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. This 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. Strong 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. We 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 (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.
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?