Desert Isle Keeper
I read a ton of young adult fantasy, and while I enjoy most of what I pick up in the genre, I’ll be the first to admit to the lack of originality that seems to pervade many of today’s best-selling novels. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I volunteered to review Star-Crossed, the latest stand-alone novel by Pintip Dunn, but within a few pages, I realized I had stumbled upon something shockingly different from anything else I’ve read in quite some time.
Princess Vela’s people are starving, and she alone has the power to save them. Trapped on a planet with a terrible food shortage, Vela makes a huge sacrifice, and becomes an Aegis in hopes of saving her subjects from starvation. This means her body is modified on a genetic level, and sixty years are taken off her life. She’s one of the few people who are actually allowed to eat food, and the nutrients she takes in are then harvested from her body and used to make nutrition pills to keep the residents of her world alive. Vela knows this is far from a perfect system, but she’s not sure how to change things for the better.
Things take a decidedly dark turn for Vela when she learns that not only is her best friend Astana suffering from a strange and deadly illness, but her father, the long-time ruler of the planet, is dying and needs an extensive organ transplant if he is to have even a hope of surviving. Now, Vela and her sister Blanca, both heiresses to the throne, are in a stiff competition, to be named as their father’s successor, and also to save his life. Both girls are assigned tasks that play to their individual strengths and weaknesses, and the one who completes the task in a way that is most satisfactory to the king and his counsel of advisors will be named the heir to the throne.
Vela is tasked with choosing the person who will die in order to save the king’s life. A series of trials is devised to find the best possible candidate, and the boy Vela has had a secret crush on for years has just put his name into the running. Now, Vela must choose between the boy she loves and her father’s life, a choice anyone would consider impossible.
Vela and Blanca are complete opposites, and they’ve never been at all close. Vela is kind and is known for making decisions in a very emotional way, while Blanca is overly practical and often fails to consider how the choices she makes are likely to affect the common people. Both girls have certain qualities that would make them ideal rulers, but I loved Vela pretty much from the start, and I cheered her on throughout the book. Blanca isn’t exactly unlikable, but I never connected with her the way I did with Vela.
Star-Crossed is a story filled with impossible choices, and a romance that is bound to bring you to tears more than once. The world-building is unlike anything I’ve come across before, and I fervently wish I could spend more time discovering its secrets. I desperately want the author to write more books set in this complex world.
This is the first book I’ve read by Pintip Dunn, but I am bound and determined to pick up everything else she’s written. That’s a testament to just how much I loved Star-Crossed, and I hope many of you will read and love it too. It’s truly a one-of-a-kind story and definitely one of the best things I’ve read this year.