Reviewed February 16, 2011.
Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic), 2010. 359 pages.
2010 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #8 Teen Fantasy and Science Fiction
I so enjoyed Elizabeth Bunce's first book, A Curse Dark as Gold, when my library didn't order a copy of Star Crossed as soon as it came out (They do have several copies now.), I ordered myself a copy. I was glad I did, because I'm sure I will read it again, especially since it turns out to be the first book of a series.
The fantasy world of Star Crossed is complicated and complex, but Elizabeth Bunce doesn't lose the reader or blast us with a data dump. She feeds the information to us gradually and skilfully, stringing us along, making us want to know more. By the time the book is done, you look back at an intricate web of history, magic, relationships, betrayals and loyalties, just wanting to find out what happens next.
The book begins with Digger, a skilled thief, escaping from a heist that has gone bad, trying to escape the Greenmen. Her partner, the man she loves, was captured. Now she needs to get out of the city.
While she's walking by the river, trying to figure out how to get on a boat and leave the city, she gets a lift with a group of young noblemen and women on a pleasure boat. She pretends to be a lady herself, Celyn Contrare, fleeing from the convent school of the Daughters of Celys.
They take pity on her and get her out of the city. She becomes Merista's lady's maid and they go to Meri's family's castle to get ready for her kernja-velde. Digger does not have magic herself, but she does have the unusual ability to sense magic, and magic is strong on Meri.
Many guests come to the family's castle, ending up getting snowed in for the winter. One of them recognizes Digger for the thief she is. He won't turn her in -- as long as she does some stealing for him. Digger gets more and more fond of Meri and her family, but is trapped into spying on them. Can she keep them from getting in trouble? What are they plotting? She finds out more and more secrets that she does not want to reveal.
The intrigue in this book has many layers. There was a historic battle years ago where one side was defeated because of a traitor. There is a missing prince who is out of favor with those in power. There are the Greenmen, vigilant in looking for the forbidden use of magic. There are some surprises in Digger's background. She gets drawn further and further into the plots until it all erupts into a dramatic, exciting, and satisfying showdown. I found myself immediately rereading the last several chapters, simply to enjoy them again and make sure I saw all the threads weaving beautifully into place.
The best part of the book may have been on the last page: "Digger will return in Liar's Moon." I hope I don't have to wait long!