Last month, I’d gotten into a good rhythm of posting on Thursdays.  Having a consistent updating schedule for a blog is important, I’ve heard.  Readers can come to expect a post on a given day.  So of course, October comes and there goes my schedule.  For good reason, though.  I’ve gotten a new second job, and am working there three days a week.  With training and then actually working at it, I didn’t have time to either finish a book or make a post.

On to the book.  I really like fantasy novels, yet tend not to read them.  When one gets to the adult level of fantasy, one finds a plethora of massive tomes that tend to be in trilogies, courtesy of the trend started with how Lord of the Rings was published, or in lengthy series which may outlast the author’s life (see the Wheel of Time series).  It’s daunting.  And treasures at the YA level like Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness series or the more recent Graceling by Kristin Cashore are few and far between, at least in my humble opinion.  So when I find a good fantasy novel, I savor them.  (Another reason why this post is late.)

Without further delay, let me present to you Star Crossed by Elizabeth C. Bunce.

Checkouts: New to the library, courtesy of the Superiorland Preview Center
Typical reader: Fans of fantasy literature, upper elementary to higher grades

Synopsis: After a job goes very wrong and Digger is forced to run while her partner in crime and lover, Tegen, is captured and/or killed by the religious guard in Gerse, the capital city, she falls in with some nobles on a joyride on a boat out of the city.  She becomes the young Lady Merista’s maid and moves with the girl and her family to a mountainous, fortified castle far from the city and her troubles.  But trouble finds her, and she must not only use her cunning and thieving skills, but also choose sides in matters that could be leading to war.

My Goodreads rating: 5 stars (4.5, really)

This book plops you right down in the middle of the action.  Digger, the protagonist and narrator, has just escaped from the guards who had interrupted a job where she and her partner/lover had been stealing documents.  What happened is slowly patched together while she changes into a disguise and looks to make her way out of the city.  Over the course of the book, you learn more and more about her, the world around her, and the political/religious conditions that are threatening to boil over.  Not every book can just set the reader into the thick of things and make it work.  Star Crossed works well, with plenty of intrigue, mystery, plotting, backstabbing, twists, and changes of heart.  It is, in a word, delicious.

Yeah, I’m one of “those.”

Digger is a classic rogue.  She makes me think of characters from Dungeons and Dragons games I’ve played.  She’s intelligent, cunning, dexterous, nimble-fingered, and a bit cocky.  And she has secrets.  Lots of secrets.  But then, apparently so do the rest of the characters, and she is going to do her darnedest to learn them, because she can’t help but break her rule of not getting involved – especially after she breaks another one, “Don’t get caught,” by the slimy Lord Remy Daul, foster brother to her lady’s father.  He blackmails her into doing his bidding, and she gets in over her head as he stews over old wrongs and a battle that happened before Digger was even born.

I love the effort Ms. Bunce put into the world.  The religions, politics, culture, and even the oaths and cursing are thought-out.  The realm of Llyvraneth is rich in all these, as well as in strong female characters – something fantasy novels often lack.  Now, if only I knew what this place looked like!  The biggest downfall of the book is the lack of maps.  While one could argue that illustrations of locations were not needed since the story only takes place in a few areas, I feel that it could have been much improved if I knew where the heck things were on a map.  Bryn Shaer, the living quarters of Merista Nemair’s family in the mountains, could have also been sketched out, as it’s pretty expansive and varied.

Overall, this was a great book.  It’s one that I can actually say that I felt like turning back to page 1 and starting over when I finished it.  I’m also greatly looking forward to the sequel, Liar’s Moon, due out next month and published by Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic.  If it shows up in the Scholastic book fair the school is having during parent teacher conferences, I shall dance.