The Blazing Star

December 12, 2016
The Blazing Star Book Cover The Blazing Star
Imani Josey
Magical Realism
Wise Ink
December 6th, 2016
eBook
239
NetGalley

Sixteen-year-old Portia White is used to being overlooked—after all, her twin sister Alex is a literal genius.

But when Portia holds an Egyptian scarab beetle during history class, she takes center stage in a way she never expected: she faints. Upon waking, she is stronger, faster, and braver than before. And when she accidentally touches the scarab again?

She wakes up in ancient Egypt—her sister and an unwitting freshman in tow.

Great.

Mysterious and beautiful, Egypt is more than they could have ever imagined from their days in the classroom. History comes alive as the three teens realize that getting back to the present will be the most difficult thing they’ve ever done. Stalked by vicious monsters called Scorpions, every step in the right direction means a step closer to danger.

As Portia and the girls discover that they’re linked to the past by more than just chance, they have to decide what it truly means to be yourself, to love your sister, and to find your way home.

(via Goodreads)

 

I am typically not someone who is interested in hype. I like to avoid it, honestly, particularly when it comes to new books. However, I somehow couldn’t resist requesting The Blazing Star from NetGalley. blazing-star-waset-templeThis book is diverse historical magical realism featuring a black female protagonist. Everyone has been talking about this book and with its gorgeous cover no wonder it has been getting a ton of attention! Unfortunately, even though it’s all the things I love about YA rolled into one, The Blazing Star felt extraordinarily flat for me.

Portia is one half of the White twins. Unfortunately, she feels like the lesser half. Her sister Alex is known for being the smartest girl in school; possibly an actual genius. Alex and Portia have been “twinning” as long as they can remember, and Portia wants to become a woman in her own right. Unfortunately, as junior year of high school is wrapping up nothing is going her way. In history class, Portia touched half of a scarab on loan from the museum and almost passed out. The next time she touched the scarab it was whole, and she woke up in ancient Egypt.

“You have kept me from a dishonorable death,” he said. “It would be my honor to do the same for you.”
I smiled at the odd compliment.
“Look!” he said. “I have cured her sour disposition. My debt is almost repaid.”

The premise of this story is everything I want in a YA book. blazing-star-nile-river-lotusStrong female protagonists. Characters of color are the majority of the cast. Disabilities are addressed and not treated as handicaps. Family and friendship relationships more importance than romance. Magical realism. Historical fiction. Action. Flaws. Mythology. Adventures. And yet… nothing really clicked for me.

The first half of the book sets us up well. We learn a lot about Alex and Portia’s relationship. But we are also introduced to a lot of mystery. Who is this cat? Why did it appear? Why did they travel to Egypt? Why does Selene even matter? What is really going on with Alex and Portia’s relationship? So many questions– I assumed everything was foreshadowing. I was excited to get some answers, just as Portia was. But the pacing felt off; nothing had happened yet. Suddenly, I had reached 50% and I felt like we hadn’t left the exposition yet, I was starting to be concerned…

Not every gift is easy, and you are very gifted.

Things started to disintegrate quickly one the Hyksos princess was introduced. blazing-star-wasetWe had more and more characters jumping in the storyline with each passing chapter. Instead of building relationships and developing the characters we had, we just added more. I felt like none of the characters grew in this book. They all served their purpose to move the plot forward, and that’s it.

In fact, that plot didn’t really move forward. Thanks to all the new characters, things quickly became convoluted. I felt like I was always out of the loop and I wasn’t quite grasping the reasons characters were taking actions. I didn’t know them well enough as individuals to figure out if these actions were plot points or superfluous details. With the little I know about the culture of ancient Egypt, that was very opaque to me. As details began to fly in, I started to space out a bit more as I read. I honestly don’t know if the last third of the book was confusing because I wasn’t paying close enough attention or if it was just poor writing.

If you don’t stop this, I will show no mercy for the weakness of your gender.

The biggest disappointment for me was the lack of an ending. This book is either the first book in a series blazing-star-isis(I can’t find anything information confirming or denying this– do you have any idea?) or it ended leaving the reader with lots of questions intentionally. When I got to the end I honestly thought to myself, “Wait. Why did I even read this?”

If this is the first book in a series, I will certainly continue reading it. There is a lot of potential in Josey’s writing. I love the relationships she is attempting to cultivate. I want to know more about Portia and Alex and Selene. I want to understand why they are in Egypt and why it matters. I want to know more about this magic and the political intrigue which was alluded to. I know that debut books, particularly when they are the first in a series, can be a challenge for me as a reader.

Damn sword is heavy, but it’s the best backup for prayers.

I am not giving up on Josey yet. I love the premise, I just feel like execution was off for The Blazing Star. This wasn’t a strong debut in my eyes. Yet, I have a feeling I will really love her future works and I will definitely keep an eye out for more from her.

2 starsI received a copy of this book from NetGalley and Wise Ink in exchange for an honest review. Check out more about Wise Ink and Imani Josey on their respective websites.


What do you think?

  • Do you read hyped books around their release date? Why?
  • Have you ever been let down by a hyped book? If so, which one?
  • What do you think of the premise of this novel? Does it capture your attention?

37 Comments

  • Brendon December 12, 2016 at 12:52 pm

    I appreciate your honest opinions and review. It’s too bad to hear you did not find the story compelling as (like you) I was very enamored with the cover and the plot from the description. I’ll probably give this one a read myself as it is a first in a series I hope grows. I think it is good we have critical reviews and share what we like as much as what we dislike. As for representation, you mentioned briefly about the characters, race, and ability… overall, did you find good and authentic representation throughout? I ask because of a recent discussion about problematic representation versus disliking a story and of course I am curious at your thoughts 🙂

    Thank you again for the review! I enjoyed reading it.

    • Jackie B December 13, 2016 at 4:43 pm

      That’s a great question, Brendon. Honestly, I think that the representation’s authenticity varied. For example, Portia and Alex are both black, but they grew up in an affluent household in the Chicago suburbs. I think they fit into these roles well and their race isn’t used inappropriately. I actually really love how the color of their skin, particularly that of Selene being darker than the twins, helps the Egyptians guess from what area of Egypt they are from. That felt authentic, particularly as it came back in relevant ways throughout the book.

      But, I think the representation of physical deformity was merely used as a plot point. It didn’t need to be there, and yet it was waved around like “LOOK! THIS IS IMPORTANT!” Perhaps it will be in a future book? It just felt contrived.

      Not a great answer, but the book was a bit all over the place for me, so I’m not surprised I feel that way about how diversity is represented.

  • Books, Vertigo and Tea December 13, 2016 at 1:01 pm

    That is too bad 🙁 Seems like there were some real issues with execution and the ending. Unfortunately, at least for me, endings can make or break titles. I love how sincere and honest you are in this review.

    • Jackie B December 13, 2016 at 4:39 pm

      Exactly! The ending really threw me off. I’m frustrated that I can’t tell if this is just supposed to end vaguely or if they expect this to be the first book in a series. It’s the first time I’ve run into something like this. 🙁 Shame.

  • Laila@BigReadingLife December 13, 2016 at 2:42 pm

    A wonderfully balanced review, Jackie. It’s not easy to review a book that you are disappointed by. The premise does sound intriguing, despite the fact that I don’t usually read a lot of YA or fantasy. Hmmm, hyped books… depends on who’s doing the hyping! 🙂 I’m mostly a backlist reader so I don’t read a lot of things right as they come out unless it’s a favorite author, but usually wait for the dust to settle a bit before I commit.

    • Jackie B December 13, 2016 at 4:44 pm

      Yay! I’m glad I’m not alone as someone who is a backlist reader. I like to keep chomping down my TBR as much as I can instead of reading the newest ones. It’s a good cycle. That said, sometimes I take a chance. It’s a shame I was burned on this one, however.
      Oooh. Who are the favorite authors you like to read early?

  • Resh Susan @ The Book Satchel December 14, 2016 at 12:52 am

    The cover is really brilliant! I am sorry you didnt enjoy the read. I appreciate that you gave an honest review.

    • Jackie B December 14, 2016 at 10:22 pm

      Thank you, Resh Susan! I appreciate that. I’m sure you know how hard it is to write a less than stellar review. 🙁

  • AvalinahsBooks December 15, 2016 at 10:28 am

    That’s an incredibly beautiful cover and a very good premise indeed. A shame you didn’t find it very interesting. I haven’t read it myself, but I’ve found that overhyped books tend to leave you disappointed, possibly exactly because you’ve had your expectations upped. Really is such a shame when it happens though. This happened with the Ghost Bride for me, which was not a bad book at all, but I just expected so much more from it because of the marketing and the hype.

    • Jackie B December 16, 2016 at 8:31 pm

      Exactly! I typically avoid hyped books for that exact reason. I’m glad I didn’t pick up The Ghost Bride when it came out, then. But I bet in a year or so, I’d probably really enjoy it. It’s always a shame when that happens… but I do love being pleasantly surprised when hyped books go the other way! Illuminae was that way for me– I adore it! Have you ever had a positive experience with a hyped book?

      • AvalinahsBooks December 18, 2016 at 8:35 am

        Oh, absolutely! Illuminae was totally like that. It deserved the hype. A lot of the time we’re really not all that different from most people 🙂 if there’s a hype, there’s quite a high chance you’ll end up liking it too.

        As for the Ghost bride, if you like YA, you should probably read it. The hype has died down now anyway. It wasn’t a bad book! It was fun. Wasn’t worth the hype though, in my opinion 🙂 but it surely was entertaining.

        By the way, have you heard about #BICOthon? I just joined today, a little late, but fun nonetheless. It’s a holiday week readathon! Just noticed it on Twitter – Read.Sleep.Repeat are hosting it. It’s even got a bingo! Check out my last post if you’re curious, it has a link to the original post as well (don’t wanna go link dropping here 🙂 ). But it seems fun, so I just wanted to let you know about it if you care to join.

        • Jackie B December 19, 2016 at 10:51 pm

          You are *always* welcome to link drop. 🙂 This read-a-thon sounds like a ton of fun! I wish I had heard about it sooner– my week is crazy leading up to the holidays, and I scheduled all my posts for this week already. I really need a better way to stay in tune with the up and coming read-a-thons. I feel like each time I find a good one they are already mid-readathon. Let me know if you find any others coming up– I’ll definitely make an attempt to join! 🙂

          • AvalinahsBooks December 22, 2016 at 10:13 am

            You know, I did find another one 🙂 I actually signed up. It’s a Blogger Shame challenge, for overdue arcs. You can read my short post about it, includes their link:
            http://avalinahsbooks.space/2017-resolutions/

            It’s also really nice because you choose your own goals 🙂 I think it’s good because it spans the entire year and the goal is really good, to be fair. It’s really not okay to have 50 ARCs -.- which I pretty much do, oh my god.

          • Jackie B December 23, 2016 at 12:18 am

            Wow– you are a bit more zealous than I am. I only have 12 sitting out there, and i thought that I was struggling! It sounds like we’re going to do a lot of reading challenges together this year. I’m all for it. 🙂 I’ll have to check that one out, too– but I only have 3 books which count towards the challenge now. Perhaps my goal will just to be have zero books on that list by the end of 2017? After all, that list will certainly grow quickly if I don’t catch up soon.

  • Shouni December 15, 2016 at 8:18 pm

    Lovely review! I’ve also been hearing a lot of hype surrounding this book but I didn’t know if I would like it. I’ve never really liked historical settings much and I think I would be confused too. I don’t usually read hyped books around the release date because I always to read new books from the library before buying it. Unless they’re the sequel to a series I love in which case, I probably have the book pre-ordered :D. I was very recently let down with Illuminae which I kind of quit after the first 150 pages because I wasn’t invested in the story enough to continue.

    • Jackie B December 16, 2016 at 8:34 pm

      Thanks, Shouni! Yes! I’m so glad I’m not the only person who uses the library. I can never seem to get on the Holds list soon enough for a hyped book anyway. Oh well. I also totally agree about sequels to series I’m obsessed with. Unlike you, I really loved Illuminae. I love epistolary novels and science fiction, so this was a perfect book for me. The unique formatting really hit home. I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you!
      Have you read any hyped books lately you did enjoy? Or perhaps there are some sequels coming out you’re super excited for?

      • Shouni December 16, 2016 at 10:52 pm

        Libraries are the greatest creation of mankind. I might give Illuminae another chance since so many people seem to love it. I’m reading “And I Darken” right now and loving it!

        • Jackie B December 20, 2016 at 1:34 pm

          EXACTLY! Libraries are amazing. I strongly encourage you to check out Illuminae– and let me know what you think! I love hearing about how people have been affected by the format. Some love it, others not to much. It’s definitely a unique take on the epistolary format!

  • Adoptabookaus December 16, 2016 at 12:13 am

    I’ve been seeing this book around (because who could miss that cover!) I’ve held off on it because I wanted to see some reviews and the characters and issues sound amazing so it’s a bit of a disappointment that the plot didn’t click I’ve seen a few people say they felt the exact same as you. Although I have to say I love the quotes you included especially the first one give me all the Sass in YA books 😀 I’m planning on getting a copy of this from the library when its available and then buying it if I enjoy it because I need that cover on my bookshelf XD

    • Jackie B December 16, 2016 at 8:37 pm

      Oh man, that cover gets me. I am not typically wooed by covers, but this one and really drew me in and captured me! I’m glad I’m not the only one who felt let down, however. Particularly with debuts, I feel bad giving lower starred reviews. And yet… I must be honest!
      The sass is pretty good when it’s there. It’s just fairly limited since Portia is spending most of the book struggling to find her own identity. What’s A Soulmate had a ton of sass in it (I realllly loved that book) which I connected with immediately!
      Let me know what you think of this once you read it! I hope that we find out it’s a series because otherwise I will be super frustrated… That said, it’s worth a shot. It certainly is unique!

  • Amanda @Cover2CoverMom December 16, 2016 at 10:17 am

    Thanks for being so honest Jackie! This book is everywhere right now, which I’m thinking is due to the amazing cover vs the merit of the book… I have yet to read a positive review for this one.

    • Jackie B December 16, 2016 at 8:53 pm

      I think this is due to the amazing cover, the premise, and the promise of diversity. Diversity in literature, particularly YA, is soooo in right now– I think the publishing company really hyped it due to POC characters *and* disabilities *and* non-white ethnicities. It’s easy to see why people would be interested. It just didn’t hit the mark.
      I haven’t seen another review for this book yet, but I’ve been absolutely abysmal about my blog hopping lately (the holiday season is killing me). I hope to find more– I love comparing my opinions to others and see if I miss anything in my own reading. 🙂

  • Marie @ drizzleandhurricanebooks December 16, 2016 at 12:50 pm

    Lovely review, Jackie, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts about this. I heard a bit about that book and I like magical realism, plus the premise sounded interesting. Too bad it didn’t live up to your expectations :/

    • Jackie B December 16, 2016 at 8:55 pm

      I love magical realism! In fact, that might have been the best part. I hope that this turns into a series and Josey’s writing improves over time. After all, the premise seems right. It just wasn’t executed well. 🙁

  • Grab the Lapels December 16, 2016 at 1:57 pm

    Since characters are introduced to move the plot forward and little else, I wonder if the book is a quest. Think of The Odyssey, for example, where every so often new characters jump in, things happen, then they’re gone and the main characters on are the way. Something similar happens in old fairy tales, too. A lot of people don’t like the characters-as-plot-devices, but it does have a history.

    • Jackie B December 16, 2016 at 8:58 pm

      That’s a really insightful observation, Melanie! I think that would feel more appropriate if Portia wasn’t spending so much of the book reflecting on things. While there is a bit of an Odyssey-like self-discovery journey happening, it feels less like things are happening to Portia than she just happens to be in the middle of things. Perhaps, if this becomes a series and continues, I can explore that in reading the sequels? I just wish it was more effective overall– when the book was over I didn’t feel like I really got anything from it. :-\

      • Grab the Lapels December 17, 2016 at 6:27 am

        To be honest, after I write my comment to you I abandoned the quest-like book that I was reading because it was too…questy.

        • Jackie B December 19, 2016 at 10:52 pm

          Hahaha! Isn’t that how life works sometimes? It’s a shame when that happens– but it’s better to DNF than waste your time reading something which makes you unhappy.

  • Diana December 18, 2016 at 11:09 pm

    I have been seeing this book around blogosphere. It looked quite interesting especially due to the diversity angle. I am sorry to hear that it didn’t quite meet your expectations though. The overload of new characters and underdevelopment of the MCs doesn’t sound good. I love how balance and honest your review is and hopefully, there will be other books to help with the ending of this one.

    • Jackie B December 19, 2016 at 10:55 pm

      Yes! I hope that future books will balance things out. As this is a debut, I am definitely willing to give Josey room to progress and grow before I stop reading her works entirely. She’s definitely got all the angles to hook me– execution was just off. I’m hoping the future will bring more amazing books from her. 🙂

  • wordsandotherbeasts December 20, 2016 at 11:52 am

    It’s a shame that this didn’t live up to expectations! It sounds so promising and I was obsessed with Ancient Egypt when I was little so this sounds right up my street! I think I’ll still probably give it a go, even though it’s getting unfavourable reviews, simply because I want to experience the setting. At least I’m prepared for the negatives though! Great review!

    • Jackie B December 20, 2016 at 2:32 pm

      You definitely should give it a go! I have found that books others disliked strongly I have enjoyed, and vice versa. After all, these reviews are just our personal opinions. I haven’t read any other reviews of this book yet, however. I’ll have to keep an eye out.
      I hope that you adore the setting and this book is a hit for you!

  • Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity December 22, 2016 at 7:18 pm

    I feel like hyped books can be so very scary! More often than not I will simply forgo reading them if I only have a slight interest in the premise because I have been let down so many times. Either that or I try and read them after everyone has somewhat finished their excited praise. I can honestly say, though, that hype has worked out on one or two occasions for me, so I get why it can happen!

    I’m sorry that this book wasn’t the amazing one that you wanted it to be. It sounds like it should be the first in a series – where the author is building everything up without giving much away. Although the fact you can’t find any information about it being a series is a bit scary!

    Its so great that this book is out there, though, because diverse fantasy is so very rare. I’m glad that you’re willing to give this author another chance!

    Great review, Jackie 🙂

    • Jackie B December 23, 2016 at 12:34 am

      Thanks, Chiara. I am also sooo glad this book was published *and* that it’s getting all the hype, even if it didn’t live up to my expectations. I’ve only recently starting seeking out diverse fantasy. In most cases, I find it to be more compelling. I attribute this to the different worldview of the author as compared to myself, but that is just speculation. I recently discovered N. K. Jemisin and I adore her works. I hope that more authors like Jemisin, Josey, and Okorafor.

      The last hyped book I read and met the hype was Illuminae (and subsequently, Gemina, but I don’t count sequels as I already know I’ll read them). Alas– I have not had a positive hype experience in almost a year now. What was the last hyped book you enjoyed?

  • theorangutanlibrarian January 12, 2017 at 7:48 pm

    Ah shame it didn’t live upto the hype! Especially as I am officially in love with that cover!!

    • Jackie B January 13, 2017 at 10:24 am

      Right?! The cover is *gorgeous*. I’m hopeful this will improve if this becomes a series.

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