(Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)on September 5, 2017
Genres: Action & Adventure, Fantasy & Magic
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.
Even the Darkest Stars by Heather Fawcett had my attention from the second I saw the cover. I know, I know…but the cover is gorgeous and ultimately, I found the story was great too! I will say the twist wasn’t unexpected but I found myself unable to put this one down once I started.
Kamzin is the main character and has always dreamed of becoming one of the Emperor’s royal explorers. She wants to follow in the footsteps of her mother and be able to map the empire – her problem is opportunity. As the second daughter or the elder, she is being pushed toward the role of Asmiri’s shaman even though she doesn’t really have an affinity (or interest) in it. When she finds out that the famous River Shara is coming to their lands, she knows this is her only chance to get what she wants.
Kamzin was an interesting character for me. She clearly wasn’t afraid to go after what she wanted and if that meant she had to put herself in danger, she would do it. As the younger daughter, she was at a disadvantage to her sister who apparently was super smart and would be a great leader someday but she didn’t let that stand in her way. She cared about her people and that was clear in the actions she took throughout the book.
River Shara is from one of the oldest and most prestigious families in the Empire and he also happens to be the greatest explorer ever known in the Empire. When he visits Kamzin’s village, he expects to take Kamzin’s older sister, Lusha, with him on his expedition to retrieve a rare talisman from Raksha, the tallest and deadliest mountain in the Aryas. Unfortunately for River, Lusha takes off with a rival to find the talisman on their own. When Kamzin leaps at the opportunity to join him instead, River takes Kamzin with him and quickly realizes it was a good decision. Along the way, we find out River has some secrets and they create some tension between him and Kamzin. On the other hand, Kamzin and River form a friendship and despite her concerns, they become pretty close.
The other characters in the book helped to move the story along and while there were times that I felt they slowed the pacing down a bit, they still added to the story. Tem is Kamzin’s best friend and he refuses to let her go on the trek without him. He knows he isn’t the best climber and with his breathing problems might even slow them down, but he isn’t willing to leave Kamzin on her own on the most dangerous expedition ever. Tem was a solid character and while he and Kamzin had something more in their past, she was careful to keep him in the friend-zone and even if he wanted more, it was clear he truly cared about her and would do whatever he could to keep her safe.
Lusha is Kamzin’s sister and I admit it…I didn’t care for her at all. She kept things from Kamzin and she treated her like she wasn’t worth her time. Even when Kamzin was the one who could complete the climb and potentially protect everyone, Lusha talked to her like she was a child. She just rubbed me the wrong way from the very first time we meet her in the book and that never changed.
The world that Fawcett has created here was great. There’s magic and dragons as well as ghosts and the fiangul which are described as “a human figure, tall and skeletal. But in place of a human head, it had that of a bird with the curved beak of a vulture. Its shoulders hunched and…its bony legs bent the wrong way.” Not going to lie…that thing sounds like something out of a nightmare. Most of the book is the group trekking to Raksha and facing challenge after challenge which kept things interesting. Add in the twists and turns the story takes as they climb and I found myself pulled into this story and unable to put it down.
Overall I enjoyed this book and will definitely be checking out book two. I can’t say much more as I don’t want to give anything away but based on the way this book end, there is a lot more to look forward to for these characters and I can’t wait to see what happens. If you are looking for something a little different in the fantasy genre, consider checking this book out.
Thank you to the publisher and Edelweiss for the review copy.