StarCrossed starts with a bang. Digger, a young thief, has just escaped capture and turns up alone and breathless at the place she was supposed to meet her sweetheart and fellow thief, Tegen. But as she goes over the night’s events in her mind, she realizes Tegen didn’t get away and is probably dead. Afraid of getting caught herself, Digger takes her first opportunity to get out of the city. That opportunity comes in the form of four teenage aristocrats in a pleasure boat. She gives them a fake name, Celyn Contrare, and a semi-fake life story.
The next few chapters are a bit slow, especially after the tense beginning. Elizabeth C. Bunce uses these chapters to introduce several characters – some of whom go on to play a major role in the book, and some of whom do not (though they may turn up in a sequel) – and to unfold the political and religious situation to the reader. These chapters also explain how a street thief ends up becoming a lady’s maid to a young noblewoman, which isn’t something that just happens overnight! So, while this section drags a little, I can see why it’s necessary and the purposes it serves.
It’s when Digger/Celyn travels to the remote northern stronghold of Bryn Shaer with her mistress, Lady Merista Nemair, that StarCrossed truly becomes riveting. A large group of nobles descends upon the castle to stay for the winter, including one Remy Daul, an old friend of Merista’s father, who offers Digger a terrible choice between spying for him or being exposed as a thief. Then, the entire party is snowed in. From this point on, it’s impossible to put the book down. Everyone at Bryn Shaer has secrets, some of them deadly. But Digger hasn’t survived this long without learning to be sneaky and resourceful. I especially loved that Bunce allows her to suffer guilt for her role in the Nemair family’s troubles but without letting that guilt paralyze her; instead, Digger uses her wits and guts to try to save the day.
StarCrossed is an exciting read for young adults, featuring plenty of politics, magic, and derring-do. Bunce writes in a clear and evocative style with a dash of humor. And while StarCrossed features serious themes such as religious persecution, the heroine’s intrepid personality keeps the book from becoming heavy or depressing. Adult fans of political fantasy will enjoy it too. Consider giving it a try if you enjoyed Maria Snyder’s Poison Study or Erin Bow’s Plain Kate. StarCrossed is a self-contained story, but a sequel, Liar’s Moon, will explore Digger’s further adventures.