The Last Fallen Star (Gifted Clans, #1)

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The Last Fallen Star (Gifted Clans, #1)
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Release Date
May 04, 2021
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Riley Oh can't wait to see her sister get initiated into the Gom clan, a powerful lineage of Korean healing witches their family has belonged to for generations. Her sister, Hattie, will earn her Gi bracelet and finally be able to cast spells without adult supervision. Although Riley is desperate to follow in her sister's footsteps when she herself turns thirteen, she's a saram--a person without magic. Riley was adopted, and despite having memorized every healing spell she's ever heard, she often feels like the odd one out in her family and the gifted community.
Then Hattie gets an idea: what if the two of them could cast a spell that would allow Riley to share Hattie's magic? Their sleuthing reveals a promising incantation in the family's old spell book, and the sisters decide to perform it at Hattie's initiation ceremony. If it works, no one will ever treat Riley as an outsider again. It's a perfect plan!

Until it isn't. When the sisters attempt to violate the laws of the Godrealm, Hattie's life ends up hanging in the balance, and to save her Riley has to fulfill an impossible task: find the last fallen star. But what even is the star, and how can she find it?

As Riley embarks on her search, she finds herself meeting fantastic creatures and collaborating with her worst enemies. And when she uncovers secrets that challenge everything she has been taught to believe, Riley must decide what it means to be a witch, what it means to be family, and what it really means to belong.

Editor reviews

2 reviews
Close knit, magical sisters
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Riley and her sister Hattie work in their family's Korean alternative medicine practice in Los Angeles, but while Hattie is soon going to be initiated as a healer, Riley is "saram" and lacks magic. She was adopted, and while she loves her family, she is sad that she can't be part of their Gom world of healers. There are six gifted witch clans, each with a protective goddess, although one clan, the scholarly Horangi, has been banished after confrontations that led to the death of Riley's birth parents as well as her friend Emmet's mother. When Hattie expresses a desire to share her magic with her sister, the two investigate the possibility, and find that their family does have such a spell. They liberate the book in which it is written, obtain the ingredients, and plan to cast it at Hattie's initiation. All goes well until they are stopped by the elders, who tell them that the spell could possibly kill them both. Looking for other methods to share the magic, they decide to contact Mago Halmi, the mother of all creation, and plead for Riley to have powers. Instead, Hattie collapses and they end up summoning Gom's Cave Bear Goddess, who does have a plan. In exchange for a relic called the last fallen star, this goddess will not only give Riley powers, but she will restore Hatties life. Finding the last fallen star, when she has no idea where it could be, seems daunting, but with her sister's shrunken heart in a glass vial around her neck, there really isn't much choice but to get help from Emmett and other friends to find the relic. This quest takes them around Los Angeles as well as the magical realm, puts them in contact with a variety of magical creatures (I did enjoy the tiny talking horse, although others were scarier!), uncovers family and clan secrets, and teaches Riley a lot about herself.
Good Points
Riley is an appealing character who very much embodies a typical middle school students; it doesn't matter what they CAN do, they want to do the things they are told they CAN'T. It's nice to see a good sisterly relationship, and this reminded me a bit of Levine's The Two Princesses of Bamarre, one of my daughters' favorites. The secondary characters of Noah and Jennie are used well, as are the various adults. The magical creatures on the quest are exceptionally good, and this is nice and twisty-- I don't want to ruin any of the family secrets. The Korean culture, from Saturday school to food, to mythical creatures, is covered nicely. I am often confused by fantasy books, but Kim's writing kept me on track with a minimum of notes, which is quite an accomplishment. Looking forward to more by this author.
Weaknesses: This almost needed a list of characters and their respective clans at the beginning. The fact that there were six clans but five elements caused me some confusion. Wasn't keen on the theme that love is important, since loving people just means that eventually, they will disappoint you, but the target demographic doesn't know this yet.

This is probably one of my favorite of the Rick Riordan Presents titles, and I'll purchase it, and it will be popular with readers of DasGupta's Kiranmala series, Rivera's Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls, Alston's Amari and the Night Brothers, and the upcoming Pahua and the Soul Stealer by Lori M. Lee. This is no doubt going to be a series!
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lush and thrilling middle grade fantasy
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THE LAST FALLEN STAR is a thrilling epic fantasy. Riley Oh is a saram, a person without magic, adopted by a family with healing magic. She is so excited for her sister, Hattie, who is about to be initiated and who can begin to use magic on her own. Riley wishes with everything that she could have magic too. When her sister Hattie convinces her that they should try a spell to give her magic, the consequences are unlike anything they expected.

As they try to make things right, things just seem to get worse. Before long, Hattie's life hangs in the balance and Riley must embark on a quest to find the last fallen star before it's too late.

What I loved: The world-building is lush and magical, and the scenarios and characters leap off the page. The story pulls the reader into Riley's world from the start and the pace keeps the reader hooked throughout. The mythology/folklore and groups of magical people were absolutely fascinating, and it all came together in a riveting way. Riley, Emmett, and the other characters met along the way were really compelling. Their motivations, hopes, and dreams shine through their presentation, and it was delightful getting to know them and watch them grow during the story. Riley learns a lot about people, the truths she thought she know, honesty, and trust throughout the book, and her journey was really poignant.

The quest was absolutely wonderful, and I loved the mix of humor in with the serious. For instance, the Ghostr app was truly a delight, which allowed ghosts stuck on Earth to finish up their business to create profiles and be matched with people who could help (though some of those ghosts were definitely up to no good). The pop culture references added to the fun. I also really adored the side characters we meet along the way, particularly the guardian of the library, a cheollima (and whoa, that library!!! I was totally fascinated and loved it!). I also loved the concept of the magic houses, and the way they must be nice to the sin who have developed there, such as always complimenting the door-sin on the way in. This is a world I wanted to live in - I loved it.

Written for the middle grade crowd, some of the topics and events introduce a level of danger (possession, evil spirits, peril, etc.) that might be too much for sensitive/young readers. The book is blended with humor, so it doesn't hit super heavily, but it does have some scary moments for sensitive people. The book would definitely hold appeal for YA readers as well - it's a delightful read, and I can definitely see this series becoming a hit!

Final verdict: With lush world-building and compelling characters, THE LAST FALLEN STAR is a must-read middle grade fantasy. Highly recommend for fans of THE TRIALS OF MORRIGAN CROW, AMARI AND THE NIGHT BROTHERS, and CITY OF GHOSTS.
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