Book Recommendation: StarCrossed

24 Feb

by Vanessa Di Gregorio
~~~

“I couldn’t think. My chest hurt from running, and I wasn’t even sure I was in the right place.”

Thieves are awesome. If you’ve read Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief (which you really should read), or loved Aladdin, or adored “Flynn Rider” from Disney’s Tangled (which you really should watch), or are charmed by the prince in The Prince of Persia games (which you really should play) or enjoyed books by Tamora Pierce (there are a few thieves in her worlds, like George Cooper from the Alanna series), then you probably know what I’m talking about.

I love thieves. Somehow, when they end up in a story (be it in a book, or a movie, or a video game), they end up stealing my heart (ahaha, sorry… I couldn’t help myself).

Elizabeth C. Bunce’s new YA novel, StarCrossed, doesn’t have a title that sounds like a story centered around a thief; it sounds more like a Romeo & Juliet type of story, with star-crossed lovers and tragic endings. But Bunce’s novel is full of courtly politics, intrigue, deception, rebellion, forbidden magic, and quite a bit of stealing and sneaking.

Want to know more? (Of course you want to know more!) Here’s the summary I swiped from Goodreads:

Digger thrives as a spy and sneak-thief among the feuding religious factions of Gerse, dodging the Greenmen who have banned all magic. But when a routine job goes horribly wrong and her partner and lover Tegen is killed, she has to get out of the city, fast, and hides herself in a merry group of nobles to do so. Accepted as a lady’s maid to shy young Merista Nemair, Digger finds new peace and friendship at the Nemair stronghold–as well as plenty of jewels for the taking. But after the devious Lord Daul catches her in the act of thievery, he blackmails her into becoming his personal spy in the castle, and Digger soon realizes that her noble hosts aren’t as apolitical as she thought… that indeed, she may be at the heart of a magical rebellion.

~~~

See? Rebellion! Spys! Dead lovers! How can you not want to read that? But as exciting as that is, there is so much more to this novel.

First, the world-building is phenomenal. Set in a land full of political intrigue and danger, Digger’s world is rife with numerous gods, multiple moons, religious wars, a frighteningly powerful Inquisition, and castles with secret passageways. And the magic! It adds to the secrecy surrounding Digger and the others.

Unfortunately, the story begins with a few too many characters (some of whom never make another appearance, though I imagine they might play a larger role in the sequel) and a few too many coincidences that just don’t feel right. The way Digger is able to escape the city with a group of nobs (nobles), or the way she easily becomes a lady’s maid – even though the nobles around her know nothing about her – comes off a bit heavy handed. But if you can look past the awkwardly contrived beginning, the story really fills out into an epic adventure with compelling characters. I, for one, am incredibly glad I was able to look past it and just get swept up in the rest of the story.

Bunce is wonderfully talented at creating multi-dimensional characters- and Digger is a wonderful protagonist. Though truth be told, there were times where I felt her character fell flat in comparison to other characters, but midway through the novel, Digger really starts to shine.  What I really enjoyed was how unreliable a narrator she is – how she keeps things from even us, the reader. It makes for some great twists and delightful surprises. She is talented, resourceful, and wonderfully independent. Her curiosity gets the better of her, as does her greed – which makes her a wonderfully flawed character. Digger is definitely not perfect. And though at times I felt frustrated and a bit confused by her wavering loyalties, by the end I was completely endeared to her. And her lack of loyalty is justified – being a thief, she knows firsthand just how devious people can be.

Merista is another well-written character. The daughter of the wealthy noble family who has taken Digger in at Bryn Shaer has one of the most gratifying coming-of-age arcs. Beginning as a girl who doesn’t even seem comfortable around herself let alone around her estranged (but loving) parents, Merista blossoms into a strong women capable of taking things into her own hands. From a meek little girl she becomes a proud young woman.

I could probably go on about all of Bunce’s characters. One of my favourites appears halfway through the novel – but to avoid spoilers, I won’t start naming names! Suffice it to say, he’s a character worth the wait. And he brings out a side of Digger that makes her even more compelling.

The plot is intricate and full of twists and turns. And while the first half of the book doesn’t have much action (and instead focuses on building the tension and suspense, and developing the characters), the second half truly delivers all the action you could want. The buildup is definitely worth the wait.

The first in a trilogy, StarCrossed is a wonderful read. From the wonderfully detailed settings and lush descriptions, to the bright characters and suspenseful plot, it is definitely a must-read. I can’t wait to read the sequel, Liar’s Moon! Fans of Tamora Pierce and Megan Whalen Turner won’t be able to put this magical book down.

~~~

Vanessa is a Sales Assistant at Kate Walker & Co., a book and gift sales agency located in Toronto. She also has a book publishing certificate under her belt. Currently, Vanessa is working on RIFT, a YA fantasy novel, and a Children’s non-fiction series. She also blogs about all things geeky at Something Geeky.

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17 Responses to “Book Recommendation: StarCrossed”

  1. Emy Shin February 24, 2011 at 12:36 AM #

    Thanks for the rec! I loved Megan Whalen Turner’s series, and this sounds really amazing.

    • Vanessa Di Gregorio February 24, 2011 at 11:45 AM #

      You’re very welcome! And Megan Whalen Turner is amazing – THE THIEF is one of my fave books of all time! STARCROSSED isn’t AS good (I mean, come on – it’s THE THIEF!), but it’s definitely a great read!

      I’d been dying to read a good YA story with a thief, and I’m SO happy that StarCrossed delivered. 😀

  2. Ella February 24, 2011 at 12:08 PM #

    Definitely have to check this one out! I love books about thieves, and well-written female protagonists in that role are incredibly rare. I admit the title put me off at first, but the second you mentioned that I was sold.

    • Vanessa Di Gregorio February 24, 2011 at 12:39 PM #

      Yeah, I thought it was such a strange title for a book with a female thief (and with no romance!). Mind you, I think somewhere along the trilogy there WILL be a romance, but it was so refreshing to get caught up in all the deceit and lies and secrets with a female protagonist who steals. Of course, I questioned her judgement and reasoning a lot, but by the end she grew on me so much.

      I’m itching to read the sequel!

  3. zalijun February 24, 2011 at 1:49 PM #

    Ah~Tamora Pierce. I remember devouring every book I could find in the library by her in middle school. I’m definitely adding this to my to-read list. Thanks for the rec!

    • Vanessa Di Gregorio February 24, 2011 at 2:46 PM #

      Tamora Pierce is AMAZING. I reread her books all the time! If you read this, let me know what you think! 😀

  4. Sarah J. Maas February 24, 2011 at 1:51 PM #

    Ooooh this sounds so fantastic!!! Totally grabbing it the next time I go to the bookstore.

    Thanks for the rec, V!!!! ❤

  5. brandimziegler February 24, 2011 at 3:58 PM #

    I’m a die-hard Tamora Pierce fan so I’m sold. Thanks for sharing, Vanessa 😀

    • Vanessa Di Gregorio February 25, 2011 at 12:10 AM #

      Wooo!! Tamora Pierce for LIFE! ❤ And no prob! 😀

  6. sdennard February 24, 2011 at 4:38 PM #

    I’m reading CURSE DARK AS GOLD by Bunce right now, and I LOVE it! I can’t wait to read STARCROSSED!! Thanks for the rec!!

    (P.S. I noticed some very “convenient” plot points in CURSE, but I can totally forgive it since her storytelling is so amazing!)

    • Vanessa Di Gregorio February 25, 2011 at 12:12 AM #

      AH, I really want to read CURSE DARK AS GOLD! I’ve heard so many good things about it, and meant to pick it up – but then heard of StarCrossed, and well… thieves will always win in a battle of which book to buy first! :p

  7. ibeeeg February 27, 2011 at 11:17 PM #

    Very cool…another book for my list.
    I love Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief; the whole series is great. What I liked most about that series was Gen, and how clever the story truly is. You are putting StarCrossed up there with The Thief so I am thinking that I really should give it a read. The description sounds intriguing. Your review has certainly gained my attention. Yeah, I need to read StarCrossed. I am even more curious about it because I read Curse Dark As Gold, and wonder how the writing compares between the two novels….they same different.

    Beyond all that, you asked “See? Rebellion! Spys! Dead lovers! How can you not want to read that?” and I shake my head in agreement.

    Thanks for putting this book on my radar.

    • Vanessa Di Gregorio February 28, 2011 at 5:54 PM #

      You’re very welcome!

      Gen is one of my fave protagonists – he was so clever and charming and incredibly compelling!

      Personally, I love THE THIEF more than STARCROSSED, but Bunce’s novel is incredibly well-written – and definitely deserves to be up there! It’s such a great read – I’d really been craving to read a story with a good thief for a while now, and it satisfied that need (and THEN some)!

  8. Michelle February 28, 2011 at 12:04 PM #

    This book looks really good! I will have to add this to my ever growing TBR pile.

    Great review. 🙂

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