Review: Even the Darkest Stars by Heather Fawcett

33385230 Kamzin has always dreamed of becoming one of the emperor’s royal explorers, the elite climbers tasked with mapping the wintry, mountainous Empire and spying on its enemies. She knows she could be the best in the world, if only someone would give her a chance.

But everything changes when the mysterious and eccentric River Shara, the greatest explorer ever known, arrives in her village and demands to hire Kamzin—not her older sister, Lusha, as everyone had expected—for his next expedition. This is Kamzin’s chance to prove herself—even though River’s mission to retrieve a rare talisman for the emperor means climbing Raksha, the tallest and deadliest mountain in the Aryas. Then, Lusha sets off on her own mission to Raksha with a rival explorer, and Kamzin must decide what’s most important to her: protecting her sister from the countless perils of the climb or beating her to the summit.

The challenges of climbing Raksha are unlike anything Kamzin expected—or prepared for—with avalanches, ice chasms, ghosts, and other dangers at every turn. And as dark secrets are revealed, Kamzin must unravel the truth about their mission and her companions—while surviving the deadliest climb she has ever faced. 

4 Stars

Into the UNKNOOOOOWWWWWN – literally me while reading this book.

A Blink-and-You'll-Miss-It Cameo | The Trailer For Frozen 2 Left ...

High among the stars lies a sprawling but unforgiving mountainous empire. It’s a rugged, Himalayan-inspired wilderness of snow-laden forests and craggy peaks where witches, ghosts and fire-demons lurk.

Harking back to the early explorers of Mount Everest, Even the Darkest Stars is a sweeping, high-stakes adventure steeped in Tibetan lore. Hauntingly atmospheric and cinematic, it’s a story of survival as our protagonist, Kamzin joins an expedition, trekking across a desolate wilderness to the edge of the world.

The plot is fairly simplistic in nature – survive the climb, reach the summit – but the execution is breathtaking. Kamzin’s climb to Mount Raksha is a grueling slow burn fraught with danger and romance. Heather Fawcett perfectly captures the perils of mountaineering. The crew must navigate shifting politics amidst blizzards, chasms and avalanches. Then there’s the constant threat of frostbite or exposure.

That being said, Even the Darkest Stars isn’t your average full-throttle fantasy novel. While there’s plenty of conflict, the plot is mostly adventure-driven which enfolds gradually in vivid detail. Heather Fawcett creates a truly immersive experience – you honestly take this journey with the characters. You can feel the blistering wind whipping at your hair, chapping your skin as you make the climb.

And there’s just something so eerie about mountain exploration which is only heightened by the threat of the witches. There’s this definite sense of isolation that encompasses everything. Especially because the entire expedition is shrouded in a veil of uncertainty. Like, what are they really looking for on Mount Raksha? Let’s just say that not everything’s as it seems and not everyone can be trusted…

But it’s Heather Fawcett’s world building, rich in mythology and ceremony, that really steals the limelight. I mean, Even the Darkest Stars just sweeps you away to this frozen world of mountains, starlight and snow. The Himalayan empire is fully-fleshed, honestly one of the most beautifully woven settings I’ve ever read. Grounded in Tibetan culture, the crew use yaks, shamans and talismans to guide the expedition onward.

Frozen GIF - Find on GIFER

Oh, and did I mention there’s dragons???

Speaking of the crew, Kamzin was such a strong protagonist and I loved seeing her complex dynamic with her sister, Lusha. As the youngest daughter of the village elder, Kamzin is desperate to prove herself and reams of exploring the sprawling empire like her mother. She’s daring, brave and stubborn – nothing with stop her from reaching the summit.

With its lush, atmospheric setting and classic adventure plot, Even the Darkest Stars is the perfect moody book for the colder months. There’s mystery, danger and a dash of romance guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat. Basically, when Melbourne finally emerges from its stage four lock down, I’ll be telling everyone that I went on a grueling trek across a mountainous wilderness. Like, quarantine who??? I’m officially a pioneer!

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17 thoughts on “Review: Even the Darkest Stars by Heather Fawcett

    • Awwwwww – thank you so much! And that makes me super happy to hear! You’re going to love Even the Darkest Stars! It’s a bit of a slow burn but it’s so immersive which really catapults you into the narrative. And it’s got a serious Frozen vibe! I hope you love it as much as I did. 💙

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Wow, the atmosphere of this story sounds so magical and breathtaking. I am LIVING for the Frozen vibes (“hey Siri, play Into the Unknown from the Frozen II soundtrack” I am an unapologetic Frozen fan 😉). I love how you describe the setting of this book and how it just sweeps you off of your feet… this sounds like my kind of story! I’ll definitely be adding it to my TBR. 💕

    Thanks for yet another amazing recommenadation, Alexandra! Wonderful review 🙌

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    • OH MY GOSH – If you LOVE Frozen and wintery, atmospheric settings than THIS is the book for you!!! Would 100% recommend. [FYI, you’ll have Into the Unknown stuck in your head the ENTIRE time]. Also yes – I am 100% listening to it right this second. And screaming out the aAAAAH aaaHHHHHHs! 😂😂😂

      Actually Even the Darkest Stars really reminded me of Anna and Kristoff’s trek to the North Mountain. But, instead of a magical snowman, you have a fire-demon for a side kick. Oh yeah, and instead of Marshmallow, you have to avoid these creepy witchy-bird things. No pressure right? 😉

      Be sure to let me know your thoughts if you end up picking it up! 💙💙💙

      Liked by 1 person

    • AHHHHH YOU HAVEN’T SEEN FROZEN 2??? You are going to LOVE it! In my humble opinion it blows the first movie COMPLETELY out of the water. The songs are amazing [I sob like a baby during Show Yourself], the animation is breathtaking and the story is so relevant. It hits a little close to home, you know? 💙💙💙

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    • Oh don’t worry – I think this duology sat on my self for three years unread. Whoops. But I can guarantee that it’s AMAZING. I just finished All the Wandering Light yesterday and holy heck, I think I’ve just found my new favorite fantasy duology. I can’t wait for you to read it – be sure to let me know what you think! 😉

      Thank you so much for stopping by! 💙

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    • The premise of this duology is so sweeping and beautiful – you’re going to LOVE it! It gives off all the Frozen vibes with complex sister relationships, mountain climbing and a little touch of magic. 😍😍😍

      Thank you so much for reading, Rain! 💙💙💙

      Liked by 1 person

  2. All the Frozen gifs!!!! Lowkey want to read this book AND rewatch frozen now… also I got Matterhorn vibes from reading this review, no? Anyways, this book sounds so incredible! The atmospheric settling seems so cool (hahahahahahah I’m not funny) and frightening and terrifying?? but also amazing! I’m glad it was so immersive! And dragons!! I’m always a fan of dragons, who isn’t tbh? amazing review ❤

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    • Would 100% recommend reading All the Darkest Stars AND watching Frozen because they have that ~vibe~. If you love one, you’re basically guaranteed to love the other. AND YES – MAJOR MATTERHORN VIBES TOO! Just substitute the Yetis for a bunch of creepy AF witch-bird-things. [Also spoiler alert: there’s no hidden basketball court inside of Mount Raksha either. #missedopportunity 😂😂😂].

      On an unrelated note, I just finished the sequel All the Wandering Light [which was AMAZING] but that means I’m free to binge the Lunar Chronicles!!! I just started Scarlet and all I can say is THE FREAKING SASS!!! 🙌🙌🙌

      Thank you so much for reading Kay. Sorry for all my essays! 💙💙💙

      Liked by 1 person

  3. […] Even the Darkest Stars introduced us to Kamzin, a daring, brave and complex protagonist on a grueling trek to reach the summit of Mount Raksha. But the climb didn’t exactly go as planned and now, thanks to Kamzin, the mountainous empire is on the brink of collapse. Weary, exhausted and reeling from River’s betrayal, the crew are thrust into one last adventure to save the empire. […]

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