Last Star Burning by Caitlin Sangster
Summary from NetGalley:
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.
ARC provided by publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I am not sure what I was expecting when I started this book, but it certainly wasn’t this little gem of a book. This is a well crafted post-apocalyptic world where you really can’t tell what is the truth and what is lies. Even when we think we are getting the truth, I think it is more that person’s perception of the truth.
Sev is an interesting character. She has had a pretty hard life, being punished for her mother’s crimes, but she is resilient and self-reliant as well as loyal to the ones who are punishing her. She is totally the victim and acts like one most of the time. She should questions the people around her more, especially those who are supposedly trying to help her, but if you think about all of the misinformation she has been given and the absolute control over her life that those in power have had, you can understand why she doesn’t. Does she trust too easily? Yes. Is she gullible and naive? Yes. But consider that almost everyone she knows and meets lies to her for their own gains, and it starts to make sense.
Howl is the love interest, and the guy who saves her from the city and keeps her alive in the Outside is a very contrary character. I too wanted to see the good in him, but he also pretty much lies to Sev from the start and I am not really sure that when he starts telling her the truth if it is the real truth or just what he perceives is the truth based on what he has been told. I want to like Howl, but I am still wondering about his motives and who he really is.
Tai-ge is not in the story that much, just at the beginning and the end, but he is an important character in that I think he is the only one who has tried to be honest with Sev. It will be interesting to see where his character goes in the next book, and if he proves to be as good of friend as I think he is.
The plot is a little hard to get into and the world building is somewhat confusing at first, but once you get used to the idea that no one is trustworthy and that there are many plots and side plots to rule the world then things start to get a bit better. I liked that the illness that destroyed the world is based on a really disease, encephalistis lethargica, just enhanced a little for the story. The world the author created was influenced by China during the Cultural Revolution.
Although this book is a bit slow moving, there are so many twists to it that it keeps you interested. The writing style and the world building also make you want to stick around and enjoy the story. I enjoyed going on this journey with Sev trying to figure out who to trust and which information that you are given to trust, that it makes for a very interesting read.