**Gifted to me by the author in exchange for an honest review**
In Amelia's world, if a parent has committed one of the Seven Deadly Sins, their children can be born as witches. When her younger brother "creates" fire, a sign of being a witch, Amelia leaves home taking him with her. She takes him to Cathedral Reims so she can become a nun and her brother Nathan can become a priest. The common belief is that course of action will absolve them in the eyes of Deus. That was three years ago. Now, Amelia is awaiting her turn to undergo the trials that she, and other hopefuls, must go through in order to become a professed nun. Her nerves are stretched thin as she is waiting in the small cell that she is sharing with her best friend Colette. Not only are the trials causing her anxiety, but so is that fact that she seems to be the only one seeing the "Shadowmen". With no idea why she the only one who is seeing them, Amelia struggles to keep her composure and pretend they are not there.
I found "When Stars Die" to be fairly frustrating for the first half of the book. Don't get me wrong, I did think the plot/storyline was a really good one, I just spent the first half of the book wondering what I had missed. I spent the first few chapters wondering who or what Shadowmen were, where they came from etc. Why was only Amelia seeing them?
Ohhh and Amelia, I just wanted to grab her & shake her so hard. She annoyed me so much. With her constant comparisons of herself to her best friend Colette, Amelia comes across as weak and needy. I realise that other readers won't think the same as me, but this is what I felt and thought. I didn't feel sympathy or compassion for her. I did admire her at first for doing what she thought was best for her brother and I admired her acceptance towards the end, but only briefly.
The Love Angle: Oliver is Amelia's other best friend and she begins to feel the stirrings of something more than just friendship. Each time she holds back because of her wish to become a professed nun to absolve her brother. Holding back becomes harder each time.
Did I like the book? As a whole, yes & no, but it's not all bad. I think the idea for the story is excellent but I feel it could have been developed more. More information for the reader would be great, not just dump them into chapter 1 and making them wait until nearly halfway into the book to clear the confusion.
The characters did very little for me. I've already given my thoughts on Amelia. We don't see a huge amount of Nathaniel so it would have been interesting to see his character develop along with his witchiness. Colette, almost too good to be true; the girl has the patience of a saint dealing with Amelia and her insecurities. Oliver: the secret love... It wasn't very hard to guess who he was and I think a little more mystery around him would have worked better. Amelia's parents: There's very little background given on her mother & father and this leads to unanswered questions.
I felt the ending was a little rushed and not complete. Yes I know there is another book to come, but will these questions be answered then? The writing style was very good. I liked the almost "old world" feel it had. I wouldn't like to see that change as I found it flowed quite well to describe the tale as it went on.
Would I read the next in the Trilogy? I think I would, if only to see do I like it better than this one. Maybe Amelia's new self will be more to my liking. Maybe the questions I have will be answered.
3 stars from me, with the hopes that maybe the next book can beat this rating.
(Source: I won a digital eARC of this book. Thanks to author Amber Forbes.) 18-year-old Amelia lives in a world where witches are born of their parent's sins - if the parent has committed one of the seven deadly sins, then their child will be born a witch, and once discovered will be killed.
Amelia ran away with her 5-year-old brother Nat 3 years ago to the Covent where they now live, in the belief that becoming servants of God would absolve them of the taint they were born with. But when Amelia watches her best friend Collette spontaneously combust, and only she can see the flames, she and her brother are sent away from the Convent and back to their parent's house. Amelia is escorted home by Oliver - a trainee priest who has feelings for her, and they struggle with their feelings for one another.
Amelia soon learns that the strange shadows that she sees are called `Shadowmen', and may have something to do with Collette's death, and also want something from herself and her brother. What are the `Shadowmen'? Why are they after Amelia and her brother? And how long can Amelia keep herself and her brother hidden and safe from those who would burn them as witches?
This was an enjoyable story with plenty of tension and excitement.
Amelia was a strong character who would do anything for the people she loved. She sacrificed a lot to be able to keep her brother safe, and it was obvious that she had feelings for Oliver. She did seem to change as the story went on, but she tried hard to hold on to her morals for most of the story!
I liked the storyline in this, and I liked the tension that was woven into the story. It wasn't easy to guess what would happen next, and I just had to keep reading to find out what would happen to Amelia next! I did get a little confused at points over the `shadowmen' stuff, but this didn't really spoil the story, and I had to laugh when Amelia was told that Collette's spontaneous combustion was caused by an epileptic seizure!
This book read a bit like a historical fiction novel, but also had the paranormal element of witches and `shadowmen' and stuff which was done well. It reminded me a little bit of `Witchstruck' by Victoria Lamb, so if you liked that you will like this.
The romance in the story was nice, and I thought that Amelia and Oliver were pretty sweet together, even though there were hidden secrets waiting to be revealed. There were a couple of tasteful `love' scenes, although there were also some non-consensual scenes too, but these weren't in-depth.
The ending was a little unexpected, and pretty brutal, and Amelia did seem greatly changed by what happened. I did lose interest a little bit towards the end, as I kept getting confused as to what was going on, but all was eventually revealed. The very end was then pretty unexpected, and the epilogue was a little strange, and Amelia seemed to have totally changed in all possible ways which was a shame as she was such a good character throughout the rest of the book. It will certainly be interesting to see what happens in the next book! Overall; an enjoyable historical/fantasy novel, with plenty of excitement. 7.5 out of 10.
To me, Amelia is a a very strange character. She is wanting to join the professed order at the Cathedral Reim so she must partake in trials to show her commitment to them. She has a best friend, Colette who is going through the trials with her and Oliver is her priest friend who she has secret feelings for him but can't express them because of the rules. I was a bit confused with these beings called Shadowmen. Only certain people can see them and they are hunting for witches to kill and become one of them to help them in their war. The only problem was i didn't understand what war they were referring to. Even though that was confusing, the book sucked me in and i had to continue to find out what was going to having. Some people are not who they appear to be and it tests Amelia's trust in people. I found it really exciting and confusing but i loved it. I would love to understand more about the shadowmen and what they are all about. Overall it was a confusing, addictive book.