I was a bit hesistant to start this book since it didn't sound like anything special and I hadn't liked the author's previous book, A Curse as Dark as Gold (a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin). But it was at the library, it was the start of winter break, Inkpot had recommended it so what did I have to lose?
Star Crossed by Elizabeth C. Bunce
The cover here works (it's actually one of those covers which makes more sense once you've read the book and looked at the image on the back cover) but I still don't like it that much, I guess it's just a little busy for me (I think I would like it better if the girl wasn't in it). As a side note, I love how the first book is called Star Crossed (I'm pretty sure the title is two words anyway) and the sequel is called Liar's Moon, if there's a third book I hope the title has something to do with the sun just because that would be really neat.
Summary: Digger is a poor girl who has to go on the run after a job (stealing a stack of important letters) goes horribly wrong and she ends up becoming the maid to Merista Nemair as a way to escape the city of Gerse. Although she isn't happy at the idea of being stuck in a lonely castle in the mountains for the entire winter it's better than being killed and Digger wants to stay alive. But this lonely castle in the mountains has more secrets that most would guess and Digger has to stay on her toes if she wants to stay alive after all.
The Good: About halfway through this book I realized it was one of my favorite new books of 2010 which far exceeded my expectations of it. Digger is a smart main character and much more fleshed out than the stereotypical thief character I was excepting her to be. She's clever and while she does do something things she doesn't want to to survive she also manages to have a conscience and tries to set things right again before her actions come back to hurt her. The politics in this story also really caught me by surprise, as did the magic actually, and it's rare to find YA that includes politics in it at all* and I thought it was logically done and included enough mystery in it to keep the politics interesting.
The Bad: The first few chapters are a bit slower than the rest of the book and has a different mood than the rest of the book (the first bit makes the story seem like it's going to alternate the slow life of the nobles with the fast paced life of the streets, the rest of the book has a more standard fantasy with a bit of mystery mood to it) and I've seen some people mention that. There is a large cast of characters to keep track of (thankfully this is made easier by a list of characters and terms in the back) and a map would have been a nice luxury.
So a good book all around and I'm looking forward to the sequel (not sure if this is a two book set or what, I'm not sure what the end goal for the series is actually, it's going to involve the legalization of magic and probably the overthrow of the king but I'm not sure). One thing that did strike me as I was reading was this book reminded me of Tamora Pierce's Trickster series and I actually think this book was better done than them. Tamora Pierce is one of my favorite authors but I've seen other fans agree, the two Trickster books were not her strongest and I think that Digger is a more realistic lead than Aly (who was a bit Sue-ish now that I think about it...). Very similar settings, which I'll chalk up to coincidence here, but I consider Star Crossed superior character-wise. It's on my to-buy list now and my wait-impatiently-for-the-sequel list as well.
*And of course whenever one does it's accompanied by people saying "it's rather good, for a children's book anyway," which has become a pet peeve of mine (hence why it's in this footnote instead of the main review). I'm hard pressed to remember any literary fiction (ie, adult fiction of a kind) that dealt with politics and just because the politics is simplified doesn't make it bad at all. Frankly it comes off as elitism, I still maintain that the politics in books such as Moribito or The Queen's Thief series were well done, "children's" books or not.