The Blazing Star by Imani Josey. ★★
By the end, reading The Blazing Star was painful. If I weren’t intending to review this one, there is no way I would have finished. I was seriously considering quitting when I only had twenty percent of the book left.
Portia White has always dwelt in the shadow of her genius twin sister, Alex, and a rift is starting to grow between them. Then Portia picks up an ancient Egyptian artifact and is transported back into the past, her sister and another girl unwittingly brought along with her. In ancient Egypt, Portia will find her own chance to shine, discover that magic is real, and maybe even heal the wound between her and her sister.
I thought the core idea of The Blazing Star sounded promising. Add into that a diverse cast and a focus on the relationship between sisters, and I was sure this would be a win. But while The Blazing Star might have some of the story elements I liked, it was just so badly constructed. It’s riddled with exposition, two dimensional characterization, and shoddy plotting.
A sizable chunk of the beginning of the YA fantasy novel takes place in modern day America. Hello high school drama! I hate high school drama, but I stuck with the slow start because I figured that the magic and time travel would come in eventually. They did, and for a while I was more hopeful. But it started to feel like not much of anything was happening, and even when the antagonist showed up about half way in, I was still bored. That’s about when I began to realize that it wouldn’t get any better. In fact, it actually ended up getting worse.
Aside from Portia and Alex, I’m not sure what anyone’s motivations were. Portia wants to distinguish herself from her sister, Alex wants to get back home. Unfortunately, Portia’s motivation and character didn’t drive the plot. Instead it felt like she and the other characters were being shuffled around like game pieces to make the plot happen. While Portia had the most characterization of any character, she still felt thin and forgettable. The rest of the cast didn’t feel at all coherent, and I’m not even sure why some of them were included in the book. For instance, Selene, the freshman girl who winds up going back in time with Alex and Portia. What does she add to the story? It felt like she was just sort of there.
As I could have guessed given the YA genre, Portia soon meets a cute Egyptian boy love interest with all the characterization of a cardboard cut out. They actually only meet like three or four times, but we’re somehow supposed to be rooting for their relationship.
I think the relationship between Alex and Portia was more successful, although that left a lot to be desired as well. I’m really glad to find a book with such a strong focus on female friendship, but Alex and Portia’s relationship felt increasingly adversarial. I don’t think they ever gained a better understanding of each other, and there wasn’t any sort of resolution to their rift given the cliffhanger ending of the story.
One of the elements that really drove me crazy was the intense use of exposition. The plot is a complete mess, and it’s delivered almost solely through dialog. There’s a particularly mind numbing scene near the end where it’s just the villain monologing with Portia occasionally asking questions to keep the exposition flowing. By that point I was so done with this book, but I had only five percent more so I ground through to the ending.
And to cap it all off, the Egyptian setting wasn’t even that exciting! It didn’t feel vivid or all encompassing like the best settings. Instead it just felt bland.
At least The Blazing Star wasn’t bad in an offensive way. It just feels more like a draft, not a finished novel. I think it needed another hard editing pass before publication.
I received an ARC from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for a free and honest review.