Crown of Stars
Crown of Stars is the second installment in Sophie Jaff’s Nightsong trilogy. I started reading it without prior knowledge of the series – and discovered that was a very bad idea because I didn’t understand the story at all. So I picked up the previous book, Love Is Red, read it, and then returned to its sequel with a much clearer picture of what was going on. Don’t do what I did. Save yourself a lot of confusion and start from the beginning of the series.
This has been a tricky review to write, and it contains spoilers for Love Is Red, so you may not want to venture further if you’re planning on reading it.
The Nightsong trilogy is a blend of romantic suspense and paranormal romance with a dose of historical fiction thrown in. It revolves around Katherine Emerson, a young woman who finds herself at the center of a centuries-old prophesy. Now, with her life in shambles, she’s desperate to start over, but that’s not altogether feasible. Her roommate Andrea was killed by a ruthless psychopath who was intent on claiming Katherine for his own, and, out of a sense of guilt, Katherine has agreed to care for Andrea’s son, Lucas. As if that’s not enough, Sael, the man Katherine thinks of as the love of her life, has left her. She’s recently discovered she’s pregnant, and she’s understandably unsure how to be a single mother to two young children. Finally, and against her better judgement, she works up the nerve to contact Sael to tell him she’s pregnant with his child. He’s not thrilled with the news, but decides to do right by Katherine and their unborn baby. He asks her to accompany him to London where he’s working, and she agrees, hoping relocating to a new country will help her gain some distance from the traumas of her past. Of course, this doesn’t work out the way she hoped it would, and she soon finds herself plunged into a world of mystery and terror.
Margaret lives in a small village in Medieval England where people have thought her a witch from the day she was born, and she fears for her life. Her mother died when she was a child, and her father has just remarried. Her new stepmother doesn’t want her around, so she flees the village and takes up residence in the nearby woods. Once she’s settled there, she begins to learn more about herself and her strange affinity for nature.
You might be wondering about the connection between these two women. Their lives are definitely linked, but I can’t tell you how without ruining the book for you, although I will say there’s a strong supernatural component to the story. I found it kind of hard to swallow at times, but I’m picky about paranormal stuff, and think that if an author is going to include paranormal elements in a story, they should be built into it in believable ways; but Ms. Jaff doesn’t do a very good job of this and I often got the feeling that the supernatural aspects were a convenient out for her, to keep her from having to fully explain why certain things happened as they did. Perhaps other readers might not be as bothered as I was by this, however.
The story moves back and forth through time, allowing us to spend time with both Katherine and Margaret. Normally, I enjoy stories told this way, but the style doesn’t quite work here. The transitions are quite choppy; I’d get caught up in one storyline, only to be pulled out of it rather abruptly.
I must admit to being a little confused by Margaret’s sudden appearance. History is definitely referenced in the first book, but the focus was more on Katherine’s attempts to survive a sadistic serial killer who thought of her as the key to unlocking an old prophesy. True, the prophesy has its roots in Medieval times, so I suppose Margaret’s story makes sense from that angle, but I was puzzled to be spending so much time in the past. It felt as though the author decided she wanted to write something historical, so just sort of tossed Margaret’s tale into the mix. I usually adore historical settings, but I’m not sure it was necessary to incorporate one into this story on such a grand scale.
I struggled to relate to both women, and Ms. Jaff doesn’t flesh out her characters as much as I would have liked her to. Katherine, in particular, comes off as two-dimensional, a cardboard cut-out of a woman struggling to rebuild her life and keep those she loves safe from an unspeakable evil. I wanted to root for her, but I just couldn’t bring myself to care about her. Margaret’s character is a bit more developed, but not by much.
The synopsis would lead readers to believe they’re in for an action-packed story, but unfortunately, this isn’t the case. The book drags on far longer than it needs to, and not all that much really happens. Ms. Jaff spends a lot of time telling us things without actually showing them to us, and I found the descriptive passages quite hard to get through. In fact, I skimmed through some of them, something I rarely do.
It felt as though Ms. Jaff was attempting to cram too much into this novel. I usually love books that cross genre lines, but Crown of Stars tries to be too many things all at once and the author might have been better served had she narrowed her scope a little. As it stands now, the story had a lot of potential that was never fulfilled, so while I enjoyed Love Is Red, I’m afraid I can’t really recommend its sequel.