Star Cursed by Jessica Spotswood is the one of the most satisfying sequels I’ve read lately. Before I tell you why I think so, we’ll take a moment to recap and acquaint ourselves with the basic plot. Oh yeah, and if you haven’t read the first book in the Cahill Witch Chronicles, Born Wicked, I suggest not reading any further until you do!
In the opening pages, we discover little time has passed since Cate Cahill sacrificed her own dreams to protect her sisters, Maura and Tess, by joining the Sisterhood. Cate isn’t sure she is the foretold witch the Sisterhood believes her to be but she makes an effort to embrace her new life anyway. Meanwhile, terrified of the prophecy, the Brotherhood enacts new laws denying women the right to read, to attend school, or to work outside the home. The changes wrought by these laws and the arrest of a friend and fellow witch prompt Cate to realize that her sisters are safer within the Sisterhood than outside of it. She requests they join her but the sisters’ happy reunion is short-lived when it becomes evident that Maura yearns to be the prophesied one and lead the Sisterhood to victory, regardless of the cost. With the Brotherhood’s quest to find the prophesied witch intensifying and the Sisterhood splintering over how best to react, Cate will have to rise up as a leader and decide who is worth trusting as the future begins to unfold and more of the prophecy is revealed.
Born Wicked introduced this amazing alternate world, but Star Cursed is where Spotswood’s world-building really comes alive, adding to the mystery surrounding the Sisterhood as well as revealing tantalizing new details about the prophecy. These new elements build texture to the overall mythology and story arc. Character development is also paramount as we learn more about Maura and Tess. Their characters grow. Tess matures. Maura, well Maura, doesn’t really mature so much as develops in a new direction. But through it all, we gain insights into their personalities and dreams. The author makes it easy to identify with the characters and understand why their relationships are transforming in certain directions. Their dynamic as sisters is the cornerstone of this installment, driving pivotal moments both for individual characters and the larger community. Old resentments and secrets continue to divide the sisters despite the prophecy’s dark prediction that one sister will murder another before the turn of the century. It is as though they cannot stop themselves from racing toward their respective destinies regardless of what it means for themselves or each other.
As in first book, Star Cursed has a healthy does of romance and Finn, the boy Cate was forced to set aside when she joined the Sisterhood, reappears but I’ll let you readers discover how their relationship evolves. All I will say is Spotswood does an amazing job of weaving romance into the fold without sacrificing any essentials.
I need a minute to rant about the Brotherhood.
After spending the entire novel angry at this fictional organization, I want to freely admit that I abhor them. Irrational I know, but isn’t it a great feat when an author can provoke a visceral response from the reader? I, for one, was deeply affected. Part of why it is so easy to despise these men centers not on their fictional beliefs/actions or the historical link to the notorious witch trials or past women’s rights battles. Simply, I was disturbed because making the leap to similar transgressions in the modern era isn’t difficult. At all. Today, there are still countries where women are denied these basic freedoms. Even here in the US, women have access to an education, the ability to work and support themselves but continue to fight for others. The consistent and continued fight to be able to make decisions for our own bodies is just one but there are many more. The politics in this book will keep you thinking long after you’ve read the last page.
Darker and more foreboding than its predecessor, Star Cursed is well-developed and fast-paced. It is an amazing second novel with enough unexpected twists and turns to delight any reader. I can’t wait to see how it all ends!
Go out and buy it from your local brick and mortar or hop over to an online retailer today!