All the Wandering Light

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: Heather Fawcett
Genres: Fantasy
Pub Date: Dec. 2018 (read Feb. 2019)
Series: Even the Darkest Stars #2

I was REALLY REALLY hoping this would be a trilogy! I didn’t love Even the Darkest Stars that much the first time I read it, but since re-reading it, I’m pretty much trash for this series! I’ve read a lot of fantasy and to be honest, I haven’t been loving a lot of it that much. I took a 3 month break from fantasy and after reading mostly fantasy in January, I think I’m ready for another break.

But I LOVED this series! I haven’t felt this way about a fantasy series in a while and I loved the outdoor adventure aspect of this one. I can tell Fawcett loves the outdoors and I really related with Kamzin’s desire for adventure. I was really impressed with the depth Fawcett added to the plot and to her world building in this book. There were several subplots and a few mystery elements that ran throughout the series, like what is Ragtooth? What will be the long term impact of creating a contract with Azar-at? and what’s up with Tem and River?

But before I get ahead of myself, Even the Darkest Stars is a duology set in a fantasy world based on Nepalese culture and early exploits of Mount Everest. The legendary Mount Raksha is the focus of the first book, with Kamzin chasing after her dream to be a Royal Explorer by attempting to climb the treacherous mountain to claim a lost talisman so that the emperor can stop the witches from regaining their powers. In All the Wandering Light, Kamzin has succeeded in climbing Raksha, but failed in her task and the witches have regained their powers and now threaten the empire. When a falling star lands in the Ashes Mountains, Kamzin sets out to retrieve it and stop the witches from using it’s incredible power.

Even the Darkest Stars was told entirely from Kamzin’s point of view and in the second book, we get some more perspectives, mostly from River and occasionally Mara. Kamzin and River have split up, but because of Kamzin’s new contract with Azar-at, their fates seem to be closely entwined. Kamzin sets out with Lusha and Tem to claim the star, while River fights with his brothers about the future of the witches and empire. I wasn’t really sure what the focus would be of book 2, but I was glad it included more wandering around the wilderness. Kamzin eventually makes her way to the Three Cities, which changes the direction of the plot, but introduced some new elements and tension into the book. Up until Kamzin arrives in the Three Cities, the conflict in this book was mostly person vs. nature, with the exception of the internal and relationship conflicts. But the story becomes a bit more of a traditional fantasy when River’s brother Esha claims the witch throne and becomes the main villain of the story.

So what did I like so much about this book? Obviously, I loved the adventure element of the story and the fight against the natural elements. I really loved Kamzin as a character. I thought she was a fantastic heroine for the story. She is courageous, but extremely relatable. She makes a lot of mistakes, but is driven by a desire to shape her own destiny. She very much wants to be recognized and this desire sometimes gets her into trouble and causes her to make poor decisions. But ultimately she cares about those closest to her and will do everything to protect them.

I also really liked River’s character. He was so fickle in the first book and it always catches me off guard how detached he is. I like that Kamzin is driven by feeling, while River is mostly driven by logic, except in the case of Kamzin, who inexplicably holds a powerful influence over him. I think it’s because he’s never really been tested and is used to always being the best. Kamzin was the first person the challenge him. River is conflicted in this book and I loved the dichotomy of him wanting to free the witches, but also wanting to protect the empire he has grown to care about.

Like I said, the depth of the world building in this book surprised me. The first book was a little confusing, but the world building in this book felt fully formed, with just enough mystical elements to keep us guessing. Fawcett explores what is right and wrong and how our perceptions can be influenced by our experiences. The witches are undeniably evil in this book, pillaging villages and seeking revenge for the binding of their powers. But their rage is born out of having their powers stolen from them for the last 200 years by the emperor. At one point there was balance between the witches and the shamans, but that balance is lost and seeks to be restored. Kamzin struggles to think of the witches as inherently bad because of the time and experiences she had with River.

There’s also the question of what impact Kamzin’s contract with Azar-at will have on her soul and what kind of powers Ragtooth is actually hiding? I loved Ragtooth in this book (and the last book) and I was really happy to see Fawcett spend time on smaller plot points, because the culmination of all these thoughtful details is really what makes a book great. She also explores the power of the fallen star and whether power is always a good thing. All power comes at a cost and Fawcett repeatedly re-visits this idea in her characters.

My biggest complaint would be having this series only be a duology instead of a trilogy. I know now that the series was originally purchased as a duology, but I really think this series has the potential for a third novel and that it’s actually doing the series a disservice not to have one. I think the world Fawcett expanded on in this book outgrew it’s 400 pages. She took the story to more depth than she was able to resolve in the confines of this book.

The ending was very unsatisfying to me because I don’t think the conflict has been resolved. I no longer think Kamzin in interested in merely wandering the empire as an explorer, but rather that she wants to be an agent for change and for good in the empire. She’s one of the few people who understands the plight of the witches and questions the ultimate power of the emperor. I don’t think the witches would just roll over and move on after the showdown in the palace and I think there is so much room to explore more about the Emperor and where his powers come from. He’s a pretty big enigma in the story and it was never clear to me if he was eventually meant to be a hero or a villain. He’s up to some shady-ass shenanigans and I would really love to see his power explored more, as well as the relationship between the empire and the witches.

Mostly I just think this world and story has so much more potential. I’d love to see it expand and grow to include more character perspectives, like Tem and Lusha’s. I would say the character development of the secondary characters is probably the second flaw with this series. Kamzin has a wonderful character arc and I thought her development was really well done, likewise River. But I don’t think either Tem or Lusha’s characters were fully developed. Especially Lusha. She’s a bit of a controversial character in that she is so important to Kamzin, yet constantly acts as a foil to her. Lusha is really interesting and I’d love to know more about her history and the experiences that have formed her into who she is now. She’s a bit of a grating character, but I’d like to understand her better.

Don’t get me wrong though. I think this is an extremely strong debut series. I think there are ways it could be improved, but I had a great time reading it. Fawcett has already been signed for a middle grade series and you can bet I’ll be reading it! In the meantime, I’ll be lamenting the third book to this series that never was, but should be!

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Even the Darkest Stars

Rating: ⭐
Author: Heather Fawcett
Genres: Fantasy
Pub date: Sep. 2017 (read Jan. 2019)
Series: Even the Darkest Stars #1

I’ve decided to write whole new review about this book because I was only a little baby reviewer when I wrote my first review and I have so many more feelings about this book after the second read-through. You can still read my original review here.

I remember liking, but not loving this book the first time I read it, but I was so impressed with the setting that I decided to round up my rating to 4 stars. I definitely loved this the second time around though and I am now 100% on board with my original 4 star rating. I found the beginning a bit slow on my first read through, but I totally flew through it this time. Kamzin is just so spunky! I definitely didn’t give her enough credit in my first review and I thought she was super funny at the beginning on the book and I loved how much her character grew throughout the course of the novel.

Before I get ahead of myself, let’s do a little synopsis of the story. Even the Darkest Stars is set in a fantasy world based very heavily on Nepalese culture and early exploits of the Himalayas and Mount Everest. I have always been really interested in climbing expeditions (as a reader, not a real person – I have to say this because my sister’s partner is like, obsessed with climbing and if he reads this, which I know he never will, but if he did, he would make me go climbing with him and climbing in real life is SCARY. That’s why I prefer to read about it.). I’m going to credit my early interest to Gordon Korman’s Everest series, which I read as a kid, and was totally obsessed with (yay for Canadian authors!). Actually, I was obsessed with most of Korman’s books and would highly recommend to middle graders!

I would sincerely like to meet this author because we both live in Vancouver (she may be one of those rare native born Vancouverites?) and despite not wanting to climb, I’m super obsessed with mountains and hiking and feel like we would both have a lot in common. So Heather if you’re ever looking for some adventure and book loving friends, I’m here.

But back to her book. The story starts in the small village of Azmiri, with our main character Kamzin. Because her father is the village elder, her older sister Lusha is slated to succeed him and Kamzin is expected to become the village shaman. The only problem is that Kamzin has zero interest or natural talent for shamanism. Her friend Tem is a great Shaman, but his talents go unacknowledged because his father is a yak herder and that’s all Tem is ever expected to be as well. But Kamzin wants to be an explorer. She is envious of River Shara, the Emperor’s Royal Explorer and is shocked when he arrives at their village one day.

There is only one thing that would draw the elusive River Shara to Azmiri, the even more elusive Mount Raksha – the tallest and most dangerous mountain in the empire. Kamzin has always aspired to climb Mount Raksha and even participated in an expedition with her mother to Mount Raksha when she was 11. Unfortunately the journey took the lives of the entire expedition, with the exception of Kamzin and Lusha. So when Kamzin learns that River is there to climb the great mountain, she sees it as her big chance to impress the Royal Explorer.

Kamzin, River, and Tem all set off on a journey to climb Mount Raksha, with Kamzin leading the way. Witches have been banished from the empire for many years, their magic stolen from them by a spell placed by the Emperor. But the spell is breaking and they must reclaim a lost talisman from the top of Mount Raksha to re-cast the spell.

I loved everything about this book, but the setting was by far my favourite. Fawcett creates this wonderful atmosphere throughout the story – it’s that lonely, reverent feeling you get when you’re out in the wilderness. An appreciation for the beauty around you and a respect for the destructive power of nature. There are internal and interpersonal conflicts in this book, as well as the threat of the witches, fire demons, and fiangul that call this unforgiving landscape home. But I really liked that this book also had the person vs. nature conflict as well. What Kamzin is really up against is the elements and her own personal competitiveness. She’s repeatedly told to turn around if the consequences become too dire, but she is driven by a need to explore the unknown and to prove her skills to the world. In many ways, she is her worst enemy.

I loved the little triangle action between Kamzin, River, and Tem. Tem has been Kamzin’s best (and really only) friend for her entire life and they share a special bond. But Kamzin also shares something special with River, the first person who truly seems to understand her drive and can keep up with her on the expedition. He’s the first person to really challenge her. But Tem is distrustful of River and Kamzin has to admit that he does seem to be holding back some important information from them. Something is off with River’s shaman, and Tem rises to the occasion, acting as the group’s shaman and setting protections for them.

This book also had some humour in it. Kamzin is so stubborn, but her stubbornness made me laugh at lot. I also loved that she had what is referred to as a “familiar”, which is an animal that is basically attracted to you from birth and stays with you. Her familiar was a mangy little fox named Ragtooth and besides being really sweet, I thought he made for some great comic relief.

I can see how this book might not be for everyone. Pretty much the entire book is devoted to the journey to the top of Raksha and I know not everyone love journey books. Like I said, I didn’t really love it the first time, I think because I kept waiting for them to get there so I could learn the “so-what” of the story. But knowing the second time that the whole book was going to be devoted to the journey, I enjoyed it a lot more. I think there’s just the right amount of tension between the characters and I liked how much Kamzin grew over the course of the novel.

There are still some unanswered questions and I’m looking forward to see how Fawcett further develops her characters in the next book. Does anyone know if this is a duology or a trilogy? Would love to know going into the second book!

Fall 2018 New Releases

Okay, the number of new releases that I can’t wait to read coming out this Fall is A LOT! There are so many new sequels coming out, I can’t wait to read them all!!

September 18th

Lethal White by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling) – I have been waiting for this one for YEARS and it recently has a release date in September, which is pretty much the most exciting news ever! I need to know what Robin and Strike will get up to next!

Wildcard by Marie Lu – I read and loved Warcross last year, so I’m thrilled this series is getting a sequel so soon!

Check Please! #Hockey by Ngozi Ukazu – Okay, I admit I only recently discovered this one, it’s a graphic novel, coming of age story about (gay?) hockey players. It has wonderful reviews already and I am super intrigued to read it!

October 2nd

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee – If this is anything like The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, it will be a hoot! Can’t wait to read more about Felicity! (I don’t think the first book is required reading for this one)

Saga, Volume 9 by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples – I’m literally always ready for a new Saga installment.

October 9th

Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak – That’s right, the author of The Book Thief is finally publishing a new book!

October 23rd

Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J Maas – Sarah is finally publishing the final book in the Throne of Glass series. Empire of Storms ended on the most outrageous cliffhanger and then I got a whole book about Chaol forced on me that I didn’t need, so I can’t wait to finally read this last installment.

Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend – I only just read Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow a few weeks ago and I am totally obsessed with it! So glad I only have to wait until October for the sequel.

November 6th

Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix by Julie C Dao – The second (and I believe final) installment in the Forest of a Thousand Lanterns series. The first book was surprisingly dark and juicy and I’m really interested in this follow up retelling of snow white and the evil queen.

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan – I’m not sure why this new fantasy caught my eye over the million other new fantasy’s coming out, but I heard it has mature themes and a strong protagonist, so I really want to read it.

December 4th

All the Wandering Light by Heather Fawcett – I haven’t been seeing too much hype about this series, but I really liked the first book, Even the Darkest Stars, and I was really sad when the release date on this one got pushed back a few months, but this is set in the frigid, snowy mountains, so it’ll be the perfect atmospheric read for December!

 

Sequels I can’t wait to read in 2018!

I love and hate series. I love them because there’s nothing quite like returning to a set of characters that you already know and love – but I hate them because there’s always so much waiting! Here’s the new books I’m looking forward to reading this year:

Throne of Glass Book 7 by Sarah J Maas
Release Date: September 4

This one isn’t titled yet, but nothing could steal the top spot away from this book! I thought I would be getting this book last year, but Maas postponed it to instead release a full standalone novel about Chaol, so I was forced to wait another year for this one. Throne of Glass is my favourite of all the YA fantasy series out there (except HP duh) and the last novel (Empire of Storms) ended on the most outrageous cliffhanger! So I am desperate for what Sarah has said will be the conclusion of the series!

My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, and Brodi Ashton (The Lady Janies #2)
Release Date: June 26

The second book in the Lady Janies series, but I’m pretty sure this one could also be a standalone. Three YA authors are releasing 3 books about historical Janes. The first book, My Lady Jane, was about Jane Grey who was queen for 9 days in the 15th century. It was pretty much the funniest book I’ve ever read and I’m anxiously awaiting My Plain Jane, which will focus on Jane Eyre and the Bronte sisters.

Saga, Volume 8 by Brian K. Vaughan
Release Date: December 27, 2017

Okay this one was actually released at the end of last year, but close enough. Saga is the weirdest graphic novel series, but I can’t help but love it and I love getting a new volume every year! I love this little ill-fated inter-galactic family and the artwork is fantastic (although a little graphic, made the mistake of reading the first one on public transit, LOL)!

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee
Release Date: October 2

This is another sequel/standalone novel. Similar to My Lady Jane, the first novel in this series, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue was hilarious! My favourite character was easily Felicity and I was so thrilled to see that she would be getting her own spin-off novel! Lee said that some of the same characters would be present in this book, but I’m not sure if you need to read the first one or not. But you should read it either way because it’s hilarious!

Bright We Burn by Kiersten White (The Conqueror’s Saga #3)
Release Date: July 1

I’m am obsessed with this series! I totally thought it was a fantasy series when I picked it up, but it actually doesn’t have any magical elements and it’s more historical fiction than anything else. Like My Lady Jane, I would again place this in the “re-imagined” history category. Kiersten White has re-imagined Vlad the Impaler as a teenage girl in this series and it’s all about Romania and the Ottoman Empire in the 1400’s. It is dark and intense and so so good!

What You Want to See by Kristen Lepionka (Roxane Weary #2)
Release Date: May 1

I don’t read mystery/thrillers all that often, but I picked up the first one in this series, The Last Place You Looked, last year and thought the main character, Private Investigator Roxane Weary, was fantastic! She’s a classically flawed PI, but I really enjoyed how the book goes just as in depth to the PI as it does to the case she’s trying to solve.

All The Wandering Light by Heather Fawcett (Even the Darkest Stars #2)
Release Date: September 4

The first book in this series definitely had some flaws, but I LOVED the setting and I definitely want more. It’s set in a Himalayas-type fantasy world and involves lots of hiking, camping, and exploring mountains. Pretty much all my favourite past-times, so I’m very excited to continue on with this story.

Other Notable Sequels:

A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J Maas (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3.5)
Release Date: May 1
I can’t decide if I’m over this series or if I want more….

A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir (An Ember in the Ashes #3)
Release Date: June 12
It’s been so long since the last one that I’m not as excited about this one anymore, but I’ll probably still read it.

Only Human by Sylvain Neuvel (Themis Files #3)
Release Date: May 1
Not my favourite series, but I suspect this will be the last book and I want to see it through.

Sequels I’m dying for but don’t have a release date yet:

Warcross Book 2 by Marie Lu
I NEED THIS ONE SO MUCH!!

Lethal White by JK Rowling/Robert Galbraith (Cormoran Strike #4)
Seriously, when is this book finally going to be released? Enough with Fantastic Beasts, she left the last one on the biggest cliffhanger and I need it. I need it now!

Even the Darkest Stars

Rating: 
Author: Heather Fawcett
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Read: Sept. 2017

 

I can’t decide between 3 and 4 stars, so I’m rounding up.

Yay for Canadian authors and even more yay for a Vancouver author! I absolutely loved the setting in this novel. I live in Vancouver and I’m a little bit obsessed with hiking and mountains (as are a lot of Vancouverites) and I’ve always been fascinated with climbing expeditions, so I was super stoked to read the synopsis for Even the Darkest Stars. Also, the cover art is the most gorgeous thing I’ve ever seen!

Even the Darkest Stars is set in a fantasy version of the Himalayas. Kamzin and her sister Lusha live in a tiny village at the base of Mount Raksha, the biggest and least explored mountain in the empire. All her life Kamzin has dreamed of setting off on an adventure and of being an explorer, so when the Royal Explorer River Shara shows up in her village on an expedition to climb Mount Raksha and retrieve a rare talisman, Kamzin is determined to assist him. When Lusha disappears in the dead of night with one of River’s expeditionary crew to retrieve the talisman first, River hires Kamzin and they race to catch up to Lusha and get to the talisman first.

I liked the narrator and the writing from the start, but it took about half of the book for it to really pick up. There was a lot of journeying in the first half of the book and limited action – and when there was action it often happened very quickly and felt kind of out of place. But I really enjoyed the second half of the book and I definitely want to read the sequel!

I thought the “twist” was a bit obvious, but it didn’t take away from the story. I loved Kamzin and River’s characters and I can’t wait to learn more about River in the next book, but I felt the rest of the cast was a bit lacklustre. I don’t think I really learned enough about Lusha or Tem to really love them. We’re told that Lusha and Kamzin had a contentious relationship growing up, but I would have liked to have learn more about their history to back it up.

But like I said, the setting was really the strongest part of this novel and I’m interested to see what Fawcett does with it in the sequel!