This review is part of my awesome MARCH FANTASY MONTH project with the lovely Lili of Lili's Reflections. Click here to see Lili's review of Dark Star and follow both of us so you don't miss any of the fantasy madness!
Review: Dark Star by Bethany Frenette
Rating: A book that totally took me by surprise. It took a while for all the information to come to light, but once it did, it was fun, quirky, and action-packed!
Audrey Whitticomb has nothing to fear. Her mother is the superhero Morning Star, the most deadly crime-fighter in the Twin Cities, so it's hard for Audrey not to feel safe. That is, until she's lured into the sweet night air by something human and not human--something with talons and teeth, and a wide, scarlet smile.
Now Audrey knows the truth: her mom doesn't fight crime at night. She fights Harrowers--livid, merciless beings who were trapped Beneath eons ago. Yet some have managed to escape. And they want Audrey dead, just because of who she is: one of the Kin.
To survive, Audrey will need to sharpen the powers she has always had. When she gets close to someone, dark corners of the person's memories become her own, and she sometimes even glimpses the future. If Audrey could only get close to Patrick Tigue, a powerful Harrower masquerading as human, she could use her Knowing to discover the Harrowers' next move. But Leon, her mother's bossy, infuriatingly attractive sidekick, has other ideas. Lately, he won't let Audrey out of his sight.
When an unthinkable betrayal puts Minneapolis in terrible danger, Audrey discovers a wild, untamed power within herself. It may be the key to saving herself, her family, and her city. Or it may be the force that destroys everything--and everyone--she loves.
The cover: Look at all the awesome superhero realness! I love the color of the buildings, the dramatic angle of the camera, her strong pose and billowing curls. She looks like she could take you. Easily.
The story: I had never heard of this book before Lili challenged me to read it. After gobbling it down in about a day, I must throw a big thank you in her direction, because I never would have found it otherwise! And while it wasn't perfect, it's a lot of fun, and Frenette is clearly an author to look out for.
The two major hangups I had with this books were hangups I totally got over by the end. But during the first half of the book, they seriously grated on me. First off: this is not a superhero book. It is urban fantasy, straight up. Now, I love urban fantasy, but I also love superheroes. I was expecting a book about superheroes, maybe even something like Sky High, and when I realized Dark Star was something else entirely, I was... not disappointed, really, but it was kind of like buying yourself a chocolate cake, biting into it, and realizing it's actually lemon, or something. It's not a BAD flavor. It's just as tasty. But you're thrown a little. You'd thought you'd paid for chocolate. And now I'm hungry.
|Sorry, Frozone, but it is not in this book.|
But I adjusted quickly (at the lend of the day, I'll take cake/books in any flavor). The first few chapters didn't work for me, PARTICULARLY the first, which is basically a dream for which we have no context. I hate dream-sequence openings, also; they seem cliche to me. And while I got why the dream was necessary, I don't like that it opened the novel. The next couple chapters had a lot of backstory. I promise, though, if you get past the beginning, good things await.
The bigger problem, to me, is how slowwwwwwly all the necessary information is doled out.Every character with any authority over Audrey (her mother and smexy Leon) continually tries to protect her by withholding the truth, something that Audrey very clearly requires if she wishes to survive the next couple hundred pages. Now, Audrey's kind of a handful, I get that, but I was firmly on her side. I mean, yes, Audrey is stubborn in a way that causes her to do tremendously foolish things, but if any of the character with relevant information would just divulge it then she would know why doing what she's doing is dangerous, and more importantly, so would we. I was actually staring right into the face of my Kindle saying, "SPIT. IT. OUT. Would someone just PLEASE EXPLAIN THE DEAL HERE THANK YOU GOD."
But no. No. No. They did not. Even when I asked oh-so-politely.
"Back off, Farkas. You're scaring the poor kid (Audrey)."
"She should be scared."
"No," SPOILER said. "She should be educated."
YES. PLEASE EDUCATE HER. EDUCATE US. I hate when people in books and movies purposefully withhold vital information that the protagonist could really use to avoid being killed numerous times (see: Dumbledore, Albus). SPOILER IMAGE AVERT YOUR EYES IF YOU'RE SIX YEARS BEHIND THE TIMES
|SPOILER SPOILER SPOILERRRR|
So, yeah. That business got terribly frustrating fast. But once I got a handle on what the deal was, boy was this book fun. I adore Audrey. She's impulsive, strongwilled, and very funny. She also has a psychic ability called Knowing that I found endlessly fascinating. She's fiercely devoted to her mother and her best friends. Her love-hate relationship with Leon, her mom's pseudo-sidekick, is totally enjoyable and has heavy helpings of swoon (the baking scene is my particular favorite, because OH YES, HE BAKES). Their relationship moves very slowly and subtly, but I liked that. Even if I kept getting mentally stuck on his name. The lore and mythology of the Kin and Harrowers and the Beneath is AWESOME. I loved the way magic worked in this novel, and though it was complex, I was never confused. Some of the twists and reveals managed to take me by surprise, yet were always believable. But the best thing about Frenette's writing is her characters.
They're quirky and alive. Gideon and Tink, Audrey's best friends, are totally loveable and distinct. And I LOVED the mother-daughter relationship that Audrey and her mother, "Morning Star", have. This single mother, though she's often off fighting crime, is very much present in the story and is in fact a major character. That was a lovely, refreshing thing to see. And once again, the dialogue was super funny. That's truly all I want in life: some witty, zingy dialogue.
The end was rushed, I felt, with the action scenes speeding by too quickly and with too little detail, though I must admit the final climax was breathtaking. Does this book reinvent the normal-girl-discovers-secret-powers-and-a-hitherto-unknown-magical-world wheel? No. But it's still a fun ride. I will most CERTAINLY be checking out the sequel.