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.
Even the Darkest StarsFeatured
Engaging premise and strong protagonist
Kamzin dreams of being an explorer, climbing mountains, and finding adventures. When a twist of fate allows her to journey with River, one of the Emperor’s royal explorers, to climb the mountain in the Aryas. But danger awaits their group at every turn, and Kamzin’s sister, Lusha, is rushing to climb the mountain herself separately. Nature, relationships, and secrets divide them all, and survival has never been more uncertain.
EVEN THE DARKEST STARS holds an interesting premise of mountain exploration in a magical world. Kamzin and the other characters are at the heart of the novel with some of the fantasy elements taking a backseat, which isn’t always common in fantasy stories. Kamzin is wonderfully ambitious with clear goals, and I love how she develops through the story as she becomes closer to her dreams and faces different obstacles than she expected.
Unfortunately, while Kamzin’s character is excellent, the pacing is on the slow end, and the love triangle is a typical dynamic. There were times I struggled to keep going. However, when there is high action, it is done very well and often unveils secrets and emotions from the characters. The love triangle follows a usual good guy/close friend versus exciting new guy scenario. While that is not my favorite, those who do enjoy love triangles will likely still enjoy the romantic elements.
Though there are weaker parts to the story, EVEN THE DARKEST STARS offers a well-developed and ambitious main character and a survivalist adventure with a good hook.