Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Star Crossed by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Genre: Fantasy
Rating: ****
Pages: 351 when the story actually ends. I'm not going to count the lexicon.
Series: So far there is one sequel, Liar's Moon.
Digger is a common street thief. She and Tegen, her lover and partner in crime, live by three rules. Stay alive, don't get caught, and don't get involved. It doesn't matter to them if they trade secrets that could cost others their lives, so long as they can earn a living and escape capture by the king's Inquisition.
But everything changes when Tegen is murdered. Digger is alone. She survives by posing as Celyn Contrare, lady-in-waiting to Merista Nemair. Life isn't bad in a snowbound mountain castle. Bryn Shaer is full of food, clothes, and enough valuables that nobody will notice if a small jewel or two goes missing. It's also packed with secrets.
The residents of Bryn Shaer are hoarding weapons and magic, both of which would get them executed horrifically in a country that hasn't recovered from a religious civil war eighteen years ago.
Life on the streets has taught Digger to be greatful when somebody shares their shelter and friendship. But how can she grow attached to people so tangled in a magical rebellion when the sinister Lord Daul is blackmailing her to dig up evidence of treason?
Bunce crafts an intricate fantasy world with seven moons and seven gods. Some of the names seemed overly complicated-Phandre Sethe, Stagne, Caerellis, Eptin Cwalo, Mend-kaal, kernja-velde, and the name of the country itself-Llyvraneth. Halfway through I discovered a lexicon in the back. That's was helpful, but there's no map to help us chart where exactly Gelnir, Kellespau, Briddja Nul, Yeris Volbann, and Gairveyont are. There's no pronunciation guide, but I'm guessing many of the words have Scandinavian influence.
Star Crossed contains some moderate swearing, mostly mild words and very creative fantasy curses based on their pagan religion. There's also a character named Marlytt whose profession rhymes with her name, but she's not a main focus and nothing is said explicityly.
What I loved most about this book is how there's more to absolutely everyone and everything that meets the eye. Merista Nemair is a chubby thirteen year old with a carefully hidden talent for magic. Most of the adults are plotting a revolution under everybody's noses, and there's more than one traitor nobody seems to suspect.
None of the nobs (nobels) are your typical pampered, self-pleasing aristocracy so common in this type of story. For several chapters, I felt something was unnatural about Merista and Phandre. Merista is thirteen, three years younger than Digger. Phandre is three years older and a beauty, but both of them are capable of intelligent dialouge. No oh so predictable gorgeous airheads or whinny children here.
The most intriguing mystery of all was Digger herself. Though she's quite wrapped up in the secrets of others, we start to discover about halfway through the novel that she's more than an anonymous cat burgular. She has a past and a surprising relative.
Star Crossed is a moderately paced, intriguing story where nothing is what it seems.