Audrey Whitticomb has nothing to fear. Her mother is the superhero Morning Star, the most deadly crime-fighter in the Twin Cities, so it’s hard for Audrey not to feel safe. That is, until she’s lured into the sweet night air by something human and not human—something with talons and teeth, and a wide, scarlet smile.Now Audrey knows the truth: her mom doesn’t fight crime at night. She fights Harrowers—livid, merciless beings who were trapped Beneath eons ago. Yet some have managed to escape. And they want Audrey dead, just because of who she is: one of the Kin. To survive, Audrey will need to sharpen the powers she has always had. When she gets close to someone, dark corners of the person’s memories become her own, and she sometimes even glimpses the future. If Audrey could only get close to Patrick Tigue, a powerful Harrower masquerading as human, she could use her Knowing to discover the Harrowers’ next move. But Leon, her mother’s bossy, infuriatingly attractive sidekick, has other ideas. Lately, he won’t let Audrey out of his sight. When an unthinkable betrayal puts Minneapolis in terrible danger, Audrey discovers a wild, untamed power within herself. It may be the key to saving her herself, her family, and her city. Or it may be the force that destroys everything—and everyone—she loves.
Dark Star (Dark Star #1)Featured
Even though I love this cover, my expectations going into this were pretty low. I haven't seen any reviews for it, but I've heard from people who read reviews that they've seen less than encouraging ones. As such, I adjusted my hopes down a bit and set off. Actually, I ended up really enjoying Dark Star. Is it perfect? No. Is it a fun? Heck yes!
The very best part of Dark Star is the characterization. Recently, though I've been on a really good reading streak, I feel like most of my star deductions have been for characters that didn't feel real to me or that I simply could not connect with, so I really needed this character-driven read. Audrey has a huge personality, funny and clever and a little bit rebellious. I loved her voice so much that the writing style, which leans a bit more to the choppy fragments style than I generally care for, didn't bother me much.
Not only is Audrey awesome, her friends are great too. She has two best friends, Gabriel and Tink. Gabriel is the only one who has been trusted with her mother's secret (that she's the superhero Morning Star, though she prefers to be called a Guardian, and fights bad guys with her younger partner Leon). Audrey trusts Gabriel implicitly, the only secrets she keeps from him being ones she's not allowed to tell. Tink, who I totally pictured as the character of the same name from The Guild, is outgoing and tiny and a little bit terrifying. They have a real bond and I love to see that in novels.
Perhaps even more rare, Audrey has a loving, protective, approachable, attentive mother. Can such a thing truly exist in YA? Apparently so! Audrey's mother, Lucy, does go out all night to fight crime, but she's in no way an absentee mom. She manages to spend a lot of time with her daughter. While definitely not an overprotective hardass, Lucy does keep informed of her daughter's whereabouts and try to keep Audrey safe, except for that one flashback where Lucy totally battles this demon preggers. Plus, they totally have the mother-daughter banter down. Of course, to fulfill the YA parental drama, her father's out of the picture, but I was still so glad to have a loving family dynamic in this book.
The romance, which does exist, satisfied, even if it was totally predictable. Of course, if a romance has to be predictable, I'm not going to complain too much when it's my favorite of the cliched romance patterns, which this happens to be. Also, the best part is that the romance totally isn't the focus. It's there and believable and has chemistry, but flirting is minimal and Audrey doesn't spend the whole book mooning over boys.
The first half of the book, had it continued in that vein, might even have gotten four stars from me for the sheer fun of it and the awesome characters. However, the book took a bit of a turn, and, though I didn't hate it, I would have preferred for the book not to have a paranormal twist. If you don't want to know what the twist is, skip to the last paragraph now.
In true YA fashion, it turns out that mom is not in fact a superhero; she fights demons. Basically, the book takes this whole twist to the paranormal when I really just wanted to read a fantasy novel where some people have a little bit of extra power for who cares why and do some vigilante justice, okay? Mom has super strength, Leon can teleport, and Audrey Knows things, or, in otherwords, is a little bit psychic. That was all awesome and I had accepted it and then it was all because of paranormal things, which wasn't bad, but I've had enough of that and was so excited for something a little different.
The bigger problem with the paranormal plotline was that it was weird and a little haphazard at the end. Like, the final confrontation was so abrupt. There's this small battle and it's dramatic, but then instead of the BIG crazy showdown, it just sort of ends. I want my epic battle of powers and superheroes, dang it! Also, the book didn't really feel wrapped up plot-wise at the end. I haven't heard rumors of a sequel, so, if this it, poorly done on that.
But, you know what? I still had so much fun reading this that I'm giving it a bonus .5 for keeping me engaged in the story. Of course, now I really want to reread After the Golden Age, which is about a woman who's the daughter of superheroes that are actually just superheroes and so, so good.
This was a fast-paced, fun thrill ride with a nice touch of romance near the end. I really loved the story itself. The plot kept me interested and engaged, and I liked Audrey enough to care about her outcome. The world-building is pretty solid, and I was fascinated by the Harrowers and the Guardians. I really liked many of the secondary characters, especially Gideon, Tink, and Leon. The mysteries and secrets are big enough to sustain the plot, and I was happily plowing through the story trying to find the answers. I found myself completely engrossed in the story from the first page and couldn't read fast enough.
What Left Me Wanting More:
I wanted more details about the Guardians and how they're set up. We get some near the end of the book, but I still don't have a clear picture of how a calling works, and why some get called and some don't. I also became very frustrated with the whole "there's a terrible danger out there that directly affects Audrey but no one is going to tell her about it because ignorance will keep her safe" trope. Time and time again, Audrey asks what's wrong and her mom and Leon tell her "it's none of your business" or "nothing for you to worry about." Even when Audrey has her first encounter with the danger, they still refuse to give her a single detail. It began to feel like a deliberate plot device to stretch Audrey's ignorance out long enough to continue to put her in danger, and I wanted to just smack her mom and Leon for it.
This is a fast-paced, entertaining story that is a solid addition to the superhero genre. I think most readers will really enjoy it.
The best thing about the book is, naturally, Audrey. She is not the most talented Kin or some prodigy, but she has a sense of duty and protectiveness instilled in her. She looks out for others, is hilarious but not overly daredevil-ish. Yes, she gets into tricky situations but she knows where her limits are (well, most of the time). Always ready with a wisecrack, the playful banter with Leon was also a delight. May I just say – I saw it coming!
The other awesome part of the book is the backstory. The history of Kin sounds so amazing and derives a little from the angel-demon trope, but is quite different from anything I’ve come across. I also loved Lucy and Adrian’s story – even though it was so heartbreakingly sad. The mysterious aura that persists throughout the book is also something that I enjoyed very much – my brain was racing ahead to try to guess who was involved with the Harrowers, and the reveal was still shocking to me. The writing was so right, and complemented the pace well – not too slow, not too fast. The action sequences were detailed so well, as well as Audrey’s Knowings – it was like I was there in the scene itself. Overall, a fantastic read!
Frenette's worldbuilding is fantastic and despite some issues with staying interested (I'll get to those in a minute), there was never a time I didn't want to keep reading and leave all my questions about the Kin, the Harrowers, and how their world works unanswered. The prose has some pretty good moments (I want to quote some, but I forgot to mark then; darn it!) and the fight scenes are well-written most of the time.
For a little while, I worried I knew what the big twist of the novel was and that I'd yet again found a predictable novel. A streak of horrible and/or easily predictable novels lately had me wondering if I was getting too smart for YA or if YA was getting dumbed down. It turned out my prediction was wrong and a red herring got me. I came out of the book feeling happier and more satisfied than when I went in. Perhaps I'm being kinder because the last few books I've read were horrible and should not be spoken of, but that's good for Dark Star.
The biggest issue the novel has is its inability to keep readers hooked from beginning to end. Some scenes, like the cake fight and when Iris uses her amplification powers to enhance Audrey's Knowing, grabbed me by the throat and squeezed as hard as they could. Those are scenes to go back and reread. Most of the novel, unfortunately, is difficult to get swept up in. It's like there's a wall between reader and book that keeps me from being able to connect to Audrey and get invested in what she's going through. For some books, this can be a deadly flaw, but Dark Star has enough good overall to just barely save it and keep me from DNFing it due to lack of interest.
This is only the first book of a series and there are plenty of places for Frenette to go with book two. As much fun as I had, I think I'll come back, but I hope book two will be easier to connect to.