By Ekta R. Garg
April 26, 2017
Genre: middle grade fantasy
Release date: April 11, 2017
Rated: Bypass it
A girl must decide what side to choose in a battle between the constellations and the man who hunts them. The difference between the two could mean learning about her identity or living forever with the knowledge that she’s an orphan. Debut author Lindsey Becker offers readers a strong start but ultimately a disappointing and hollow ending in her first book The Star Thief.
For as long as she can remember, Honorine has lived with and worked for the Vidalia family. Well, mostly Lady Vidalia; Lord Vidalia disappeared when his son, Francis, was a baby, and no one has seen him since. Lady Vidalia insists that the house stay clean and maintained, and under the watchful eye of the head maid Honorine carries out her duties.
One night Honorine finds an unusual book. This journal is different from the other books in the house. Honorine would know; as an amateur inventor, she’s spent quite a bit of time poring over all the books available. She realizes this is no ordinary journal. It’s the personal notebook of Lord Vidalia himself. But where did it come from? And who is this Mapmaker that Lord Vidalia keeps warning of?
Soon after she finds the journal, two mysterious sailors break into the house in the dead of night. Honorine tries to follow them, but she’s stopped by another unusual visitor: a girl. With wings.
The girl introduces herself as Astraea, and she helps Honorine escape the men. Then Honorine meets the Mapmaker as well as Lux and Corvus, all of them Mordant or the flesh form of the constellations. A man named Nautilus Olyphant is after them, the Mapmaker reveals. Nautilus has already captured several of the Mordant, and he’s also after Honorine. Honorine has a choice: to stay and wait for Nautilus to find her, or to go with the Mapmaker to help him fight Nautilus.
Honorine finds herself going with the Mapmaker with a great deal of reluctance; he makes her uneasy. But the longer Honorine spends with him and the other Mordant, the more she realizes that this quest isn’t just about saving the stars. It’s also about discovering who she is.
First-time author Lindsey Becker starts her story strong. Honorine is smart and resourceful, not allowing her job as a maid to trap her in a gender stereotype. The idea of turning the constellations into relatable characters, too, will draw in readers. Becker makes the idea of the Mordant believable. Thanks to the folklore behind the constellations themselves, the Mordant fulfill the necessary roles for an adventure story: the noble animal; the plucky girl; the cynical leader.
Much less successful is the plot. Early on Becker establishes Honorine so firmly into her nineteenth-century world that when Honorine decides to leave with the Mapmaker, readers will find the transition a little rough. Also, Honorine’s life in the Vidalia household is filled with tasks to keep her busy. Boarding the celestial ship with the Mordant leaves Honorine twiddling her thumbs. The characters discuss the passage of time—at one point, someone mentions they’ve been sailing for nine weeks—yet it doesn’t feel like Honorine has done much of anything other than talk to the others.
Honorine travels between the Mapmaker and Nautilus, and when she’s with one the other drops completely out of the story. There is no hint that the opposing party is concerned for her or wants her back or is even looking for her. As the book progresses, it starts to feel play-like. Only the characters on the page and in that particular chapter matter for the moment. At times, readers may even forget that other characters exist.
Nautilus’s reason for wanting to capture the Mordant comes across as weak. When he accomplishes his goal, some readers may shrug. The climax feels decidedly anti-climactic, almost too simplistic even for the target readership.
This lack of any complication in the plot will frustrate some readers, and the stream of narration leading to the rushed ending will only increase that frustration. At the end almost everyone is accounted for, but no one feels real enough to matter. What starts as a promising story ends up becoming a trite tale that feels propped up by stage sets.
I recommend readers Bypass The Star Thief.