Background. The novel is set on an alternate Earth with the unfortunate name Star (I think an English translation s...more**spoiler alert** Spoilers to come.
Background. The novel is set on an alternate Earth with the unfortunate name Star (I think an English translation should make this Starbourne or something a little less confusing, astronomically). Ages ago there were many civilizations on Star, but something happened and the Wound (la Herida) opened up cataclysmically, forever altering the structure of the world. Now periods of Stillness (la Quietud) are interrupted by Shatterings which remake much of the geography of the world. There is a relatively stable area called the Bourne (el Linde) where groups of humans have managed to survive, some in small, clan-centered communities (like Salvia) and a few in larger cities (like Rundaris). Key to their survival are their local Runners (Corredores), who bear information to other communities, and the mysterious Wanderers (Errantes), who travel the Bourne constantly, preserving ancient knowledge and aiding communities in need. The Wanderers (the call themselves Caminantes de la Estrella or Starwalkers) take no individual names, but they hold many secrets. No human can touch them (they are all marked by a star tattooed on the back of their hands as a sign), but they’ve never told anyone why: they are the descendents of the people of Acantha, the civilization that first saw the Wound open (there are hints that they caused it) and whose king built an elaborate temple dedicated to finding a cure for the Wound and delivering it to the heart of Star. This king died, having failed, but he left his people a special map that would, he hoped, help them eventually find the cure he had not.
Summary. The book opens in Salvia during a Rupture. Lan, a teenage girl with a gift for working with plants, attempts to save a young boy who has wandered away from the village. When she finds him just beyond the edge of the safe zone, she sees him being dragged along by a strange young man. She assumes the boy is being kidnapped and goes after him, but she is painfully seized by the kidnapper and pulled through the storm of Particles (one sort of manifestation of the Ruptures…hazardous to all life). When the Rupture ends, Lan discovers that she is back in her village where she lives with her mother (her father having disappeared during a Rupture years earlier) and her friends Nao (a herder of wimos, a rapid beast of burden) and Mona. The Wanderers have come to visit Salvia, but Maester Nicar (as the Salvians call their guide) doesn’t have good news: the Ruptures, which have been breaking the Quietus more and more frequently, are no longer remaining beyond the Bourne, but have crossed into the safe zones, putting everyone at risk. Lan discovers that the young man who had apparently tried to kidnap a boy during the Rupture is actually one of the Wanderers. Without warning, Salvia is bombarded directly by Particles, and Lan finds herself swept away by geological changes to a desert where the young Wanderer saves her and takes her to his people, traveling to Rundaris to warn that city of the acceleration of the Ruptures. After some initial distrust, the two begin to form a grudging bond of respect. The Kidnapper (as she mentally refers to him for most of the book since he has no name) reveals one of his people’s secret: an ancient globe that shifts with each rupture to reveal an up-to-date map of the Bourne and the Wound, allowing the Starwalkers to travel the world.
En Rundaris, Lan is assigned to work with the Kidnapper’s father, the Green One (el Verde), who abandoned the Wanderers long ago to help the king of Rundaris find agricultural solutions (the city sits on a volcanic plain). Together they discover that the Green One’s specially cultivated plants are producing a sap that renders the Particles inert. Realizing that this could be the cure that the king of Acantha sought centuries ago, Lan, the Green One and the Kidnapper (with help from Nao and Mona, who have conveniently survived the destruction of Salvia and have made their way to Rundaris) come up with a plan to steal the Starwalker’s map so that the Green One and allied Runners can reach the ancient temple and deliver the cure to the heart of Star. However, a Rupture hits Rundaris in the midst of their escape, incapacitating the Green One and forcing Lan and the Kidnapper to go attempt the journey instead. They are displaced to an arctic landscape, and after many hardships they arrive at the territory of a northern clan. It is here that Lan finds her father, whose mind has been destroyed by the Particles. As they rest and prepare for the final leg of their journey, it becomes clear to Lan and the Kidnapper that they have feelings for each other, but neither is willing to move on those feelings, the young Wanderer because of how poisonous his touch is for humans and Lan because her friend Nao declared his love for her back in Rundaris (this love triangle seems a bit forced, by the way, as if the authors knew it was obligatory in a YA novel). When a Rupture strikes, Lan is forced to chose between her father and the Kidnapper. She opts for the latter, feeling horrible, but understanding that the planet is in the balance.
The two finally make it to the temple, only to discover that the Wound has expanded around it. They are forced to enter the black mist that hangs over that sickness, and inside they find horrible creatures and nature itself turning against them. They are able to make it through to the temple, which they discover is a machine like the globe they’ve stolen. Using the resin they’ve brought with them, the two are able to get the machine working. It begins to generate more of the substance, and the Kidnapper realizes that someone has to travel into the heart of the planet in the machine, probably sacrificing himself in the process. He embraces Lan, kisses her so that she will be weakened by his poison, and he leaves her behind, confessing his love for her. Before he leaves, Lan whispers the name she has invented for the nameless Wanderer: Calan, “the protector of Lan.”
Calan’s sacrifice does indeed heal the Wound, and Lan, reunited with her mother and friends, is left wondering whether her beloved could have survived the restoration of Star.
Impressions. Except for the two protagonists, most of the characters are pretty one-note, though not obnoxiously so. Lan is pretty independent from the beginning, so the bravery with which she confronts tough situations isn’t character growth per se. Her evolving attitude toward Calan is the only growth we see. Calan, on the other hand, does have an arc: he goes from pessimistic (he believes the world is going to end and everyone should just face it) to wildly optimistic, sacrificing himself to do something he cannot know will actually work. Unfortunately, the book is narrated in a largely limited third-person viewpoint that lets us see Lan’s thoughts only.
The story is pretty run-of-the-mill, but that’s okay. The world was interesting enough, though I would’ve like to have more background on the Wound, a closer peek at the different societies, more insight into the characters. This was a very plot-driven exercise. The universe is TV science-fiction (in other words, there is no overt magic, but the supposed technology doesn’t follow any actual scientific understanding of the universe…deserts become jungles within minutes, etc.).
That said, I like Lan, and it was fun to spend 300 pages with her. (less)
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