Curse of Stars, by Donna Compositor
Series: Diamond Crier, Book 1
Release Date: February 19, 2017
Sabi Perez is the last Diamond Crier, only she doesn’t know it. Not until a crazed ruler from another world comes to collect her priceless tears and won’t take no for an answer.
Living in New York, Sabi’s seen some nasty things, but the lengths to which her captor will go to keep his crown are things found only in the darkest nightmares. Afraid and alone, Sabi finds solace in her cellmate, Anya, and Cabal, a fellow Crier who also has powers, a rare combination that buys his favor from the ruler. Only it’s a favor he doesn’t want.
In a fit of rage, power erupts out of Sabi, the same power Cabal has, and a spark of hope ignites. Together they may have a chance at escape, something no other Crier has done. Except a ruler hellbent on draining them of every last diamond tear isn’t their only hurdle. If they escape they’ll be hunted to the ends of the earth, if they survive the trek to safety. If they stay the ruler will leech them dry. Sabi would rather die trying than lie down and die, even if that means running away into even more danger.
Content Warnings for:
This book started with echoes of one of my favorite portal fantasy writers, Sherwood Smith, but then quickly swerved into unexpectedly dark territory. So, that was a little weird for me.
The general set-up here is that Sabi was taken from her world by her parents and raised in New York, unaware of her magic and her place in her homeworld. The book starts just as the past catches up to her family, which means that we are learning about Sabi’s new world and her role in it along with her. It’s just, there’s not much of a world to learn about.
We spend half of the story in a dungeon where Sabi gets tortured and meets some new comrades, and by the time Sabi and company escape, it is way too late to start learning about the world. Not only that, but Sabi is neither curious about this new world, nor does she ever reference her life in New York in any significant way. The premise of her character, as a stranger in a strange land, was not used meaningfully, and the whole result is flat and kind of boring.
The main thing in this world is that some people have “gifts” from the Giver, and one of those gifts is to be a Crier, or someone who cries diamond tears. Sabi is the “last” Crier, which apparently makes her very valuable, but only raised a lot of questions for me about how these diamond tears actually work. The book’s villain is after Criers in order to maintain his wealth and power, which apparently means extracting every tear he can from his dungeon full of Criers…but it’s not clear whether wine is just very expensive in this world, or if he’s introduced excessive inflation into the market because he has so many diamonds to spend. It is not a good sign that I spent most of this book wondering about this world’s economy, instead of rooting for Sabi to escape.
There is a budding romance between Sabi and her cellmate Anya, and an interesting exploration about whether we are responsible for the crimes of our parents, but it was not enough to hold my attention, especially in light of other events in the story. I almost DNF-ed during the first half, and if you’re squeamish about torture or not interested in it as plot, I’d give this one a hard pass. Sabi is also frequently forced to drink drugs that incapacitate her, not to mention she is threatened with rape (with the intention of impregnation) and forced to partake in orgies as an observer (Sabi mega-freaks out about the last one, but seems to shrug off the first two, and the general torture, as NBD, and that really bothered me). This book takes “dark” fantasy a little too literally, and I can’t recommend a book that relies so heavily on this kind of violence just to show us how evil the villain is.
Donna has been writing since she was in the single digits when she first realized she needed to do something about all the thoughts in her head. After a stint with bad poetry she finally found her way to novels, mainly of the young adult fantasy variety. When she’s not cranking out more stories she works a regular 9 to 5, reads anywhere from 2 to 3 books a week, drinks copious amounts of tea, eats way too much, and makes her own beauty products because her skin turns into a sentient hive if she uses anything else. This is mostly because she lives in the desert where the air siphons water clean out of her. She lives with a man named Steve and several quadrupeds: three cats named Renfield, Sam, and Dean; and a MinPin named Malfoy.
You can purchase Curse of Stars from:
Barnes & Noble
I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.