This would have been number 24 in Bringing up Burns 2015.
Just E this time!
'Star Dancer' by Beth Webb (E):
(reread January 2015)
Tegen is born the night the stars dance. At the end of the Iron Age, the age of Roman invasion, of druids and of magic, her birth is auspicious. A prophecy has foretold that a 'star dancer' will be born who will be able to save the people in the face of the troubles to come. But, from everything the people know, their traditions, prejudices, knowledge, the star dancer just can't be a girl... can it?
The first in the Star Dancer quartet - we are introduced to our wonderful heroine, Tegen. She is young, but wise beyond her years: Webb has managed a good balance between this wisdom and youth - she deals with death and powerful magic, but she still weeps in her mother's arms. A realistic heroine, in comparison to many of the oh-too-strong heroines that YA books have. She and her step brother, Griff, learn to navigate the world of spirits and druidic life, whilst battling against those who would have them overthrown within their own village. Building to a thrilling climax, Star Dancer leaves you desperate for the next book.
It is nice to read a YA series that isn't dystopian. Don't get me wrong - I love my dystopias! - but it is so refreshing to read something original, and wholly unique. As a reader, you can tell the thoughtful and thorough research that has gone into the writing of this - from the food they eat and the clothes they wear, to their beliefs and superstitions. A fascinating insight to Iron Age Britain - not an age that gets much written about for younger readers.
The story is entirely absorbing and you really warm to the characters. I have a special place in my heart for "half head" Griff. He has Down's Syndrome and it was interesting to see how someone with a disability may have been treated; Webb deals with this subject very sensitively. I enjoyed the variety of characters as well: different ages, professions, beliefs, backgrounds... Just so much to explore! It's like being placed in an Iron Age village and being given a personal tour! Every character is carefully crafted, and realistic - at times, painfully so. It is hard to see the failings of human nature presented so clearly, because it feels real.
It may feel like a younger child's read at the start, but as the novel continues it definitely moves into teenage territory! The themes explored are complex, and the story becomes darker as the story progresses. I won't give anything more away - but the ending is pretty terrifying!
Overall, a brilliantly unique story, perfect for YA readers - particularly for people who want something a little different.