Thursday, July 4, 2013

Review: Star Cursed - Jessica Spotswood

Star Cursed by Jessica Spotswood
Series: The Cahill Witch Chronicles #2
Genre: YA, historical fantasy, romance
Published on June 18, 2013
Published by G.P. Putnam
Pages: 384
Read From: 6.28.13 - 6.29.13

Cate Cahill sacrificed everything to protect her sisters, Maura and Tess; she gave up her home, her social position, and her beloved fiance, Finn. 
Now, with the Brotherhood persecuting witches like never before, a divided Sisterhood desperately needs Cate to come into her prophesied powers. And after Cate's friend Sachi is arrested for using magic, a war-thirsty Sister offers to help her find answers - if Cate is willing to endanger everyone she loves. 
Cate doesn't want to be a weapon, and she doesn't want to involve her friends and Finn in the Sisterhood's schemes. But when Maura and Tess join the Sisterhood, Maura makes it clear that she'll do whatever it takes to lead the witches to victory. Even if it means sacrifices. Even if it means overthrowing Cate. Even if it means all-out war.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? Mm, I'm not a big fan of this cover. Naturally, the character impersonator bothers me (especially since it really isn't indicative of the story's era), and the title doesn't excite me. In fact, had I not already started this series, this book would have been the sort that I sneer at on the shelves, because it looks like a YA romance.

Characters: In Born Wicked, I thought that Cate Cahill caused a lot of her own problems, and was therefore not the best protagonist I had ever met. Her lack of honesty with her sisters and friends created issues that didn't need to exist, but that isn't as much of a problem in Star Cursed. The seeds of animosity have already been sown between her and Maura, and Finn knows everything. The things she chooses to not confide in the Sisters are best kept from them, and though I think she could have done a better job of explaining to Maura that Finn was on the Sisterhood's side, Maura didn't make it very easy for Cate to communicate to her, so I can't entirely fault Cate for that. For the most part, Cate shows her strong side in this installment. She tries to protect her loved ones and is rightfully frustrated that she cannot do more for them. And though she doesn't like the idea of being the oracle, she also realizes - and accepts - that if she is, there's nothing she can do about it. Cate is also willing to take action, but thinks through it carefully before acting rashly, and she always wants to do her part. She's the sort of active female protagonist that I like. So, while my initial impression of her in Born Wicked wasn't hugely favorable, I can safely say that I thought much better of her in this one. I still love the interaction between the three Cahill sisters - Tess, the youngest who is rapidly growing and wants to be treated like an adult, and Maura, the second-eldest, rash and temperamental. I appreciate Maura's purpose to the story, so I would never tell the Author to get rid of her, but I also don't like her. While I felt a very strong bond between Tess and Cate, I just never felt the love from Maura. Positively everything she said to Cate was barbed and meant to hurt; even her kind comments felt snide and sometimes condescending. Nope, didn't see the sisterly affection in that quarter, sorry. I also had a real intense dislike for Sister Inez - but the sort of intense dislike that the Reader is supposed to have for a villainess. She was so manipulative and never once hesitated to use someone for her own needs. I truly enjoyed hating her. Meanwhile, my affection for Finn actually waned from Book One! I honestly cannot say what it was that made me like him a little less, because I really can't pinpoint it, but there was just something that needled at me. Hopefully by Book Three I can figure it out!

The Romance: With Paul pretty much out of the way and Finn too busy to visit Cate much, the romance waned considerably from Born Wicked. I'm not complaining; one of my main concerns about Star Cursed was that the romance would become unbearable. Cate and Finn definitely have their cuddle, kissing moments, but there aren't many and for the most part, their romance settles down to a companionable "work together" relationship, as they both try to bring the Brotherhood to justice.

Plot: After announcing her intention to join the Sisterhood, Cate has gone to New London to attend their school there. Her sisters have stayed home, and her one true love Finn is now a member of the Brotherhood. Days pass as the Sisterhood eagerly awaits to see which of the Cahill sisters will be the witch spoken of in prophecy. Possessing a great deal of magic herself - including mind magic, - everyone thinks it will be Cate, and Cate isn't yet convinced that it is an honor she wants. When the Brotherhood begins to crack down on witches and womenfolk in general even harder than before, the Sisterhood's ability to protect witches from the injustices of the Brotherhood shrinks, and soon even the Sisterhood itself is under scrutiny, as the Brotherhood desperately searches for the prophesied witch. Cate's sisters Tess and Maura come to join the Sisterhood soon after, which only complicates things further. Maura has shut Cate out entirely ever since the incident with Elena and Cate joining the Sisterhood. To make matters worse, the head of the Sisterhood is dying and Sister Inez is desperate to seize power and take the Sisterhood down a path that would spell doom for all witches. Something must be done before it is too late. The plot moves slowly at first. I enjoyed learning more about Cate's world, and the increasingly worse situation makes for a relatively engaging read. But after a while, I grew a little weary of all the talk and no action. Everyone was sitting around with bated breath, waiting for one of the Cahill sisters to start having visions, and I could only enjoy the tension between Maura and Cate for so long. However, the climax made up for all of it. All of the careful planning, the Brotherhood cracking down, and even the posturing among the girls at the school leads up to a truly exciting moment.

Believability: Not applicable.

Writing Style: First person, present tense. I find it so bizarre to be able to say that the present tense really does suit the story very well. I don't love it as much as with Victoria Schwab's books, but I don't mind it at all, either.

Content: Elena and Maura are both in the story, and sometimes in the same room, but their attraction to one another doesn't go beyond an alludement to past events. Readers who have read Born Wicked will know what happened; those who haven't will figure it out. Cate and Finn share some passionate kisses (and the Author actually cuts back on her details! Yay! No yucky kissing scenes!), and Cate at one point has every intention of lying with Finn, but Maura interrupts long before she can even get his shirt off him.

Conclusion: Between the Brotherhood's continued persecution and Sister Inez's conniving plans, Cate's hand is forced: she cannot stop Inez, but she cannot allow the rash actions of her and Maura fall upon the helpless girls at the Harwood, either. There is only one thing for it: they must break all of the girls out. The last half of the book is taken up with planning this elaborate breakout, and it's exciting. Maybe I'm just overly fond of escapes, but I personally really enjoyed this bit of the story, and the actual plan itself is even more exciting. This all leads to another cliffhanger of an ending that left me totally shocked - in a good way. I wasn't expecting it to happen, and I seriously cannot wait for the sequel! Star Cursed surpassed my expectations. While I enjoyed Born Wicked, I was worried that its sequel might not be so promising. I could see the content going south and the story turning dull. And while the plot is a little slow in the beginning, it picks up, and the content is really nothing to worry about! It was, all in all, an enjoyable read and I liked it better than Born Wicked. And that is how a Reader ought to feel about a sequel.

Recommended Audience: Girl-read, sixteen-and-up, great for fans of historical fantasy (especially if it has witches) and historical romance.

Others in The Cahill Witch Chronicles:
1)Born Wicked
2)Star Cursed

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