Last Star Burning
We’re back with the first of two Rockstar Book Tour stops this week, this time highlighting Caitlin Sangster’s new book, Last Star Burning. An Eastern-influenced story set in a dystopian society, the book follows a young woman named Sev who’s family history has condemned her to a harsh life in a city that sees her as a traitor.
Fans of other young adult dystopian series are going to love Last Star Burning. While the book has a lot of similar themes it definitely takes things in a new direction. The various factions at odds in the story can hardly be divided into good guys and bad guys. And everyone you meet as Sev tells her story seems to have ulterior motives. It’s hard to know what’s going on and who to trust — which makes the story all the more entertaining.
It’s thrilling for the reader (though perhaps not for Sev who is telling the story and having to deal with these devastating revelations).
You can learn more about the book below in the synopsis and then read our (mostly) spoiler-ambiguous review. Or if you’re already intrigued you can jump right down to the giveaway section. As part of the Rockstar Book Tours blog tour they’re giving away THREE copies of the book. So if you want to check out Last Star Burning for yourself now is the time!
Sev is branded with the mark of a criminal—a star burned into her hand. That’s the penalty for being the daughter of the woman who betrayed their entire nation.
Now her mother’s body is displayed above Traitor’s Arch, kept in a paralyzed half sleep by the same plague that destroyed the rest of the world. And as further punishment, Sev is forced to do hard labor to prove that she’s more valuable alive than dead.
When the government blames Sev for a horrific bombing, she must escape the city or face the chopping block. Unimaginable dangers lurk outside the city walls, and Sev’s only hope of survival lies with the most unlikely person—Howl, the chairman’s son. Though he promises to lead her to safety, Howl has secrets, and Sev can’t help but wonder if he knows more about her past—and her mother’s crimes—than he lets on.
But in a hostile world, trust is a luxury. Even when Sev’s life and the lives of everyone she loves may hang in the balance.
When we were given the chance to participate in this Last Star Burning book tour I was intrigued. The synopsis was great and I was looking forward to some kind of epic fantasy adventure. Like a lot of early reviewers I looked at the cover and took the book as some sort of fantasy novel. What I got in the end, though, was even better than that.
Last Star Burning isn’t really fantasy adventure but instead a dystopian, science fiction thriller — which is great because I love science fiction. The book rehashes a few of the usual dystopian tropes and then flips them on their heads to create a unique, captivating story. I enjoyed that angle a lot in part because the trend in young adult fiction has actually been moving away from ‘traditional’ dystopias recently.
Author Caitlin Sangster creates her own unique society with it’s own complex problems. There’s a very structured, almost tyrannical society that pits itself against not just the rest of the world but a devastating illness that’s ravaged the entire world. On the outside, there’s a group of rebels whose own motivations waver between survival and retribution. And as the story progresses you really have to sit back and wonder who the good guys are.
One of the great things about Last Star Burning is how much the story keeps you guessing.
People’s motivations are never entirely clear. Much like the main character, Sev, we’re never sure who to trust and as the book progresses we become less and less certain. And the truth about things – especially the devastating sleeping sickness at the center of this entire society – can take a long time to reach the surface. While the story sometimes drags on in the first third of the book, that sense of almost mystery keeps you wanting more.
Another thing that keeps you reading is Sev herself. She’s a great main character – especially for a dystopian story like this. So often we see our heroines as strong-willed characters who are already secretly looking to rebel against society. Sev, however, is not that kind of person. She has been raised most of her life thinking that she is an abomination – the daughter of a terrorist who literally destroyed the world by releasing this sleeping sickness that drives people mad and sends them to their grave.
She buys into that story and she accepts the status quo.
Sev wants to be a loyal comrade, loyal to the city and society that completely shuns her. Her rebellion doesn’t start out as her own choice. Instead when she’s blamed by the city for a bombing she never could have orchestrated she has to go on the run with a series of new allies – none of whom we know whether or not can be trusted. And when it comes down to it she hardly just buys into the rebel cause which is a nice change from a lot of stories where our heroines jump right into things, championing a noble cause to fight back and liberate the oppressed masses.
In the end, there are dark truths to almost everything in Sev’s world and the journey towards her discovery is wrought with devastating revelations. It makes a for a really great story and it makes Sev’s ultimate development into a real, strong heroine even more compelling.
The sleeping sickness angle was interesting and the truth about it even more so as it’s revealed slowly throughout the book. There’s a lot of fairy tale allusions that come along with it which I think played into the misdirect that kept me thinking this could still be a vaguely fantasy-related story for at least the first like fifth of the story.
But one of the coolest things about Last Star Burning is it’s obvious Eastern influence. The author drew upon her own experiences living abroad in China and Taiwan to help flesh out her unique world. The names, characters, and a fair bit of the world building lend themselves to some great East Asian-influenced imagery. It’s a welcome change to the usual dystopian stories which tend to emulate Western societies. And the author’s obvious reverence toward the cultures that inspired her help really bring the world to life.
Last Star Burning keeps you wondering until the end — and it’s quite the ending. As always with series you need to keep in mind that the story will continue. If you’re looking for a satisfying resolution at the end this book isn’t necessarily going to give that to you. Yes, the conflicts and mysteries all come to a head and many of the burning questions you have about who can be trusted and who is really telling the truth may be unveiled. But all that does is beg more questions and lead Sev and her friends (and the reader) down a whole new path with a whole new line of questioning.
Thrilling and full of twists, Last Star Burning is an adventure dystopian young adult fans won’t want to miss!
If you’re thinking, “I definitely want to read this book now!” then you’re in luck. Rockstar Book Tours isn’t just hosting a book tour for Last Star Burning but also a giveaway. THREE lucky winners are going to get their own, finished copy of the book. Unfortunately, the giveaway is only open to US addresses.
Make sure to enter now!
About the Author
Caitlin Sangster grew up in the back woods of California and would rather go hiking, running, swimming, or general outdoorsing than just about anything else. If there aren’t any mountains, it doesn’t count as a real place. At eighteen, she moved to XinJiang, and at twenty-one it was Taiwan. She did eventually buckle down and graduate from Brigham Young University with a BA in Asian Studies and is now that person you avoid at parties because she’ll probably start talking about Shang dynasty oracle bones.
Caitlin has been writing since middle school. She always thought of it as a silly sort of compulsive habit until she realized that people like reading stories and she liked writing them and there wasn’t much silly about that.
She currently lives in Utah with her husband and four children.