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The first in a sweeping and action-packed debut fantasy duology loosely inspired by the early climbers of Mt. Everest—perfect for fans of Cindy Pon and Alison Goodman.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Kamzin's dream is to become an explorer. She's a better climber than anyone else in her village. The shaman lessons she's being forced to take are wasted on her though. Her best friend Tem is much better at it than she is, but being the daughter of an Elder brings responsibilities. Kamzin's older sister Lusha is good at everything. When River Shara, the Emperor's most famous royal explorer recruits Lusha for a dangerous mission Kamzin is going to try and change his mind, so he will take her too. When Lusha leaves on her own expedition before River can add her to his team, Kamzin gets her chance after all. Will this be the start of the amazing adventure she's always longed to have or has she made a mistake by agreeing to go with a man who knows no boundaries when it comes to achieving his goals? Kamzin will help River to climb Raksha, the most dangerous mountain there is. He needs to retrieve something and to get the acknowledgement she so longs to have, Kamzin is more than willing to assist him. Tem will accompany them as well. There will be grave dangers on their way and he's determined to keep Kamzin safe. While trying to reach the top before Lusha does, Kamzin is also trying to locate her sister. She wants to find out why Lusha left and is looking out for her sister at the same time. Will they find her, so they can hear her story? And will Kamzin and River be able to reach the top and survive the terrible climb? Even the Darkest Stars is a fantastic gripping story. Kamzin is an impressive main character. She's fearless, fierce and smart. She knows her limits, has plenty of self confidence and she goes after what she wants. She thinks she's ready for an adventure, but nothing could have prepared her for all the dangers she has to face while trying to reach the mountain at first and climbing it later. Her boldness knows no bounds and Heather Fawcett managed to keep me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end. I absolutely loved Kamzin and her amazing attitude, her willingness to protect the people she loves and her daring impulsiveness. It makes fascinating reading. Heather Fawcett has chosen a fabulous original setting for her book, a cold and desolate mountain landscape. Because of the unpredictable terrain alone her story already keeps surprising and she combines this with many unexpected twists and turns, a fast-paced thrilling journey and plenty of intriguing secrets. I loved the way she writes about magic, she makes it come to life in an incredible dynamic way. Even the Darkest Stars is a spellbinding book, a terrific story that captivated me from beginning to end. I highly recommend this brilliant adventure and can't wait to read more about Kamzin and her friends.
I'm a huge reader of YA Fantasy, and this book was so original. The setting of the Himalayas made it unlike any other book I've read. The characters were well developed, and I found myself cheering for Kamzin and River. The twist at the end was cleverly done, and I can't wait to get my hands on the second one!
"I wanted to traverse glaciers and map wilderness and sleep under a roof of stars. I wanted to push against the world and feel it push back." With a great love for exploration and mountaineering, and lacking the affinity for magic that her best friend Tem possesses, Kamzin has never felt comfortable serving as a shaman's apprentice. Long having dreamed of becoming a royal explorer and mapping dangerous corners of the kingdom for the emperor, Kamzin sees her chance when the renowned but notoriously difficult climber River Shara comes to her village. Seeking a guide for climbing the deadliest mountain in the empire in pursuit of a mysterious talisman sought by the emperor, Kamzin is chosen by River over her esteemed older sister in an unexpected twist of fate. However, an opportunity for notoriety for Kamzin becomes a harrowing competition when Lusha sets off to conquer Raksha with a rival explorer. Divided between concern for her sister and a desperation to succeed, Kamzin accepts her greatest challenge yet as she sets out with River and Tem into an unconquered land of punishing elements, vengeful ghosts, and deadly secrets. Even the Darkest Stars is utterly unique, with gorgeous worldbuilding in a mythical Himalayan kingdom, a fantastical premise with witches and familiars and shamans and teacup dragons that felt completely fresh, and an unexpected central plot that revolves around a group of intrepid mountaineers on a treacherous quest. It appears that many readers ultimately found this narrative unappealing due to its heavy emphasis on the act of climbing the mountain of Raksha, which is unfortunate because this is the first time I have ever seen this in YA and I think it's gorgeously done. Additionally, as someone who has climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro (which is a lengthy and challenging climb, but does not even begin to compare to the dangers and level of difficulty of the fictional Raksha, which seems more on par with Everest), I found Fawcett's mountaineering sequences to be harrowing in their realism and spellbinding in their portrayal. There's a touch of delicious romance and what could be construed as a love triangle by some readers, but is really more of unrequited love. Portions of the narrative grind to a near-halt, but the weaving of this sinuous tale is worth the commitment.
Even the Darkest Stars is an incredibly strong debut. To describe this fully, let me take you all through a check list: Fantastic world building? ✓ A unique premise? ✓ An ending that has me DYING for book 2? ✓✓ And because I can't resist this one...a lovable familiar? ✓✓✓✓ So lets start with one of my absolute favorite part of Even the Darkest Stars, which is the world building. It's been a while since I read a good, well developed fantasy, so the descriptions of Kamzin's Himalyan kingdom blew me away. Heather Fawcett did such an incredible job of not only developing the small towns and mountains that made up this town but also bringing it to life completely. It was so easy to feel as if I was right there with Kamzin, River, and the rest of the crew, climbing Raksha while hoping and praying that no evil spirits or witches would appear. Two words that perfectly describes Kamzin? Feisty and determined. This girl has so much fight in her. Throughout the book, there's so many times were I personally would've turned around and given up, but not Kamzin. She trudges along, no matter the risk associated it. I admired that about her. She's a girl who knows what she wants, and while sometimes she lets it cloud her judgement, she still learns from the negatives that pop up from that. At the core of this book, Even the Darkest Stars is Kamzin's coming-of-age, and trust me when I say, she not only has a lot to gain but a lot to loose. Kamzin is someone who's sick of living in her sister's shadow, of always being the source of disappointment in father's life. For once, she wants to be the one who everyone is proud of, who doesn't make constant mistakes that embarrass the whole family. I got that about her, and I saw why this trip meant so much to her because of it. It was her chance to prove herself, that while she couldn't cast the greatest spells, she could climb a deadly mountain. Moving on, I did like River and Tam but for very different reasons. River is the brave one, the one who appeals to Kamzin's adventurous and reckless side. I loved seeing them adventure together. Also, their relationship is imperative to Kamzin's growth as a character...I won't say much more about that, but I liked what I saw there. Tam is the boy-next-door, charming and rather tame but willing to do anything to protect the ones he loves. He was so incredibly easy to love, which is what made it so frustrating when Kamzin pushed away his needs and safety to satisfy her own desires. While there is so much I enjoyed about this book, there is one thing that brought it down a notch in my eyes: an occasional lack of spark. Stay with me for a second, because I don't know if this is going to make much sense, but here we go. You know when you read the first book in a series, and you love it, but at the same time there's just something missing? Something that truly makes you unable go from really liking the book to down-right loving the book? That's what happened to me here, and I think it mostly had to do with the overall world building that needed to be down to set the course for the rest of the series. It happens with first books often, in my opinion, and that's okay. In all, Even the Darkest Stars is a stunning debut! Combining intricate world building and well executed premise, Even the Darkest Stars will have you dying to know what happens to Kamzin. Grade: B