clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Book review: Author Caitlin Sangster's debut novel 'Last Star Burning' truly is stellar

Editor's note: This is one of the five novels that are 2017 Whitney Award finalists in the young adult speculative fiction category. The Whitney Awards recognize novels by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For the list of winners, click here.

"LAST STAR BURNING," by Caitlin Sangster, Simon Pulse, $19.99, 400 pages (f)

Jiang Sev, heroine of "Last Star Burning," is a Seph, one who is infected with the Sleeping Sickness. The disease is named for its first stage, a paralyzing sleep. When the unfortunate awakes, he experiences irresistible compulsions — to strangle an annoying classmate, to stab a strict teacher; to murder friends and family members or oneself without a second thought. Only two doses a day of Mantis pills keep the infected, including Sev, from having compulsions.

The City was free from the Sleeping Sickness for a hundred years until Jiang Gui-hua, Sev's mother, betrayed the City's location to its enemies. Once discovered, Jiang Gui-hua infected Sev with the Sleeping Sickness, murdered several families from the City's ruling class, and attempted to escape. However, she was apprehended, put into a deep sleep and displayed at Traitor's Arch, her husband executed, and her daughters condemned to the City's lowest class for her crimes.

For years, Sev never questioned her mother's guilt. After all, she clearly remembers her mother sneaking into her room one night and injecting her with the Sleeping Sickness. However, when Sev is blamed for a horrific bombing, she is rescued by a secret rebellion who honors her mother as a martyr. The truth is bigger, more complicated and more evasive than she ever imagined.

"Last Star Burning" is compellingly and excellently written. Sev's world comes into focus quickly and vividly, and Sangster crafts the mystery expertly, giving the reader just enough clues to build suspense and move the story along. This book's place as a 2017Whitney Awards finalist in the young adult speculative category is well-deserved. The Whitney Awards recognize novels by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Caitlin Sangster is a graduate of Brighan Young University with a bachelor's degree in Asian studies. She lives in Utah with her family. This is her first novel, and the sequel titled "Shatter the Suns" is scheduled to be released later this year.

"Last Star Burning" contains a few scenes of action violence and descriptions of cruelty but no profanity or sexual content.