The Stars Never Rise (The Stars Never Rise, Book 1)
Random House Ember (US & CA: 19th July 2016); Harlequin MIRA Ink (UK: 18th June 2015)
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The front cover seems to have nothing to do with the contents. The title, the image, and the tagline don’t match the story. They’re good things, as is the tale told, but they don’t make sense together.
I think The Stars Never Rise was originally contracted to the publisher until the title Anathema, which would’ve fit better. Instead, there’s this poetic name that doesn’t belong – because the writing, while decent, isn’t poetic, and no stars are mentioned. The butterfly? Symbolic, maybe, but it’s not a motif. As for the tagline, nothing about flying and being free.
Based on the marketing, including the reference likening it to the works of Cassandra Clare (which is unfair because I dislike CC’s books), you’d be forgiven if you figured there’d be angels here. Instead we have demons, exorcists, and degenerates.
The Stars Never Rise is a rollicking good read, a thrill ride with a rag-tag group of teen exorcists fighting against the Unified Church. (Yes, the story’s kind of anti-faith, so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to the faithful.) New Temperance is a town in which the church runs everything, including law enforcement. They may not burn you to death (except for when they do) if you’re guilty of pre-marital fornication and unlicensed pregnancy, but they may consecrate you into servitude for life.
I didn’t understand at first why we get Nina Kane’s first-person POV instead of Melanie’s, her sister who’s in a tougher predicament. But Melanie doesn’t have “powers” and she’s in a relationship – recent publication trends unfortunately wouldn’t allow a non-powerful teen already in a relationship to be the heroine of a paranormal novel.
The story takes place over only a few days, but Nina quickly becomes romantically linked. Problem: her boyfriend is a soul without a body. But he possesses people’s bodies, though he and his allies are quick to say he’s not a demon. So what is he? That better be resolved in the sequel. Finn asks his friends to temporarily take over their bodies, but he also inhabits other people without permission. This is where things get awkward. Would you like someone using your body without you knowing? You suddenly regain consciousness without knowing why you…”slept” in the back of your own brain and body while someone else drove it? Probably not the author’s intention, but Finn’s unsolicited body-hopping seems a bit rapey.
The Stars Never Rise is part one of two, leaving threads hanging and questions unanswered. But the snowballing action and danger doesn’t let up, and I sped through this because it’s just so damn good. Nonsensical at times, but as long as the plot-holes are patched up in The Flame Never Dies this should be a cracking duo.
P.S. The only WOC is characterised as a “bitch”, and the MOC is…tortured and burned to death. (Another MOC is mentioned briefly, but doesn’t take up much page time.) When it comes to diversity this story seems rather white, and the problematic trope of killing a person of colour to further a white person’s tale is unfortunately present. So be prepared for that.