Bunce, Elizabeth C. Starcrossed (2010). 351 Pages. Scholastic.$17.99
I’ve been eying Starcrossed since I read A Curse Dark as Gold, and an opportunity to read it finally presented itself. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of starting this book in the evening, and I could not bring myself to put it down. It was 5am when I finally went to sleep. It’s a wonderful adventure story for fans of fantasy and political intrigue.
In a world with seven moons, there are seven gods who each have their roles, and who were once worshiped equally. Eighteen years before the novel starts, everything changed. The followers of Celys– the Great Mother goddess– declared war against the followers of Sar– the patroness of magic– and by extension all other gods. To be a magic user or a Sarist is to be a treasonous heretic, which is punishable by gruesome death. In this dark, unbalanced world, a cruel king rules, aided by Lord High Inquisitor Werne the bloodletter. The only hope for the common people is the hope that King Bardolph will name Prince Wierolf as heir, rather than Prince Astilan (who is known to be as cruel as his uncle.)
Sixteen year-old Digger is not concerned with politics or religion, she is merely concerned with surviving. (Something which was much easier before she and Tegen were ambushed by Greenmen.) Now Digger is on the run, alone, and unable to trust anyone. When a group of drunk nobles offer her a chance to escape Gerse, she takes it. Soon, Digger is disguised as Celyn Contrare, safely hidden in the snow-bound, remote Bryn Shaer, working as lady’s maid to Lady Merista Nemair. What was looking to be a quiet winter in the castle, waiting for spring, is quickly turning into the most dangerous situation Digger has ever been involved in.
I couldn’t think. My chest hurt from running, and I wasn’t even sure I was in the right place. Tegen had given my directions to a tavern on the river– was this where he’d told me to go, if things went wrong?
It didn’t matter. I had to get off the streets. Behind me, the Oss splashed moonslight over a row or fiverside storefronts, bright enough for me to make out the sign of a blue wine bottle and the short flight of stairs down into the alley. Down was shadows and safety. I took it.
I was entranced from the first, unable to stop reading for fear that I might miss something.* The world is unique, the characters strong and dynamic, the writing effective and descriptive without meandering. All told, it’s a very well-done book which I truly enjoyed reading.
Digger is a fascinating character; a runaway with a mysterious past whose only goal until recently has been to survive. She’s a clever girl who uses her wits and some thieving skills to get by** and until recently has been under the radar. We meet Digger as she realizes that Tegan has died– a death she spends most of the book getting over; he was her lover as well as her partner– and that she must get out of the city. Things don’t ever seem to get easier, but her determination keeps her going. It is perhaps the fact that she keeps going, rather than lapsing into self-pity that makes her so very interesting. She is a strong character, a girl who can (and does) kick butt.
Surrounding Digger is an equally as interesting and important supporting cast; Meri most especially, but also the others stuck at Bryn Shaer. There is a mystery surrounding the place and the people, a mystery which Digger uncovers. There is a lot more going on in this novel than can be resolved in 351 pages; there is at least one more volume (Liar’s Moon) coming.
As a whole, I thought the book was well-done and very, very interesting. It moves along much more quickly than A Curse Dark as Gold did, which makes it more appealing to people who need faster pacing. This story gets a 5/5, and if you like fantasy with political intrigue at all, I would strongly suggest reading it.
* When I’m reading, I’m not seeing words on the page, rather, it’s like my own mental cinema. I sometimes forget that I can “pause” by closing the book.
** Character-wise, Digger reminds me of Tamora Pierce’s Aliane Cooper. Setting-wise, she reminds me of Beka Cooper. However, Digger’s story is unique enough that the similarities are not a bad thing.
The story continues in Liar’s Moon, release date TBD