Last Star Burning, by Caitlin Sangster
Publish Date: October 10, 2017
Published by: Simon Pulse
Genre: YA Dystopian
My Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3 out of 5 stars)
**I received this as an egalley from the publisher through Edelweiss in return for an honest review.**
Sev is branded with the mark of a criminal—a star burned into her hand. That’s the penalty for being the daughter of the woman who betrayed their entire nation.
Now her mother’s body is displayed above Traitor’s Arch, kept in a paralyzed half sleep by the same plague that destroyed the rest of the world. And as further punishment, Sev is forced to do hard labor to prove that she’s more valuable alive than dead.
When the government blames Sev for a horrific bombing, she must escape the city or face the chopping block. Unimaginable dangers lurk outside the city walls, and Sev’s only hope of survival lies with the most unlikely person—Howl, the chairman’s son. Though he promises to lead her to safety, Howl has secrets, and Sev can’t help but wonder if he knows more about her past—and her mother’s crimes—than he lets on.
But in a hostile world, trust is a luxury. Even when Sev’s life and the lives of everyone she loves may hang in the balance.
Originally when I first started reading this I thought I was going to give it a 4 star review at least. Despite the awkward/cringey first line, the writing quickly drew me in and the mystery kept me intrigued. With Sev as the narrator, with her sarcasm and jokes, and a world-building that made for an extremely compelling dystopian narrative, I thought I was going to really enjoy this. Sadly, though, by the end, I was just glad it was over.
The main issue is this: everything is dragged out too far. The plot, the secrets, the journey – it all just felt like it was taking forever. The biggest issue I had was with the fact that there was obviously something going on with Howl and Dr. Yang, and Sev seemed to know it, but it took forever for any information to come about to even hint at what the big secret might be. And Sev seemed to know that they weren’t telling her everything – and yet still went with Howl to the Mountain, despite knowing almost nothing about him or what his actual cause was. Sometime she would point-blank ask him a question, only for him to ignore it or only give a half-answer that barely scratched the surface. But my favorite moment was when Howlhimself started to offer up his secret, only for Sev to change the subject! It was just utterly frustrating and annoying and how long it took for anything of importance to be revealed. Give me little bites here and there to satisfy me, but I don’t want to feel like I have no clue what is going on for the majority of the book.
I also felt that the plot and the movement of the story were a little slow as well, despite how engaging it was. It took more than half the book to get to the Mountain from the City, and then of course Sev’s journey back happened in less than a chapter. It wasn’t like pulling teeth, but it still irked me a little. And then, of course, there was the inevitable love triangle that kind of didn’t have to happen. On a positive note, I will say that Sangster’s use and inclusion of the tale of Sleeping Beauty was well done and felt natural to the story.
As for the characters, none of them really jumped off the page to me. Sev seemed interesting at first, but by halfway through annoyed me with her inability to question anything because she had been so brainwashed by the City. Howl had some charm but didn’t really wow me in any way, and the rest of the characters just seemed either predictable or had only one personality trait apparently.
Sadly, while the concept was great and it was easy to fall into reading, I just came away from this with some disappointment and annoyance mostly in the characters and the overall plot and pacing.