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Even the darkest stars
2017
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When River Shara, a great explorer, arrives in her village looking to hire Kamzin for his next expedition, she finds herself racing her sister and a rival explorer up the tallest and deadliest mountain in the Aryas. - (Baker & Taylor)

A first entry in a planned fantasy duology follows the experiences of a teen mountain-climbing guide who helps a mysterious and eccentric explorer scale the world's most dangerous peak. A first novel. Simultaneous eBook. - (Baker & Taylor)

Kamzin dreamed of becoming one of the Emperor's royal explorers, the elite climbers tasked with mapping the wintry, mountainous Empire and spying on its enemies. Then River Shara, the greatest explorer ever known, arrives and demands to hire Kamzin -- not her older sister Lusha, as everyone had expected -- for his next expedition. River's mission to retrieve a rare talisman for the emperor; it means climbing Raksha, the tallest and deadliest mountain in the Aryas. When Lusha sets off on her own mission to Raksha with a rival explorer, Kamzin must decide what's most important to her: protecting her sister from the countless perils of the climb or beating her to the summit. - (Baker & Taylor)

The first in a sweeping and action-packed debut fantasy duology loosely inspired by the early climbers of Mt. Everest&;perfect for fans of Cindy Pon and Alison Goodman.

Kamzin has always dreamed of becoming one of the Emperor&;s royal explorers, the elite climbers tasked with mapping the wintry, mountainous Empire and spying on its enemies. She knows she could be the best in the world, if only someone would give her a chance.

But everything changes when the mysterious and eccentric River Shara, the greatest explorer ever known, arrives in her village and demands to hire Kamzin&;not her older sister Lusha, as everyone had expected&;for his next expedition. This is Kamzin&;s chance to prove herself&;even though River&;s mission to retrieve a rare talisman for the emperor means climbing Raksha, the tallest and deadliest mountain in the Aryas.  Then Lusha sets off on her own mission to Raksha with a rival explorer who is determined to best River, and Kamzin must decide what&;s most important to her: protecting her sister from the countless perils of the climb or beating her to the summit.

The challenges of climbing Raksha are unlike anything Kamzin expected&;or prepared for&;with avalanches, ice chasms, ghosts, and even worse at every turn. And as dark secrets are revealed, Kamzin must unravel the truth of their mission and of her companions&;while surviving the deadliest climb she has ever faced.

- (HARPERCOLL)

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Trade Reviews

Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Though she's grown up hearing that magic is a tool like any other, Kamzin, second daughter of the village elder, has never had much of a talent for it, despite her inevitable future as village shaman. Kamzin dreams of becoming an explorer, traversing and documenting the cold, treacherous mountains of the Empire and the dangerous witches who live there. When River Shara, the infamous Royal Explorer, comes to Kamzin's village seeking help from her older sister, Lusha, Kamzin hopes to impress him. River is on a mission to retrieve a talisman from Raksha, the tallest and most feared of the mountain peaks; when Lusha, an excellent astronomer but not much of an explorer, shocks the village by leaving with a rival explorer, Kamzin finds herself accompanying River on his perilous journey, torn between beating her sister to the top and keeping her from harm. But both natural and supernatural dangers wait in the mountains, and Kamzin might not have much choice about what happens. There are glimmerings of a love triangle here, but the focus remains squarely on Kamzin's brutal trek through the icy mountains, a fascinating, fantastical twist on early expeditions to Mount Everest. Add in a detailed, well-realized setting, an unsettling villain that lingers just off the page, and buckets of danger to result in an utterly inventive and wholly original debut. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews

Kamzin wants to be an imperial explorer. But when she and her sister embark on rival expeditions to climb the empire's highest mountain and retrieve a powerful talisman, Kamzin must decide if protecting Lusha is more important than her dream. The mountainous setting is its own character in this magical survival adventure. The ending twist will leave readers eager for book two. Copyright 2018 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews

Debut author Fawcett offers an Everest-inspired fantasy.Kamzin's world boasts magic in the form of inhuman witches, defeated some 200 years ago, and small dragons domesticated for the illumination cast by their glowing bellies. Shamans routinely cast spells; some fortunate souls, like Kamzin and her perfect older sister, Lusha, have familiars. River Shara, the young Royal Explorer, has come looking for a guide to climb the never-before-scaled Raksha in search of a magical talisman, and he ignores Lusha's charms for often overlooked Kamzin, whose climbing ability and endurance are almost magical. The novel follows the often harrowing journey to Raksha; Fawcett's descriptive skills bring the icy terrain to life and make what could be an endless trek largely compelling reading. She also ably combines magic with details borrowed from Nepalese life and language; characters wear chubas (Nepalese coats) and fight fiangul (fictional monsters). While the characters clearly live in an Asian-inspired world and seem to be Asian (physical descriptions are limited), this is a thin layer over the more developed fantasy elements and strongly evoked landscape. With a dash of romantic entanglement, a rich original mythology, and a sizzler of a twist at the end, this duology opener will appeal to fans of femalecentric fantasy by such authors as Leigh Bardugo and Sarah Maas. (Fantasy. 12-16) Copyright Kirkus 2017 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews

When royal explorer River Shara arrives in Azmiri seeking a navigator to help him retrieve a talisman from the top of Raksha, the world's highest mountain, 17-year-old Kamzin is elated: she and her older sister, Lusha, are the only ones who know the way to Raksha, and Kamzin is the stronger climber. To Kamzin's dismay, River chooses Lusha to be his guide, but then Lusha and the expedition's official chronicler disappear with half of River's supplies. Certain that the duo seeks to beat him to the summit, River recruits Kamzin and her best friend, Tem, to join him and races north to catch them. Though the trek proves perilous, Kamzin refuses to turn back—partly due to sibling rivalry, and partly because she knows that Lusha won't survive an attempted ascent. Deftly drawn characters and a richly imagined fictional universe distinguish Fawcett's debut, first in a planned duology. Abundant adventure drives the pace, a love triangle fuels conflict while adding romance, and Kamzin's familiar—a mischievous fox named Ragtooth—provides humor and heart. Ages 13–up. Agent: Brianne Johnson, Writers House. (Sept.)

Copyright 2017 Publisher Weekly.

School Library Journal Reviews

Gr 8 Up—As youngest daughter of the village elder, 17-year-old Kamzin is being trained to become a shaman, a conjurer of magic. She wants more than anything to be an explorer. When the young, ruggedly attractive Royal Explorer, River Shara, descends upon her village in a hot-air balloon, the world shifts for Kamzin, and sparks fly between the two. In this YA fantasy series opener, complications ensue, and Kamzin embarks on an expedition to seize the magic talisman at the top of Raksha—a mountain from which no explorer has ever returned alive. If they fail to claim it, the dormant kingdom of witches will rise again and destroy all the villages, including Kamzin's. To prevent this, the two heroes and their team begin climb through pelting hail, avalanches, and freezing winds. They must also contend with the presence of hostile mountain ghosts. Unknown to the party, River has made a secret contract with a fire demon; each time he invokes its power, he must give a piece of his soul to the smoldering creature. Kamzin reels from her strong physical attraction to River, which conflicts with her inner voice that warns he is deceiving her on some level. VERDICT This book will appeal to readers who do not mind ambiguity in their characters. A good choice for most YA fantasy shelves.—Denise Kim, Bronx High School of Science, NY

Copyright 2017 School Library Journal.

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