From the Publisher
“Fantasy readers will root for the smart, tough Aria and be awed by her beautifully articulated and actualized desire for independence.” School Library Journal
“The premise and back story are new, and the power balance between Aria and Taj (she holds most of the power for much of the novel) reverses the too-common structure.” Kirkus Reviews
“As beautiful and sweet as a Cézanne peach.” Stephanie Perkins, author of Anna and the French Kiss on Starry Nights
“Starry Nights is a beautiful, poignant, romantic story about the mystery and magic of art. Inspiring!” Malinda Lo, author of Ash and Adaptation on Starry Nights
“An incredibly imaginative, impossibly magical mystery with an equally magical and impossible love story at its center, Starry Nights is the art-lover's ultimate fantasy. If you've ever seen a painting and wished it could come to life, read this book. And then go to a museum.” Kendare Blake, author of Antigoddess and Anna Dressed in Blood on Starry Nights
VOYA, December 2014 (Vol. 37, No. 5) - Pam Carlson
It all began with a wish gone wrong. Aria is recruited to a top troupe of performing elemental artists who use water, earth, and air to create spectacular effects. Aria’s specialty is fire, and her best trick is a fire twin who mirrors her actions. But she has a secret. Unlike the others, including her friends and family, her gift does not come naturally. Unable to perform any longer himself, her desperate father burned fire into her through matches and candles held to her hands night after night. The suffering was useless until Aria figured out a way to steal fire from lightning and direct it straight into her heart. Each theft results in part of her heart being burnt away. Will that illegal step lead to anotherusing a wish granter to gain fire permanently? If caught, she would face automatic suspension from the troupe and a lifetime ban from performing. After discovering the horrendous consequences of her father’s long-ago wish, she may just risk everything, including a chance at love, to save her family from his abuse. Aria is an intriguing, beguiling teen, moving from stubborn independence to love and fearful daughter to uninhibited teena powerful performer driven by her anger. The inclusion of incredibly handsome and sensitive Taj, the wish granter, adds yet another supernatural element to the concept that people might actually be able to control the elements and perform with them. The revelation to Aria of true power makes for a tale that is at times spellbinding. Do not give in to the temptation to read ahead. Reviewer: Pam Carlson; Ages 15 to 18.
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—In the not-too-distant future, elemental arts have replaced sports as the world's most popular form of spectator entertainment. Young people gifted with the ability to control fire, ice, earth and wind are recruited into "leagues," whose teams perform extravagant stunts before sold-out crowds. Rare and highly desirable, an elemental gift can be acquired legally, through genetics at birth, or illegally, through a directed lightning strike to the heart or through a wish exchange with a "granter." Aria Kilandros, the daughter of two elemental artists, appears to have inherited no such gift herself. Something her abusive and controlling father, who "want(s) another fire child more than anything in the world," simply cannot accept. Every night, he sets Aria's hands on fire in a cruel, crude attempt to release fire power from her body. Desperate to get away from her father and save herself, Aria uses both illegal methods to become a fire artist. ("No one ever told me that needing to escape is stronger than love, greater than fear. I figured that out on my own, and I channeled it into my fire.") And though her ill-gotten skills do catapult her out of the Florida backwaters and into the prestigious leagues of New York City, Aria's every day is shadowed by the fear that her Faustian bargain will be discovered. The book occasionally sags under the weight of the elemental art world's many rules and regulations. But fantasy readers will root for the smart, tough Aria and be awed by her beautifully articulated and actualized desire for independence.—Susan Wengler, Saint Dominic Academy, Jersey City, NJ
In a (slightly alternate) world where elemental powers are a ticket to fame and fortune, Aria's scarred hands and powerful fire control set her apart. Aria's drive comes from fear; her life is shadowed by her father's actions three years ago, when he burned her hands to "help the fire come out." Her mysteriously ill mother and arson-inclined, elementally gifted brother were no help then. Now, as her father threatens her younger sister, Aria is determined to use her fire to break free. But her fire does not rise from within; it's created by a wind artist's illegal funneling of lightning into Aria's heart. When the M.E. Leagues recruit Aria, the edifice of lies threatens to fall apart until her desperate need calls forth Taj, a granter, or genie (this year's hot love interest), who can give her natural elemental power. The catch? If she wishes she'll lose Taj, with whom she's falling in love. The premise and back story are new, and the power balance between Aria and Taj (she holds most of the power for much of the novel) reverses the too-common structure until a late-game reversal. But the weakly imagined world comes across as barely there, as do all the secondary characters. And the gator ex machina ending is just insane. A lightweight entry in a microtrend that has stronger entries. (Paranormal romance. 13-16)
Children's Literature - Kate Szegda
Forced to become a fire artist by her father, Aria is able to create dazzling designs with flames that spring from her hands. A standout in Florida, she is recruited by a prestigious League to perform in New York. But Aria does not have the natural gift of fire. Her father says fire will not hurt her; but every time he holds a flame under her palm to ignite her skills, it does not work. Desperate to escape her father’s abuse, Aria learns to steal fire from the sky, a theft punishable by banishment from the Leagues for Aria and her family. In New York, Aria needs a way to renew her fire. She needs a granter, someone who can make wishes come true. But wishes cost; and for League performers, wishes are taboo. Aria falls in love with the charming and handsome granter, Taj. When she learns that Taj was a payment for a wish and that his life is like a genie’s trapped in an empty bottle, she plans to free him from the granter’s life. If she offers herself in payment for the wish, she can rescue Taj. The plan fails. Discovered and banned from the League, Aria returns to Florida. In a showdown with her father, Aria tries to choke him. Although she has the power to kill the man she hates, she cannot do it. In a stroke of poetic justice, an alligator kills Aria’s father. Payment for her wish comes due, and Aria becomes a granter. Because Taj’s heart is true, his wish to set Aria free saves her. A girl’s read, this dark tale is appropriate for older YA fantasy readers. Story elements tie together well; although, the alligator is a stretch. Making good choices in abusive circumstances begs discussion. Reviewer: Kate Szegda; Ages 12 up.