Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Review 27. Digging in the Stars


Title: Digging in the Stars
Author: Katherine Blakeney
Publisher: Blaze Publishing [thank you for the ARC]
Published: March 28th 2017
Pages:
368 pages 

"A lost ancient civilization and the tomb of a legendary king lie buried beneath centuries of ash on the volcanic planet Thror, but that’s not the only reason sixteen-year-old Carter has tricked her Archaeology of Outer Space class into coming here. Her best friend Conrad has just disappeared on a trip to Thror, leaving behind little more than a broken vintage camera. The strange and disturbing photographs she manages to extract make her suspect Conrad’s disappearance is somehow connected to the hidden tomb of the last king of Thror.

Unfortunately, the ludicrously over-friendly ‘Furry Giants’ who have taken over the planet’s barren surface would rather offer her cheap souvenirs than answers, and the local officials insist they have no record of Conrad’s existence. Inspired by fear for Conrad’s life and the chance to make the greatest archaeological discovery of the century, Carter and her friends follow Conrad’s footsteps deep into the mountains of Thror’s forbidden Black Zone and launch an illicit excavation.

Coded messages, stunning ancient ruins, and clues left by Conrad himself begin to surface as the young archaeologists fall victim to an alarming series of accidents staged by the increasingly hostile Furry Giants. Piecing together a history of dictatorship, terrorism and disguise, Carter glimpses the horrors beyond Thror’s flamboyant façade and startling revelations about the friend she thought she knew. The masks of Thror hide devastating secrets, and the golden tomb buried deep in the frozen core may claim the lives of everyone she loves.
"

"She dreamed of faces concealed by long-nosed masks, of voices murmuring like water, and place figures swaying among bubbles of fragrance. Then her throat was filled with ash, and she could smell nothing but smoke." 

Plot: Carter, named after the famous Howard Carter, is in a mission: find her best friend Conrad who went missing in Thor, a planet where technology doesn't work and where a great civilization was lost after several volcanic eruptions. In order to reach Thror, Conrad lies to her Archaeology classmates and professor, who delegated her the task of booking the trip to their apprenticeship in Magnus. However, Thror is not what meets the eye. The planet is a mysterious wasteland with secrets hidden at every turn and Furry Giants who created a touristic empire, but have no record of Conrad's existence - even though they were the ones who informed Carter about his disappearance. 

I won't lie. It is clear to see that this is Katherine Blakeney's debut novel (it was something that could also be seen it in Leigh Bardugo's first novel and look where she is now). The writing is flawless, but I had a few issues with the structure. Some scenes don't seem to be in harmony with the rest of the story and, during my reading, I felt that sometimes there would be a jump, I mean, it was if some scenes were left in the middle or were cut (bear in mind that I read an ARC; most novels are edited even after ARCs are distributed). Although the main character is sixteen, the story in Digging in the Stars seems more turned to middle-graders than young adults.

Characters: If I had to choose a favourite character, it would be Professor P. I enjoyed her sarcasm and how she dealt with the over-friendly Furry Giants (at the beginning, the ways these creatures flirted with the Earthly women was funny, but after a few pages of flirtation it felt a bit annoying). Through the story, I felt over the fence with Carter because of her behaviour. Conrad, her best friend -and potential love interest- was missing and probably dead, yet, one moment she was worried about him, the next moment she thought Conrad wanted to steal her destiny (superiority complex, much?) and in the next one all she wanted was to find King Loreval's tomb and Conrad was all forgotten. Nonetheless, Carter is a brave girl who fights to reach her goals.

Then, there is the rest of the archaeology class, which I found kinda of flat. There were a few times I did mistake Allison for Bryanne (or maybe it was the other way around). Their personality is very similar. However, Lizzie showed personality with her snarky observations. For most of the novel, Gioconda was not around, which is disappointing because of her hippy persona was more interesting than Allison/Bryanne personality. 

Worldbuiling: The worldbuiling is the strongest suit of Digging in the Stars. There is so much to be learned and discovered in Thror's wasteland. The planet is crafted down to the tiniest detail, from its history to its mythology, which is slowly unraveled by the Golden Vial League; from the Furry inhabitants and their souvenir markets to their lost ancestors. An entire planet was brilliantly created from the scratch. Extraterrestrial archaeology was something I never saw developed in any other book and I found the idea intriguing and unique. I ended up loving all the archaeology references and little bits. 

3 comments

  1. I haven't heard of this book until your review. What a beautiful cover and enticing summary! Great review! :)

    Miranda @ Miranda's Book Blog

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. :) This cover is indeed beautiful.

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