TPG reviews: When Stars Die, by Amber Skye Forbes
*Book received for free in exchange for an honest review
A thrilling and vivid adventure, full of twists and turns. You might want to ignore the epilogue, though.
Amelia Gareth’s brother is a witch and the only way to save her family from the taint in his blood is to become a professed nun at Cathedral Reims. However, in order to become professed, she must endure trials that all nuns must face.
Surviving these trials is not easy, especially for Amelia, who is being stalked by shadowy beings only she can see. They’re searching for people they can physically touch, because only those they can touch can see them. Amelia soon learns why she is being stalked when she accidentally harms her best friend with fire during the third trial. Fire is a witch’s signature. The shadows are after witches.
Now Amelia must decide what to do: should she continue on her path to profession knowing there is no redemption, or should she give up on her dream and turn away from Cathedral Reims in order to stop the shadows who plan to destroy everything she loves
My rating: 4/5
First of all, let me get this out of the way: this book’s epilogue really, really, really annoyed me. It cheapened several of the novel’s earlier events and turned Amelia – a great protagonist up to then – into a total hypocrite. It didn’t completely come out of the blue, to be fair, but still: it was an extremely sour note for the book to end on, and one which I dearly wish the book had not done so.
The problem with the above, at least for me, is that this book is set to be the first of a trilogy. This book also happens to be very good on the whole. It comes complete with an excellent and vivid writing style, a well-developed and relatable protagonist (epilogue notwithstanding), some novel world-building, and plenty of twists and turns where plot is concerned. That means that I most definitely will be buying the next book in this series, which in turn means that at some point I’m going to have to accept that bloody epilogue as canon. I just…ARRRRRGH!
When Stars Die is the story of Amelia Gareth, a teenage girl who ran away from home in order to become a nun and thus redeem her brother in the eyes of her world’s god. Amelia’s brother, Nathanial, can produce the magical fire that signifies him as a witch; such people are said to be born from their parents’ sin and so are shunned as monsters by society. Amelia’s only wish in life is to join the Professed Order and pray fervently to Deus within the walls of Cathedral Reims, in the hopes that both she and her brother will be accepted into Paradise upon their deaths.
Amelia struggles to pass the trials necessary to become a nun: not only are the trials themselves brutal in nature, but Amelia is constantly sighting mysterious shadow-creatures that nobody else seems to see. Fortunately, Amelia is aided in her journey by two people: Colette, her best friend with whom she shares a room, and Oliver, a kindly young priest who joined the Order for reasons similar to Amelia. Oliver and Amelia share an attraction entirely inappropriate for their chosen paths in life, but are unwilling to abandon it altogether. Seeing as this is a paranormal romance, you can probably guess where this is going.
That being said, there’s no guarantee that this guess will be correct. In fact it probably won’t be: When Stars Die is full of twists and revelations, and I guarantee that it won’t end the way you expect it too. I was repeatedly taken by surprise, and really felt compelled to keep turning the page to find out how it would all finish up. The reveal of the villain’s identity was an especial high point in this regard: it’s foreshadowed well and seems obvious in retrospect, but I doubt that many people will work it out ahead of time.
Amelia herself is an excellent lead, being flawed in several ways without losing any of the reader’s sympathy. She is joined by a rich cast of supporting characters, though some are better than others. Oliver is a wonderfully complex individual, with far more to him than initially meets the eye. Nathanial was also a highlight, with his relationship with Amelia portrayed very well indeed. Other characters felt a little underused, however, with Colette in particular coming to mind.
While we’re on the subject of characters: the villain here is actually quite sympathetic, at least if you squint at things the right way. They’re undoubtedly monstrous, yes, but you can just about imagine how circumstances could have made them what they are. This made the final showdown a lot more compelling than it otherwise would have been.
Despite the above, my one big criticism of this book is its ending. Though the climax itself is excellent, the lead-in felt a tad rushed in places. The penultimate chapter ends with what could have been a fine conclusion, only for that epilogue to be tacked on afterwards. In addition to what I said at the start, I should also point that the epilogue differs significantly in tone from the rest of the book, making it feel very out of place. This could well have been what the author was going for, but…well, I can’t say I found it particularly satisfying. I would honestly have preferred the book to end one chapter earlier; until the sequel arrives, I’m just going to pretend that this was indeed the case.
When Stars Die is a riveting and well-plotted adventure that will appeal to both paranormal romance readers and fans of paranormal and/or fantasy in general. Anyone looking for a Twilight rehash will be disappointed, mind. I really came to feel for Amelia by the end, and I look forward to seeing where the rest of the trilogy takes her. Perhaps after the next book, this one’s ending will be easier to accept. Watch this space.