When Stars Die (The Stars Trilogy, #1)-Amber Skye Forbes
*** This ARC was given to me as a gift for an honest review.
He’d be mine. No one else’s. He’d be my sin, and for this one moment, I could forget all my feelings and pretend that I’m not doubting Oliver, Colette, or anyone else in the world.
“Being able to power through one’s own weakness is a sign that one had the strength to endure this type of life. You weren’t ready, Amelia. You weren’t ready to accept that weakness is an inevitable part of life, and that true strength lies in not giving in to that weakness, but accepting that weakness as a part of yourself and using it to find strength.”
Where do I even begin? This book is fantastic, easily one of the best books I’ve read so far this year, and for those of you who haven’t checked out my Goodreads tally that’s close to 170 books. Let me start off by saying that going in, I had no idea what to expect, you think becoming a nun? Hmm? Perhaps not the traditional route for paranormal YA but honestly, this is such a creative, beautifully crafted concept that juxtaposes the traditional ideas of sin, fate, temptation, and damnation with redemption, choice, abstinence, and salvation, it’s got something for everyone.
If you are a fan of Rae Carson’s Fire and Thorns series, Amy Plum’s Revenants series, Carrie Ryan’s The Forest of Hands and Teeth series or even Cheri Lasota’s Artemis Rising add this to your TBR pile NOW! You won’t be disappointed.
Plot: Amelia Gareth wants nothing more than to save her brother Nathaniel from eternal damnation in the fiery pits of hell. Nathaniel is a witch. This alone is enough to condemn him. Born of a Seven Deadly Sin, witches are not only a product of sin but their families are destined to be destroyed by it. In a heroic, desperate effort to escape this fate, Amelia and Nathaniel flee to Cathedral Reims where she hopes to become a professed nun. This is no small sacrifice. The steps to become a nun are a grueling system of devotion to Deus and blind supplication. Girls go through years of training before reaching the trial stage. These trials are a tortuous test of endurance, mixing flagellation, blood-letting, isolation, and fear. Many do not pass with approval from the head nun but Amelia is determined to prevail despite the pain.
Everything is going according to plan, and with the trials looming, the end is finally in sight after 3 hard years. That is, until Amelia starts seeing things. Shadowmen; dark, sinister , blistering cold beings roam the halls of Cathedral Reims searching like madmen for those who can see them. Amelia thinks that she’s going crazy, her hallucinations spiraling out of control like one of the girls who couldn’t handle the pressure of sisterhood and committed suicide. As the Shadowmen draw ever closer, Amelia can no longer doubt their existence. After a horrible accident involving her best friend, who has terrible burns that no one but Amelia can see, she is faced with two life-altering realities: first, that she, like her brother, is a witch and second, that the Shadowmen are very real and have their sights set on witches within the Cathedral.
Amelia, more confused than ever, and in serious danger, doesn’t know where to turn, whether she should continue down her path to professing as a nun-even though she’s a witch and there’s no chance at heavenly paradise-or to flee from the Shadowmen that threaten to take not only her life but to destroy those she loves.
- Every character is multidimensional, well-developed and has qualities that question how we define good and evil and whether or not it’s possible to be redeemed. There are no strictly evil characters, each “bad” guy down to the fleeting characters has a background story that will melt the ice in your heart despite their past transgressions. They’re remarkably real, complex, and full of heartbreak and yearning that creates a raw, beautifully transcending reading experience.
- The relationship between God, church, redemption for sinners, what happens after death and the judgements faced are all explored in a way that will leave you bursting with questions and reassessing how you think about faith. The themes are thought-provoking and profound on many levels.
- Amelia is beautifully passionate about her faith, determined, headstrong, and has an astounding amount of perseverance. She’s stubborn sometimes to a fault but her strength of conviction is admirable. Although she claims she’s selfish, she is one of the most sacrificial, giving people in the book. Her love for her brother, her devotion to her friends is put above her own welfare and she gives up her life as the wealthy daughter of a prominent accountant, forfeiting her future of marriage and children to save her brother’s soul. Occasionally, Amelia is foolish in her assumptions and trusts her heart over her head but this is hardly her downfall, and often it awakens her to a greater understanding of herself.
- The Shadowmen are creepy in a semi-Dementor way. They skulk in the hallways, radiating cold, pain, and darkness. They watch, wait, and listen ever searching. They’re like vicious hunters on the prowl for blood, which they often find. They kill in truly horrific ways. They are sociopathic murders with a single-minded determination and fealty to their ruler. The whole system of their strengths and weaknesses manifested in supernatural power and compelled goals is fascinating and complex.
- Love is an aspect of this story but not the feature. Amelia’s heart is full of love and respect for so many people but when she falls she falls hard. Completely, utterly consumed by her heart and how she feels to the point of blindness and denial. This is both a positive and negative aspect of her character. Her love is given fully and as a gift. How quickly she falls, and how soon she becomes okay with temptation is a little questionable when her entire life since joining the Cathedral Reims was to reject this temptation and it is fighting against sin that drove her from her home.
- Because Amelia is 18, some of the situations are a little more mature than what is generally in YA fiction. There are a few steamy sexual situations, and two rape scenes.
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