Amelia Gareth’s brother is a witch and the only way to save her family from the taint in his blood is to become a professed nun at Cathedral Reims in the snowy city of Malva. However, in order to become professed, she must endure trials that all nuns must face.
Surviving these trials is not easy, especially for Amelia, who is being stalked by shadowy beings only she can see. They’re searching for people they can physically touch, because only those they can touch can see them. Amelia soon learns why she is being stalked when she accidentally harms her best friend with fire during the third trial. Fire is a witch’s signature. The shadows are after witches.
Now Amelia must decide what to do: should she continue on her path to profession knowing there is no redemption, or should she give up on her dream and turn away from Cathedral Reims in order to stop the shadows who plan to destroy everything she loves?
I have been following Amber Skye Forbes’ blog for a short while but I hadn’t read much about the actual plot of her forthcoming debut When Stars Die. What I did know is that Amber’s all into ballet and stuff, the title sounds magical and the cover is pretty so when the opportunity came up to get an advanced copy to review I was thrilled and as soon as I started reading I knew instantly that this book was absolutely nothing like I was expecting.
From the very beginning it’s clear that this isn’t going to be a happy, soppy love story. Amber created a dark, mysterious and ominous atmosphere right from the get-go and I was entranced. Amelia is at Cathedral Reims -such a great name- where she is undergoing trials to prove that she deserves to be, and can handle the life of a nun. Straight away I was glued, the main leaders or teachers (whatever you’d like to call them) Mother Aureilia and Theosodore came across as incredibly sinister and cold, and the trials themselves were a lot nastier and darker than I would have first imagined.
And then, as you’d imagine, the plot thickens!
I loved the idea of the Shadowmen prowling around Cathedral Reims looking for witches and when Colette bursts into flames I had surprised cat face for at least 5 seconds. We soon come to realise that this world is nothing like ours.
People are born witches as a punishment to parents who have sinned, so basically there’s a whole lot of witches! And when witches die they become Shadowmen, and the whole thing is driven by the evil, manipulative God Deus. Now, I’m not religious but I am fascinated by it and I thought the ideas and themes here were really interesting. I can honestly say that I’ve never read anything quite like this, which is something you don’t get to say very often.
That being said, there were a lot of things that hindered my enjoyment as the book went on. When Stars Die is set in the 1800s but it’s written in a modern style. I’m not usually a stickler for things like that but I frequently found words and phrases that I couldn’t help but go ‘surely that wouldn’t have been said in the 1800s?’ It distracted me a little.
I also felt the dialogue let it down slightly as it didn’t seem very natural to me and I wished I liked Amelia more as a protagonist. She didn’t really do anything wrong but I felt I couldn’t warm to her because other than being there to save her brother’s soul I wasn’t convinced by any of the motivations for her actions. I never really got to know her as a person.
I wouldn’t classify this as a paranormal romance, as it was a pretty bad romance but the setting and Amber’s descriptions of the world she has created here were really what made this book for me. That and the genius idea to use first person – present tense really made it stand out. It was a unique read and the Epilogue has certainly intrigued me enough to look forward to the sequel.
Details: E-book, 267 Pages. Released 22nd October 2013 by AEC Stellar Publishing
Unicorn Rating: 3 out of 5 (if I could chop one in half to make it 3.5 I would, but I can’t chop up a unicorn)
Is it a keeper? Yes
If you liked this try: I don’t know why but Gormenghast was the first thing that came to mind. So I’m going with it.