Title: Shadows Cast By Stars
Author: Catherine Knutsson
Genre: YA Fantasy/Dystopian
Publication Date: June 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 464 Pages
ISBN-10: 1442401915 (Atheneum)
ISBN-13: 978-1442401914 (Atheneum)
Reviewed by: Emmy
Old ways are pitted against new horrors in this compellingly crafted dystopian tale about a girl who is both healer and seer.
Two hundred years from now, blood has become the most valuable commodity on the planet—especially the blood of aboriginal peoples, for it contains antibodies that protect them from the Plague ravaging the rest of the world.
Sixteen-year-old Cassandra Mercredi might be immune to Plague, but that doesn’t mean she’s safe—government forces are searching for those of aboriginal heritage to harvest their blood. When a search threatens Cassandra and her family, they flee to the Island: a mysterious and idyllic territory protected by the Band, a group of guerilla warriors—and by an enigmatic energy barrier that keeps outsiders out and the spirit world in. And though the village healer has taken her under her wing, and the tribal leader’s son into his heart, the creatures of the spirit world are angry, and they have chosen Cassandra to be their voice and instrument…
Incorporating the traditions of the First Peoples as well as the more familiar stories of Greek mythology and Arthurian legend, Shadows Cast by Stars is a haunting, beautifully written story that breathes new life into ancient customs.
Quick & Dirty: This novel crosses boundaries of science fiction and fantasy to weave together a world of racism, plagues and myths that test the heroine in ways she never imagined.
Opening Sentence: We live the Old Way.
The UA’s greatest concern is the Plague. With everyone crammed into Population Corridors and quarantine sections numbered off, they harvest the Others for their blood. The Island is the last resort of Cassandra’s father, who’s clung hard to their house, his wife’s grave, and the life they have in the Corridor. But as blood becomes more scarce the government begins hunting half-bloods. They have no choice but to run or die. The Others are more than the government gives them credit for. Paul, her younger brother by four minutes, prophesizes the future — though they can rarely discern the answer in time to change it, while Cassandra can see Others’ shades. They reveal to her the state of someone’s soul. Her father’s, for example, hasn’t been seen since her mother died.
The Mercredi’s lived the Old Way, without the luxuries of the Corridor. Living on the Island isn’t such a big change for them. Protected by the boundary, the island is closer to the spirit world than the Corridors. Cass’s power is stronger here, different. She can feel the Island itself. Old land has a lot of secrets; ones that Cass might be finding out sooner than she expected. The mythology of the aboriginals and Arthurian legends begin to mix their way into her life as she finds friends in the community. And we all know the original myths aren’t quite as nice as the Disney versions.
Things on the Island aren’t as easy as they’d hoped. For one thing, not everyone is happy to have Corridor people living among them. As the twins try to find their place in the community, they fall further apart. Cassandra towards the Island’s healer, Paul to the Band. Both of these cliques have their own dangers. Cass from the spirit world she uses to help heal, Paul from the government that’s hunting the Band. As the holes in the boundary begin to grow bigger, their jobs become harder. Not only because the boundary is tied directly to the spirit world, and thus their powers, but because the government is going after the Band more aggressively — putting Paul and Cass directly in their path.
What blew me away with this novel was Knutsson’s writing. Her prose is poetic, grounding the narrative voice in emotions and scenery without saying it outright. The interpretations of the mythology and legends made for a tense and original story line that I really, really hope turns into a series. As her characters grow, both as a community and as individuals, they make hard choices that will have readers questioning what they would do in such pressing situations. Nothing on the Island is quite what it seems — spirits are real and people are false. Just when you think you’ve got the plot pegged or a character, Knutsson surprises you with a twist and changes your expectations. For someone who reads a lot of young adult and can usually guess the rest of a story, it’s a refreshing change. This story crosses the boundaries of fantasy and science fiction, creating a dystopian with an alluring back story that keeps tension high and the pages turning.
Finally Madda clears her throat again. “Grace, I’ve got a matter I need to discuss with you. Band business. Cassandra, would you wait for me outside?”
I force myself to take slow, even steps as I cross the room and slip into the hall, but the library door doesn’t close all the way, I creep back to listen.
“How do you know she’s not the one?” Madda asks.
“She’s a half-breed. She said it herself.” Grace coughs. “Bran can do better. He will do better.”
“She might be a half-breed, but she’s also touched by spirit. I would have thought that would be enough for you.”
“I’m looking for pure blood. That’s what Bran needs to step into his inheritance–a woman whose lineage I can be sure of. Spirit has nothing to do with it. I am rebuilding what should never have been lost. I’d think you’d understand, considering your trae in myth and legend. The old myths are being reborn. You know that as well as I do.”
FTC Advisory: Atheneum/Simon & Schuster provided me with a copy of Shadows Cast By Stars. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review. In addition, I don’t receive affiliate fees for anything purchased via links from my site.
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