Title: If the Stars Awaken
Author: Kate Willis
Major Themes: Fantasy, Adventure
Synopsis: With the stars predicting the end of the world, and civil unrest in the kingdom, three young people risk their lives as they set out on a journey to discover the answers to their most pressing problems.
Years ago, I read Kiera by indie author Kate Willis, and loved it. It was my first dystopian read, but the way she formed her characters and told the story won my heart. So when I saw recently that she was coming out with another novel, If the Stars Awaken, I knew I wanted to read it, too. After my fun experience with her first novel, I figured I’d probably love this one, too—and I did enjoy it, not as much as Kiera, but it was still a good read.
Queen Marianne is delighted, yet apprehensive as she comes closer to the birth of her baby. After her heartache in the past from losing a child, she knows the dangers her baby may face—but she’s also confident in the Maker’s love and care for them.
Meanwhile, Dynast, a starreader’s apprentice, is concerned. The heavens seem to be silent, aside from the new star that seems to be growing larger in the night sky, obscuring other stars as it grows. When his master appears unconcerned and leaves him to his own devices, he decides to try to seek out the truth on his own.
Then there’s Arrow, a loyal elite guard who is willing to do whatever it takes to protect the kingdom and royal family. Despite his own worries and concerns, he finds himself saddled with a task that could mean life or death for everyone involved. When a prophecy comes, warning of the end of the world, every skill he’s developed and honed will be brought to the test—but even that may not be enough to protect the ones in his care.
There was a lot to love in If the Stars Awaken. I enjoyed seeing different ones’ loyalties to each other, and how Marianne loved and cared for her husband, child, and anyone else that showed up in her life. I also appreciated the way the main characters spoke of and relied on their Maker for decisions and guidance—that was a great reminder to me that I can rely on the Lord, even if it feels like He is being silent.
There were parts of this story I struggled with, though, and that made my overall reading experience a bit more difficult. The biggest part was probably the way this story bounced between points of view frequently. Changes in point of view were clearly marked (which I appreciated), but many sections from different characters were very short, which meant it ended up feeling like I was constantly head-hopping. That made it harder for me to get “into” the story. I also felt like there wasn’t quite enough explanation of some of the fantasy elements to really “get” what was going on, which meant I was confused about events throughout much of the book.
Then there’s the whole star reading thing…from what little I know, it almost felt like Christianized astrology. In my opinion, the way that was presented here was fine—every time that came up, the characters always pointed back to the Maker (who is clearly God)—and in this world, characters read the stars to predict events or receive other divine knowledge or help. I would liken what they were doing to prayer, but since the concept is basically astrology, some people may have a problem with it. I found this aspect of the story intriguing, original, and somewhat confusing.
Overall, while I enjoyed aspects of If the Stars Awaken, I’m coming away from the book with mixed feelings. I really enjoyed parts of the story, and those, combined with the adventure aspects of the book, were excellent! I was disappointed that some aspects of this world weren’t as clear as I would have liked them to be; if I re-read the book, it’s possible it would make more sense on a second pass than it did the first. This was a good book; just not my favorite. If you have children who enjoy unusual fantasy stories with a strong Christian theme and who have a penchant for adventure, this could be a good pick.
I was given a complimentary copy of this book, and this is my honest opinion of it.
WARNING: Cursed is used in ch. 11, 35, and 36. There is lying in ch. 20 and 31. A married couple kisses in ch. 1, 3, 5, 6, and 8. An unmarried couple takes a long journey together through much of the book, with him acting as her guard/protector. Occasionally, there are vague references to a man’s mother entertaining “guests”. This is most clear in ch. 27, where he says, “My mother was a… fallen woman.” Throughout the book, a woman occasionally thinks about her daughter who died before the story started. Occasionally, people derive energy from leaves by laying them on their wrists. A woman is in labor and someone steals something in ch. 4. Someone sees a drowned horse in ch. 9. There is an attack, explosions, a fight, and several people are killed in ch. 11. There is more fighting and a woman’s life is threatened with a knife at her throat in ch. 12. Someone sees a man being killed in ch. 13. A man remembers seeing the remnants of a fight in ch. 15. A woman almost drowns in ch. 17. A woman is threatened and people are discovered, apparently comatose, in ch. 18. A woman dreams about someone who died in ch. 23. A man is injured in ch. 26. There is a desperate fight with wolves in ch. 28, with several wolves killed and someone badly injured. A child apparently dies in ch. 33. Someone steals something and tries to kill people in ch. 34. Someone discovers a dead man in ch. 35. Someone is shot in ch. 36.
Reading Independently—Ages 12 – 15, 15 and Above