Starcrossed, by Elizabeth Bunce

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.


  1. I thought this book was SO much fun, and I think it deserves to be popular, but I haven't heard enough other people agreeing with me, which baffles me! I would say there is nothing NOT to like about it and everything TO like about it, but I do agree with you that it'd be nice to get more of a handle on her backstory (like, what's her NAME, even? She THINKS of her real name as Digger, but I always got the feeling that was more of a street name, anyway). I hope more of that will come out in the sequel!

  2. I think it's the quasi-Celtic names. Eptin Cwalo? Makes my head hurt. I'll take a look, but my girl fantasy readers are doing more paranormal than medievalish. That might be why.

  3. I really want to read this one because hey, the main character is a thief! :D What is it with thieves as unreliable narrators? I don't think I'll have a problem with that like you did but we'll see. I haven't seen this book in our local bookstores though.

  4. I really want to read this. I've heard good things about it and I love her editor, Cheryl Klein. Thanks for the review.

  5. I really liked Bunce's writing style in Curse Dark As Gold, and this one sounds really great. I'll be picking it up soon. Thanks for the review!

  6. Celyn is just plain full-on Celtic--it means "holly."

    (Rarely is my knowledge of Welsh actually useful! Wow.)

    Anyway, I haven't read this or her other book, but I'm hoping to get to them post-Cybils!

  7. I wanted to like both Curse and this one a bit more -- I actually like this one better than Curse, but I found the character less-than-accessible for more than the first third of the novel -- which is just too long. It's a shame, too, because I did eventually begin to like her and felt that I could root for her cause -- it is a good book, but I wondered if it didn't maybe require more work than I expected, or what my problem with it was... Maybe another bad mood. ;)

  8. I liked this one better than Curse too--Curse was one long string of misfortunes, and I found it to grim.

    I agree about the main character in this one being inaccessible for the first large chunk of the book--it seems that Bunce was asking a lot of her readers, to accept that we didn't know her but to care about her anyway. But her actions and motivations (such as the reader could guess at them) didn't, for that first third, make her seem all that likeable.

  9. I wish I'd known about this book yesterday, so I could have gotten it from the library and read it on this unexpected snow day I'm having. :D I love a rascally thief protagonist.

  10. The way this winter is going, Jenny, there will doubtless be other snow days...I thought it was esepcially nice that this thief was a girl--there are so many more rascally boy thieves it made a nice change!


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