Before the Broken Star, the first book in Emily R. King’s exciting new series is here and, man, it does *not* disappoint.
It’s no secret that I fell in love with Emily R. King’s Hundredth Queen series the moment I cracked open that first book. It was the perfect blend of skillful world-building, heart-stopping romance, and fierce female power and I couldn’t get enough of it.
So obviously, when that series ended, I couldn’t wait to devour whatever Emily R. King wrote next. But I was nervous; would I like the next series? Would it have those same sorts of elements (and more) that I came to love about her previous novels? The answer to these questions are a resounding “yes.”
Before the Broken Star is quite a departure from the Hundredth Queen series in that it centers around a young woman named Everley and her path to seeking revenge on the man who not only murdered her family in cold blood, but stabbed and left her for dead, necessitating the clock heart she now needs to survive. Everley is very literally living off of borrowed time.
When the man who took away her family suddenly reappears in her life without warning, she sets off on a grand adventure, vowing to not stop until she exacts her revenge and murders him.
But when her adventures go in a direction she never expected and new information about that night (as well as the world she thought she knew) come to light, it’s up to Everley to try to save everything she and the rest of the world hold dear.
Like in the Hundredth Queen series, this new world centers upon its own new mythology. This world spins its own original creation myth which personifies a lot of abstract concepts and world truths, such as time and life force, and couples that with fairy tale-like stories to give the reader insight to the values that the characters hold as well as the “rules” by which everyone in this world lives their lives. The central fairy tale story has a lot of Sleeping Beauty-like vibes to it, but is truly its own mythology. Honestly, I could read an entire book of the fairy tales and myths the characters share with each other throughout this novel. They’re that good.
But the mythology is only one piece of the world-building puzzle here. The world of Before the Broken Star is a fascinating combination of British-like colonialism, steampunk, pirates(!), and fairy tales. Though they’re all very different concepts, all of these facets layer really nicely atop one another and make for complex but entertaining situations.
In YA fantasy novels, world-building is honestly one of the most important aspects to get right. It’s hard to come up with brand new and original mythology, but it’s even more difficult to be able to convey those ideas to your audience in an organic and entertaining way.
Emily R. King proves her talent for world-building yet again as she paints this new world for us, giving us all of the information we need in the moment while still dangling a few carrots further down the path. While other stories do a lot of info dumps in trying to flesh out their worlds, there’s a lot of effective “show don’t tell” going on in this novel which makes the information far more digestible. Necessary explanations about certain aspects of the world never weigh the story down. Instead, they give context while also adding intrigue, sometimes prompting more questions than providing solid answers.
Many of those questions and mysteries deal very directly with the characters themselves.
All of the characters in Before the Broken Star are drawn with such care, even the secondary characters. Throughout the novel, Everley encounters groups of people who come from different backgrounds and levels of society, the most fascinating of which is a group of streetwalkers.
Honestly, the scenes with this group of women are some of my favorites of the novel. Rather than being treated as lower class citizens (like they are by the high society individuals in the world of the novel), the story gives them their own voices, motivations, and personalities. They’re all incredibly nuanced and mesmerizing to read about. In Before the Broken Star, they’re full characters rather than caricatures or walking cautionary tales. Sure, they do conform with some common tropes every once in a while, but, without giving anything away, they really demonstrate how intelligent and formidable they are by the end of the novel.
Speaking of formidable, this story’s villain is layered in ways that are unexpected and still very unclear. He’s not your average mustache-twirling foe. While he’s definitely evil, there are some surprising softer sides to him that muddy his true motivations. He’s awful and does some pretty horrendous things, but there’s still some sympathy to be had for him, which makes for some pretty interesting situations.
Though the secondary characters, as well as the villain, add some wonderful color to this intriguing tale, its the two main characters Everley and Jamison that are truly the beating (er, ticking) heart of the story. Neither is infallible, but their mistakes and perseverance make them incredibly endearing and fascinating to follow.
Take Everley, for instance. Her push for revenge can be frustrating at times because it sometimes comes at the expense of relationships with other characters (mainly Jamison) who are invested in her well-being. Though she’s not completely single-minded in her quest, her need for vengeance often puts blinders on her. She’s never not “on brand” with her motivations. However, even though she’s very much driven by this goal, she’s constantly growing throughout the novel and finding more space in her mechanical heart than she thought was there. Her struggles with balancing her thirst for blood and the humanity she’s trying so desperately to hold onto add so much depth to every scene and circumstance.
Everley isn’t perfect, but she tries the best she can given every situation she’s thrust into. She doesn’t always make the right decisions and her lack of trust hurts her more than it helps her, but her fallibility and the fact that she never gives up (even when the odds are stacked against her) make her story that much more effective.
Jamison, the novel’s male lead, is Everley’s perfect counterpart. He’s reserved and far more trusting than Everley, but he shares her reluctance to letting people into his life and into his heart. Like Everley, his past has left literal permanent scars on his person. But even though they both have the potential to give into darkness, Jamison makes every effort he can to rise above and not let the dark parts of himself define him. Whether she wants him to or not, Jamison helps Everley remember her humanity and learn the value of teamwork while she, in turn, pushes him to be more aware of his surroundings and not take others at face value.
Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever mentally screamed “NOW KISS!” while reading a book more than I did while going through Before the Broken Storm. From (literally) the novel’s very first scene, Everley and Jamison’s chemistry leaps right off of the page. Their relationship is a constant push and pull that results in the most satisfying (and frustrating) slow burn that I’ve ever read. Every moment Everley and Jamison share crackles with electricity and the potential for so much more. While I can’t possibly guess how much longer the slow burn will last, I know for a fact that once these two finally come together, the wait will have been more than worth it.
Emily R. King’s Before the Broken Star is a wonderful first installment in what will be an exciting series. It has the perfect balance of mystery, adventure, and smoldering slow-burn romance and breaks the mold of YA fantasy novels that have come before. If you’re a fan of the Hundredth Queen series, swashbuckling adventures, or character-driven fantasy books, don’t hesitate to pick up Before the Broken Star. This is going to be one series you won’t want to sleep on.
About ‘Before the Broken Star’ by Emily R. King
With Before the Broken Star, the first book in her new YA series The Evermore Chronicles, Emily R. King returns with a captivating new fierce female lead who seeks adventure and revenge in a magical dark world, while remaining a slave to time and her makeshift heart.
Everley Donovan is living on borrowed time. The lone survivor of her family’s unexplained assassination, she was saved by an ingeniously crafted clockwork heart. But the time she was given won’t last forever. Now, every tick-tock reminds her how fragile her existence is and hastens her quest to expose Killian Markham, the navy admiral who shattered her world and left her for dead. But Everley’s hunt for justice will be a long and hard-won voyage.
Her journey takes her to a penal colony on a cursed isle, where she will be married off and charged to build the new world. It is here, and beyond, that hidden realms hide, treasures are unearthed, her family secrets are buried, and young love will test the strength of her mechanical heart. When Everley discovers Markham may not be who he seems, her pursuit for truth is bound to his redemption, her tragic history, and her astonishing destiny.
A perfect beginning to a new fantasy saga, Before the Broken Star is a mesmerizing and swoon-worthy adventure tale full of magical creatures, heartache, friendship, loyalty, and a quest for redemption at all costs.
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