Amber Skye Forbes
WHEN STARS DIE, synopsis :
"Amelia Gareth's brother is a witch and the only way to save her family from the taint in his blood is to become a professed nun at Cathedral Reims. However, in order to become professed, she must endure trials that all nuns must face.
Surviving these trials is not easy, especially for Amelia, who is being stalked by shadowy beings only she can see. They're searching for people they can physically touch, because only those they can touch can see them. Amelia soon learns why she is being stalked when she accidentally harms her best friend with fire during the third trial. Fire is a witch's signature. The shadows are after witches.
Now Amelia must decide what to do: should she continue on her path to profession knowing there is no redemption, or should she give up on her dream and turn away from Cathedral Reims in order to stop the shadows who plan to destroy everything she loves?"
Picture this: End of 19th century Europe, a world as religious as ever, full of sinners looking for redemption at any cost, but most of all scared by the idea of being surrounded by evil, impure and dangerous beings: witches. When Stars Die is the story of Amelia Gareth, an 18-year-old girl who wants more than anything to become a nun. In order to do that, she has to go through physically and psychologically challenging trials to be professed. It is one of the rules at Cathedral Reims. Accompanied by her 8-year-old brother Nathaniel, Amelia took refuge in the strict, cold and harsh convent life. And for good reasons: her parents committed irrevocable sins, which made her brother a witch. For him, she accepts this life, she wants redemption and a chance for her brother and herself to go to heaven when they die. To help her overcome her difficulties and fears, she can count on her best friend, Colette, who has proven to be the best of sisters, in every sense of the word, for the past three years. Amelia can also rely on the reassuring and singularly different presence of Oliver Cromwell, a priest who represents the best and the worst of temptations... But the young girl has more than her fears and doubts to deal with. There is much more at stake than her life at the convent. Lately, shadowy figures have been following and watching her. She keeps it a secret, only Colette knows. What Amelia doesn't know is that she is not the only one who sees them and who is in danger. Soon, everything changes for Amelia. Truths and secrets she knew nothing about will explode... One question remains: who can save them?
Amelia is the kind of heroine you don't expect. She's a wallflower, quiet and reserved. She could be your best friend, just like she could be your scapegoat. I'm not saying that she doesn't have a strong character, that would be a lie, but she only uses it when necessary. If I had to describe Amelia in a few words, I would say she's loyal, determined, protective, scared and blinded. Of course there are others words to define Amelia. But I think you have to remember that Amelia live in a world that she never really wanted. Even though the Cathedral and Malva have become her life now, she made choices without thinking about what she wanted to do with her life. She quickly got used to her new life, gladly forgetting about her past. Everything she is and everything she wants to become is a result of her love for her brother Nathaniel. He is also extremely endearing and brave. His relationship with his sister is vital to him, even though he never wanted to leave his parents and join the harsh religious life. His sister's choice is not his, and he paid the price as much as she did. Even though he questions this choice, he fully trusts his sister. His intelligence, his maturity and the fact that he's a witch make his an incredible child.
Then there's Colette. She is, in my opinion, one of the most interesting secondary characters I've ever encountered. She is a rock for Amelia, she's strong and loyal. Her role in the story takes unexpected proportions if you don't pick up on the clues left by the author throughout the text. I have to warn you, Colette and Amelia will have more in common than their desire to become nuns.
Now, my crush: Oliver “Olly” Cromwell. When you finish reading When Stars Die (and I know you will read it!), you may have trouble understanding what I'm about to say, but I have to say it anyway. I have rarely loved a male character so much in a novel as I have in When Stars Die! He's incredible! Not only because he is attractive, tender, funny and extremely captivating, but also because he made me feel a lot of things. And not necessarily in a good way... Because he's complex and his role in the book is never clearly defined. He will not leave you indifferent. You won't be able to trust yourself around him, just like Amelia can't herself, I imagine...
I could also talk about the Mother Superior, Aurelia or Theosodore, or about those little shadows, Asch and Sasch, but I think it would be better if you discovered them by yourself.
What I found incredible !
There are many reasons why this novel deserved five stars. The first thing I found amazing was the writing, which I would describe as almost magical. I was blown away by the use of the first person narration and the present tense, by the many descriptions: the scenery, the feelings and the scenes, always depicted with well-chosen words. Even though I'm French, I had no trouble imagining the characters and their actions. But what I loved the most was the beauty with which the emotions were described. It is told with old words but it is timeless. Unforgettable. It is a dark and really deep writing. Really unique and beautiful.
The second element I found incredible was the story in itself. I know I have already said that I love this novel, but the story is so unique, I have to talk about it! The synopsis intrigued me and I wasn't disappointed. If you're looking for something new and surprising, you won't be disappointed when reading When Stars Die. There are so many twists and so much suspense. And what an ending! I can't talk about it but let me tell you it was an amazing and astonishing slap in the face! I've already felt that way after reading a particularly remarkable novel but this one...
My downside isn't necessarily one, but I have to admit that some scenes and twists didn't surprise me as much as they should have. Maybe it's because I'm an attentive reader, I don't know. I could really relate to the main character and unlike her, I could see the bigger picture in the situation. So it makes sense to guess some things sometimes. Don't worry though, it doesn't make the reading boring or less interesting, on the contrary. As I've said before on my blog, I love to be an active participant in my reading. And it didn't keep me from loving this novel and from being blown away by the ending.
Well, I hope my review convinced you to start the When Stars Die trilogy. I can't wait to read the next one! If only for Amber Skye Forbes's talent ! I could talk to you more about this novel but I think I have said what matters the most.
This first book is available on Amazon, and make sure to check out the author's blog, where you'll find advice for budding writers. Soon, I have the chance to interview Amber and ask her questions about pretty much anything I'm curious about her book and her career. Lucky me !
Thank you and enjoy your reading!