HAPPY CHRISTMAS MORTALS! (Ok it’s not christmas when I’m writing this but it will be when I post it so hello future me hope you got all the books you wanted). What better a day to review what I consider a winter read. Even the Darkest Stars was a book I received in Fairyloot which I definitely wasn’t expecting. Most months I can guess the book but this was a total surprise.
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.
You know how some ‘first books’ (meaning first books in a series) feel like the start of something? You have characters setting off on a journey, a quest or some kind of thing that the author is clearly anticipating taking at least 3 books (or more if you’re a popular YA fantasy author at the moment…). This book felt so different because there’s a clear destination from the off. They’re climbing a mountain – they are going to have to come back down again. It’s hard to explain but this just felt unique to me, it was satisfying to say the least.
I also appreciated our main character Kamzin. Yes, she is a ‘strong female character’ but when I say that I mean she is literally strong – this girl climbs mountains. But she’s also just generally cool. What I liked in particular is that, while some people did seem to object to the adventure it was never ‘well you’re a woman so of course you should not climb things’. What a world.
I don’t think I’ve ever read a story with a similar setting, however, clearly mountain climbing research has been done because I learnt a lot about the various risks (though I don’t think most mountains have witches as a particular risk).
This book did remind me of another Fairyloot title from this year, Roar by Cora Carmack. Something about the combination of a dangerous setting, royalty and a heavy dose of romance combine to books that, while they have a lot of differences, nevertheless exist somewhere on the same plain. Hmm…
I sense I’m being incoherent here, must be all the festive excitement! Put simply, there has not been enough hype around this book, it’s a wonderful story told in a spectacular way. If you’re looking for a ‘curl up under a blanket’ book then look no further!
My rating: 4/5 stars
What say you? Have you read this? Let me know in the comments below!