail boat. Devyn’s muscles flex as he handles the boat. They talk – he’s a half-blood Briton pretending he’s a citizen, and pretending to be a student (actually 26) because he’s searching for a missing girl. He says the girl can’t be Cass as she’s been off the pills for a few weeks and showing no magic, when this girl comes from a very powerful line. Devyn is sworn to a serve a Mercian Lord.

They hand over Marina and for a minute it looks like maybe Devyn will go as there’s an extra horse. Cass gets worried, then very relieved as he returns with her. In the post rule-breaking rush, Cass and Devyn kiss. It’s very tingly and nice, but she pulls back as she’s matched. She feels sad as he’s now got his tech back from her and will leave after graduation. She asks if he will visit his family before he moves on to search for the next girl who might fit the profile, and he avoids the questions – heavily hinting at family troubles. Devyn then draws an illusion over him, revealing he can use magic.

Chapter 10 – Cass throws herself into work, trying to forget everything, as her graduation approaches. Can’t bring herself to throw away the necklace. Marcus is brought into the story when he joins Cass and her parents for a graduation meal at the Ritz. Marcus works/studies at the hospital, looking after the ill. Marcus kisses her, but she feels nothing.

Chapter 11 – Cass runs across town to confront Devyn. He’s annoyed she kept her distance. She says the matching must have gone wrong as she felt nothing with Marcus and needs to break it off. He says no, he needs her to spy on Marcus because Marcus should be sick from looking after the ill as he also has Briton blood.

Devyn reveals that the council know about Cass’ Briton heritage and so are matching her with Marcus to breed magical children, but doesn’t know why they’d want magical children. Cass gets upset and attacks Devyn. They end up on floor and have a moment of sparks as his gaze checks her out. They kiss and move to the bed then remember themselves and move apart. Devyn says it can’t happen again, and Cass decides he must be her soulmate, so refuses to help if he wants to ignore the connection between them. He calls her selfish and that she should try to help. She says it’s the council’s job to help people and leaves.

Chapter 12 – She has a fun summer, playing tennis and trying not to think about Devyn. She starts “spacing out” and attributes it to magic. She also spends time with Marcus and they dance in the ruins of an old castle as they talk about his blood line and the “history” of the country. She wants it to be Devyn she’s dancing with. As they dance, she glimpses the old palace burning and swoons.

Chapter 13 – Cass debates calling Devyn for answers. Instead, she goes back to the castle and sleeps. As she sleeps, she has a vision of people who resemble those fleeing the palace running alongside a river. A woman cannot escape, so gives her baby to the water. Devyn is there as she wakes up and lets slip that he’s been spying on her. They kiss and she has another vision of the moment, but it’s one of Devyn’s memories. He is sworn to protect the family and the missing baby. Cass is lost in herself, and Devyn kisses her to bring her back

Chapter 14 – Cass takes up fitness to exhaust herself so no more moments of magic visions. Her mother is suspicious about behaviour change and critiques her appearance. Marcus thinks that Cass’ hesitation is because he’s got Briton blood, and she reveals her own adoption. He offers to look for genetic markers in her blood and mentions that he’s the only doctor having any success. She goes with him to the hospital after the party and sees that the situation is worse than anyone is saying. Marcus is unknowingly curing the sick with his magic, at the cost of his own health

Chapter 15 – Cass tracks Devyn down, and meets a Briton, Bronwyn, who’s in Londinium for a big peace treaty renewal, who is very cryptic about Devyn’s reasons for being in Londinium, begging him to come back. The woman from Cass’ vision and Devyn’s memory is revealed to be Elizabeth Tewdwr, the last heir.

Chapter 16 – Cass goes to a wisewoman with Devyn. The wisewoman says Cass has no magic, but then Cass looks at Devyn changes and the wisewoman can sense magic. She has Cass and Devyn clasp hands and Cass is pulled into another vision, this time of her playing with Devyn in a castle. This is revealed to be a possible present if things had gone differently in the past. It is said Cass can’t be the missing baby as Devyn has no connection to her.

Chapter 17 – Cass and Marcus attend a ball where Cass tries to lay the groundworks to persuade Marcus to see the wisewoman. Devyn is there and dances with her.

Chapter 18 – Cass talks to a mysterious Briton then drags Marcus to meet with Devyn and the wisewoman. Marcus denies having magic, but eventually agrees to the wisewoman’s test and healing. Someone knocks on the door so, to stop anyone investigating the room and Marcus behind a screen, Cass and Devyn make out with Devyn wearing Marcus’ coat and mask. Devyn asks her to flee with him.

Chapter 19 – To contain the scandal, Cass and Marcus’ parents bring up the date of their wedding.. Cass feels trapped but works out Devyn is watching her under disguises, so manages to slip away to talk with him. He promises to help her leave.

Chapter 20 – Devyn says they cannot leave until after the handfast – the ceremony a few months before the wedding – as they need Marcus to come with them. The ceremony of the handfast is rumoured to create an attraction between couples and Devyn’s superiors hope to use that to bring Marcus along. The wedding has been secretly moved to the next day to fool the paparazzi.

Cass, having been semi-drugged by a bridal tea before coming, makes moves towards Devyn. They start to make out and she can feel Devyn’s emotions. It is a shock and angers him, so he punches a glass door. Cass tends to his injured hand and they work out she must be the missing baby. But as Devyn swore and oath to protect her, they can’t be together.

Chapter 21 – Day of the Handfasting. Cass’ mother drugged her the night before, worried she’d run away, and Cass has a minor panic attack as she and Marcus enter the Savoy hotel, where the ceremony is to take place. Marcus reveals that people have been watching Devyn and know about their plan and are coming for Devyn. Cass uses their connection to get him to run. The ceremony happens, and a metal cuff is placed on Cass’ arm, blocking her connection with Devyn.

Chapter 22 – Cass has been affected by the ceremony, deliriously happy about her upcoming wedding. Devyn finds a way to meet her and kisses her, which breaks the effects of the cuff.

Chapter 23 – Cass and Devyn discover that holding hands helps overcome the cuff, and Devyn has a charm bracelet he gives her to help. They decide that they have to run away, with or without Marcus. Someone comes knocking on the door and Devyn has to run.

Chapter 24 – Marcus knows Cass was kissing Devyn, as he can feel desire through the paired cuffs he and Cass wear. Cass has to spin a bunch of lies about her being confused to put everyone at ease.

Chapter 25 – with her maid’s help, Cass escapes. She meets Devyn and they start running away, but with the help of the cuff, she is tracked down. Cass calls down a storm to give Devyn a chance to run, then gives Marcus the charm bracelet in the hope it helps him. Her necklace is taken away by the guards.

Chapter 26 – Cass is deliriously happy again as the big day arrives, but the charm bracelet is having an effect on Marcus. He takes Cass to a club, where Devyn is. Marcus has worked it all out and plans to leave with them.

Chapter 27 – Marcus leads the pre-wedding party to a warehouse so they can slip away, but they are caught by the guards. Cass wakes up to find herself awaiting judgement in the arena.

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