The Plot: A robbery gone bad means Digger, sixteen, must flee her home city of Gerse. One lie leads to another, and the next thing she knows, Digger is going by the name Celyn and is a lady’s maid to a young, shy noblewoman, Merista Nemair, living in luxury, deep in the country. It should be a sweet setup: clothes, food, a soft bed, people who don’t keep an eye on the coins and jewlery and other small things Celyn secrets away. Problem is, Digger likes Merista and her family even if they are “nobs.”
Things get more comlicated when another “nob,” Lord Daul, discovers her secret and blackmails her into spying for him. Digger is annoyed, inconvenienced, and feels conflicted about betraying her friends; or, rather, the people who think she’s a trusted friend. It’s worse than she thinks.
Less than twenty years ago, there was war between religious factions and the winners banned magic. The “Greenmen” hunt out those who are born with magic, those who practice it, they bribe neighbors and torture suspects. Digger is just a thief, and she has no magic. She does have a gift she keeps well-hidden: the ability to sense magic in others. Other than evading the Greenmen, she doesn’t care about the war or factions. Until she realizes that spying for Lord Daul is more serious than she realizes; the risks are higher. It’s nothing less than a possible magical rebellion, and Digger is caught in the middle of it.
The Good: Digger/Celyn is fascinating; a girl who has taken care of herself by being a pickpocket and thief. A girl who hides many things: who she was before she became a thief. Who she is now. Digger has only two loyalties: to Tegen, her partner, who died in that ill fated robbery; and to herself. She is smart, she is talented, she takes care of herself. Meeting up with Meri and her family changes that. Meri, four years younger than Digger, is so trusting, so nice, so sweet. Meri’s family, too, accepts Digger. No; they accept Celyn, and her story of running away from a convent. That should have been a clue, that Meri’s family was willing to take in a runaway from the religious faction controlling the country.
I have always had a soft spot for stories about thieves, especially those who turn out to have a heart of gold. Bonus points when the thief happens to be a girl.
Bunce has created a country and a geography with a complex religion; or, rather, complex religions with multiple gods. Religious intolerance and persecutions take place against not only followers of one god defeating the followers of another, but with those followers securing their power through the “Greenmen,” a quasi police force dedicated to discovering magic. Magic has to be hidden; magic has to be stamped out; magic has to be destroyed. Digger and Meri are of the generation born right after the war; Meri’s parents, Lord Daul, and their friends are the ones who fought a war, lost (or won), and have been living with the consequences.
Digger has secrets she is reluctant to share, so I won’t share them here. StarCrossed is her journey, from caring about herself, about the next meal, the next job, to — reluctantly — caring about others.
One last thing: about the cover. Covers showing parts of a person’s face isn’t unusual for books. What I like about StarCrossed‘s cover is that it makes sense that Digger is half behind a door, hiding, only showing part of herself to the reader.