Starcrossed, by Elizabeth C. Bunce (2010, Scholastic, YA, 351 pages)
"Well, we're stuck with each other now, it seems," said Lord Cardom, accepting a goblet of wine from Eptin Cwalo. "It'll take weeks to dig that out."
"Weeks?" I echoed, my voice a strained squeak. I turned to Lord Antoch. "But won't it melt, or something?"
"The folk of Breijardarl are no strangers to avalanche," Antoch said....."This looks like it's shaping up to be a hell of a snowfall, though." (page 101)
It is snowing quite hard as I write this, school is already cancelled for tomorrow, and snow is forecast until Saturday. But it probably won't take weeks for us to be free...unlike the rather desperate narrator above.
Digger (who goes by Celyn, a generic religious name, when she's consorting with lords) hadn't planned on going to a remote keep in the middle of winter, as a maid to the daughter of the house, a lovely girl named Marista. But she hadn't planned on getting a knife wound either, when the robbery she was part of went awry, and having to flee for her life through the streets of her city, just one step ahead of the Inquisitor's enforcers. Her path took her onto a boat crewed by four wealthy teenagers were out on a pleasure trip, and one thing led to another...
Now this young thief can steal from the rich all she pleases, but she can't escape. And when she's caught in the act by a ruthless man with an agenda of his own, she finds herself blackmailed into spying on Lord Antoch's family--people who have offered her nothing but kindness. But they too have secrets. Gathered into the snowbound keep are all the major allies from an old attempt at rebellion against the king and his Inquisitor, and they are plotting again. It is their hope that someday the working of magic would no longer be punishable by death, a hope given urgency by the fact that Marista has the gift of magic....
Digger has secrets of her own (which are rather teasingly held back from the reader) to which the secrets of those around her accrete. The tension builds, as she works her way through a chess game of ambiguous motives, and an all too clear build-up to treason....
I enjoyed this one lots. It's a complicated and tricksy plot, that unfolds slowly and subtly; a mind game, more that a fast-paced thriller, although there is Action and Violence toward the end, for those that like blood in the snow. With the claustrophobic walls of the keep, the destiny of Digger's country is being determined...and she is right there in the thick of it.
My main complaint as a reader was that Digger was not a reliable narrator--it was clear that there were many things she wasn't letting on right from the beginning. The big thing about her past was revelled toward the end, but I still never felt as though I had a clear handle on her life before I met her. I think I will like the sequel (yay! it's called Liar's Moon) better in this regard, because I will not be harboring slightly unfriendly feelings toward the main character for not telling me her secrets from the get go.
I also couldn't help but feel that Digger was not behaving as I wished her too, with regard to stealing from her hosts and spying on them...and because her background is only fitfully revealed, I didn't feel like I had enough sense of her character to decide how harshly to judge her. Happily, this feeling had faded by about halfway through the book, at which point I rooting for her, regardless of my own scruples.