So a middle grade fantasy from Rick Riordan’s Imprint featuring an adopted main character? You know I was on this faster than ever before. I’ve been excited for The Last Fallen Star since it was announced! When it landed in my Netgalley inbox, I may have shed a virtual tear. Keep reading this book review to see if it lived up to the hype!
Riley Oh can’t wait to see her sister get initiated into the Gom clan, a powerful lineage of Korean healing witches their family has belonged to for generations. Her sister, Hattie, will earn her Gi bracelet and finally be able to cast spells without adult supervision. Although Riley is desperate to follow in her sister’s footsteps when she herself turns thirteen, she’s a saram–a person without magic. Riley was adopted, and despite having memorized every healing spell she’s ever heard, she often feels like the odd one out in her family and the gifted community.
Then Hattie gets an idea: what if the two of them could cast a spell that would allow Riley to share Hattie’s magic? Their sleuthing reveals a promising incantation in the family’s old spell book, and the sisters decide to perform it at Hattie’s initiation ceremony. If it works, no one will ever treat Riley as an outsider again. It’s a perfect plan!
Until it isn’t. When the sisters attempt to violate the laws of the Godrealm, Hattie’s life ends up hanging in the balance, and to save her Riley has to fulfill an impossible task: find the last fallen star. But what even is the star, and how can she find it?
As Riley embarks on her search, she finds herself meeting fantastic creatures and collaborating with her worst enemies. And when she uncovers secrets that challenge everything she has been taught to believe, Riley must decide what it means to be a witch, what it means to be family, and what it really means to belong.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
The Last Fallen Star is a book that gave me major feels. I’m not going to lie, the biggest reason I picked it up is because I am so desperate for adoption representation. And the fact that this is in a middle grade, which is such an important time for a person, made it even sweeter. I am so happy we live right now where I’m seeing more adoption books than I had growing up so I feel it’s my duty to find them!
There were so many moments which just got me in the heart. The ways she feels like she doesn’t fit in? The conflict she feels being torn between paths and families? Our situation isn’t the exact same because I’m a transracial adoptee, but I could deeply empathize with how intoxicating and alluring the feeling of belonging is. How, if I could magic away those feelings, and fulfill that desire, as a kid, wouldn’t I have done that? The bullying broke my heart because, while I never had to contend with that, it just speak to those inner voices of not belonging, of being an outlier, that haunt you.
There were a few plot threads that felt a bit too convenient and could have used a bit more complexity, particularly towards the end. And I felt like there was a definite lull towards the middle, in terms of pacing, but I cannot also deny the power the representation had in my heart. I also admired the ways Kim examined the themes of knowledge and power. The ways that we can be told something, and be so sure of something, but also how people can lie to us. How the history, the stories, the mistakes, are wrong.
That anger ultimately can destroy us when we hold on to it. That power can corrupt us. I am also very intrigued for the sequel and to see the world expand. Especially as Kim throws in a lot of surprises at the end that I need to see played out.
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