Wednesday, June 17, 2020

TBR Challenge: Jacqueline Carey - Starless

Destined from birth to serve as protector of the princess Zariya, Khai is trained in the arts of killing and stealth by a warrior sect in the deep desert; yet there is one profound truth that has been withheld from him.
In the court of the Sun-Blessed, Khai must learn to navigate deadly intrigue and his own conflicted identity…but in the far reaches of the western seas, the dark god Miasmus is rising, intent on nothing less than wholesale destruction.
If Khai is to keep his soul’s twin Zariya alive, their only hope lies with an unlikely crew of prophecy-seekers on a journey that will take them farther beneath the starless skies than anyone can imagine.

Comment: In June, the theme for the TBR Challenge post is Getaway, which can mean many different things and can be interpreted rather vaguely. I thought about a getaway that would mean a different place from the usual, a place where things would be out of the normalcy we live in, so for me, the getaway I envisioned was a fantasy world.

In this book we have a world where the children of the two main gods, the sun and the moon, rebelled and were cast from heaven to live on Earth and then became patrons of the different lands where they landed.
When this story begins, young 9 year old Khai is training among a brotherhood to become the shadow of a princess, meaning a sort of companion/bodyguard, so that a prophecy can be met, where certain situations must align. Therefore, if things follow as expected, a group of people from different origins will defeat the rise of evil and save the world.
Khai knows his fate is interwoven with that of princess Zariya but will he become the right person, the right shadow? What about all the obstacles in his path after he finally meets his princess for the first time?

This fantasy story is divided into three parts: the time spent in the desert, where the brotherhood lives in during Khai's childhood, the court right after he and his princess meet and things start to be shaped and the sea, where they and a few other characters will join forces to defeat an evil god.
During the second and third parts, the two main characters, Khai and princess Zariya, are 16 which makes this an obvious YA book. 
I didn't know that prior to start, I thought the characters would just grow up into adults at some point of the story. Since this is a fantasy, the YA elements aren't so hard to endure as it would in other genres (for my personal taste).

I loved the story I was given during the first part. I liked everything about Khai, about his training, about his personality, his fears and determination to become the person everyone expected of him. I liked his interactions with his fellow brothers, with the things he had to learn. All in all, the first part of this story was everything and more I would want from a fantasy novel. I admit I thought some romance might develop at some point too and I foresaw interesting developments for steady but innocent Khai.This was made even more thrilling when a really good twist comes up! I started dreaming about this and that and possible scenarios to come, depending on how the relationship Khai would have with the princess might develop.

Then the second part comes. Some hints are given about certain....choices. I stared to wrinkle my brow at some possibilities, not because of them per se but because of the plot was being lined up and because of how Khai saw himself.
I slowly started to lose hope. This isn't huge on romance but that was not what I was more disappointed at. I really thought, based on how the author had outlined the whole world and the mission of saving it by a certain prophecy terms, that things might go on a specific road. 
By the time the story reaches the third part, I was more in it for the closure on the plot lines than because of the characters themselves.

It's all rather relative, isn't it? What works for some, what doesn't... I keep repeating here that blurbs often mislead and make the reader assume one thing and then another is the actual outcome. If done right, this is amazing, the wonder of being surprised by the author's talent and choices but there are times...oh well.
This is the first time I read something by mrs Carey. I liked her prose, the story was easy to rad, the descriptions easy to imagine. But combining the blurb, my own (somewhat failed) expectations and a few details that would be too spoilerish to add, I just think this book didn't quite reach its best promise.

I can say the "good guys" win the day, although the end wasn't as special as I imagined. I could debate some details I disliked or would change but I was really sad over the fact that the first part of the story was so great and the rest wasn't. The pace felt unbalanced since the first part was very detailed, very rich in both descriptions and emotions and the other two parts were bland and as if things had to be moved to a specific point by then.
I started to dislike how the relationship between the main characters developed. It was too easy, too static, filled with clichés which become obvious after we have the big picture. It's not that I didn't like how they end up together, but the process and their inner thoughts to get to that status (mostly on Khai's side).

Considering the whole novel, there are good things about it, others not so good but I keep wishing this could have gone better had the main characters been reluctant partners, had they met different romantic interests and how that could have affected their own "bond" and how would that play in the big scheme of saving the world. If this had been the path, I think the story could have had a much bigger impact.
Grade: 7/10

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