Book Review: Even the Darkest Stars

Even the Darkest Stars (Even the Darkest Stars #1)
Published By: Balzer & Bray
Publication Date: September 5, 2017
Page Count: 432
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via Edelweiss
Young Adult - Fantasy

Kamzin has grown up in the shadow of the Himalayan mountains. She craves adventure and longs to follow in her mother's footsteps as a famous explorer and cartographer, but as the second daughter of the local village leader she is expected to learn the mystical arts and become a powerful shaman while her older sister, Lusha,  studies to become an explorer. Living in her village isn't horrible, but Kamzin wants more than her tiny life in the mountains has yielded thus far, but she feels she has little recourse until the Emperor's favored explorer, River Shara, comes to visit. 

River is looking for a way to the fabled mountain, Raksha, that while fictional, mirrors Everest in many ways. Raksha is dangerous and unexplored. Nobody has climbed it and those who have traveled to it are met with danger and tragedy. Few people have seen the mountain - let alone know the route to its imposing beauty, but Kamzin and Lusha both know the way as they traveled with their mother in their youth on a doomed journey to the peak. Everyone in the village suspects that River will soon hire Lusha to be his guide, but when she makes a daring and unexpected decision, Kamzin finds herself working for the famous explorer. Along with her best friend, Tem, a yak herder with a penchant for magic, two villagers, River, and a lackadaisical shaman, Kamzin sets off to find the route to Raksha before her sister. Along the way River confides in her that the journey is of the utmost importance to secure a valuable artifact to keep peace in their empire.

As nature provides peril at every turn, the lush fictional universe that Fawcett has crafted also provides dangers in the forms of soulless bird people and witches who thirst for revenge. Supernatural forces are at work as the small party of travelers races to find the mountain and its secrets. Also, this book has dragons. How could I not love a book with dragons? 

In addition to the adventure, relationships play a key role in this novel. I was particularly drawn to the sisterly rivalry between Kamzin and Lusha as well as the friendship between Kamzin and Tem. Loyalty is a theme in all of these relationships and watching that bond be tested by events was interesting. I was always rooting for Kamzin to keep Lusha and Tem close to her heart.

Even the Darkest Stars is a mystical thrill ride mixed with the desire to survive and conquer a beast of nature. In my mind, this novel was like the survivor novels of my childhood (e.g. Hatchet) mixed with a heavy dose of the supernatural. The world building in this novel is phenomenal; the setting and the lore made this an instant favorite for me. I haven't read any YA fiction (that I can call to mind at the moment) set in the Himalayas. That region is fascinating and is just the right sort of place for the lore to play out. It was nice to see a unique setting that was so well imagined. I cannot wait to see what happens in the next installment. This is certainly one I am planning to reread in the future. This will be a perfect read for those long, chilly winter evenings by the fire as I sip my pumpkin latte or chai tea.

P.S. - I'm also in love with the cover. Isn't it beautiful?

One Last Gripe: I still have some unanswered questions.

Favorite Thing About This Book: The gorgeous setting

First Sentence: I stretched my hands over the dragon eggs, focusing all my concentration on their indigo shells, and murmured the incantation.

Favorite Character: Tem

Least Favorite Character: Mara

Set in a fictional Himalayan kingdom, this is the story of a girl enlisted by a legendary explorer to help him climb the kingdom’s deadliest mountain – only to discover that his true mission may threaten her whole world.

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 every 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 cimbing Raksha, the tallest and deadliest mountain in the Aryas. Then, Lusha sets off on her own mission to Raksha with a rival explorer, 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 other dangers at every turn. And as dark secrets are revealed, Kamzin must unravel the truth about their mission and her companions—while surviving the deadliest climb she has ever faced.