Last Star Burning (Hardcover)

By Caitlin Sangster

Simon Pulse, 9781481486132, 400pp.

Publication Date: October 10, 2017

Other Editions of This Title:
Paperback (11/13/2018)

List Price: 19.99*
* Individual store prices may vary.

Description

“Rich and timely.” —Aprilynne Pike, #1 New York Times bestselling author
“Incredibly immersive.” —Kirkus Reviews
“A gripping tale of trust.” —Booklist

To escape execution for a crime she didn’t commit, sixteen-year-old Sev is forced to run away from the only home she’s ever known in this “richly imagined” (BCCB, starred review) post-apocalyptic debut novel from Caitlin Sangster.

Sev is branded with the mark of a criminal—a star burned into her hand. That’s the penalty for being the daughter of the woman who betrayed their entire nation.

Now her mother’s body is displayed above Traitor’s Arch, kept in a paralyzed half sleep by the same plague that destroyed the rest of the world. And as further punishment, Sev is forced to do hard labor to prove that she’s more valuable alive than dead.

When the government blames Sev for a horrific bombing, she must escape the city or face the chopping block. Unimaginable dangers lurk outside the city walls, and Sev’s only hope of survival lies with the most unlikely person—Howl, the chairman’s son. Though he promises to lead her to safety, Howl has secrets, and Sev can’t help but wonder if he knows more about her past—and her mother’s crimes—than he lets on.

But in a hostile world, trust is a luxury. Even when Sev’s life and the lives of everyone she loves may hang in the balance.


About the Author

Caitlin Sangster grew up in Northern California, moved to XinJiang when she was eighteen, and has been fascinated with how much she doesn’t know about the world ever since. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in Asian studies and is the person you avoid at parties because she will probably start talking about Shang dynasty oracle bones. Caitlin lives with her husband and four children in Utah. For more about Caitlin visit her at CaitlinSangster.com, on Twitter @CaitSangster, or Facebook.com/CaitlinSangsterAuthor.


Praise For Last Star Burning

Caitlin Sangster's Last Star Burning opens with moves in an intricate strategy game, and the entire novel follows that initial scene. Set in a gorgeous, Asian-themed post-apocalyptic world, Sangster presents the reader with a fully-formed society, as fully inhabited by lies and deception, as human beings. With propaganda, the illusion of the greater good, and the stigma of illness heavily coloring the dark themes of this book, young readers will be forced to examine not only Sevvy's actions and motivations, but also their own. A rich and timely tale that twists and turns so quickly, you might get whiplash.
— Aprilynne Pike, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author

Eight years ago, Sev’s mother betrayed her fortified city by bringing the plague that ravaged the world a century ago inside its walls, thus condemning her daughter to a lifetime of illness, hard labor, and “reeducation.” Now, at sixteen, all Sev wants is to prove that she’s not like her mother and deserves a place inside the city walls— even the slums of the Third Quarter are better than the wilds Outside. No matter how she tries, Sev is marked as a traitor, as much by the distinctive birthmark on her face that matches her mother’s as the brand burned into her hand. When she’s accused of setting the bomb that nearly killed her and her friend Taige, the son of the prominent military family assigned to reeducate Sev, she flees the city with the help of Howl, the Chairman’s son-turned-rebel. They make their way to a rebel outpost, and along the way Sev is confronted with truths—and lies—that unravel everything she thought she knew about her mother, her world, and herself. There’s satisfying romantic tension in Sev’s relationships with Tai-ge and Howl, but both remain secondary; the focus here is on Sev’s attempt to understand her place and take control of her future when she’s a pawn in dizzying machinations of those in power. Sev maintains an appealing resilience and humor despite her difficult life: she chooses to trust others despite having suffered betrayal, cracks jokes in the direst of circumstances, and acts altruistically despite being treated like garbage for much of her life. Sangster draws on her knowledge of Chinese history and culture (she discusses her influences in an author’s note at the end) to build a richly imagined dystopia that brings new life to familiar tropes. An unexpected swerve in the final act will leave readers breathlessly waiting for the next volume. 
— BCCB *STARRED REVIEW

Made an outcast by her mother's crimes, a girl fights to uncover the secrets of those that control her sequestered City.Sixteen-year-old Jiang Sev, called Sevvy, was once a member of the most revered group in the City: Firsts—those of superior wisdom. But eight years ago, her mother betrayed the City, ushering in encephalitis lethargica, or sleeping sickness, and informing the enemy of their location. Sevvy was rebranded a Fourth, the lowest caste, and sent to a military family for re-education. But when an enemy bomb falls near Sevvy and her friend, everything accelerates. The City paints Sevvy as a suspect in the bombing due to her mother's past. While sneaking through her own manhunt, Sevvy meets a boy who seeks to help her—shockingly, he's the Chairman's son. He goes by Howl, and he wants her to venture outside with him, where both fantastical beasts and those ravaged by sleeping sickness roam. As a loyal citizen, Sevvy feels conflicted—but she has nowhere else to go. As Sevvy embarks on a wild journey, she must navigate the duplicity of war, decide whom she can truly trust, and unravel the truth of her past. Brimming with rich detail in an Asian-inflected alternative world that's lightly touched with Maoist terminology and concepts and helmed by achingly real characters, Sevvy's story is thrilling to get lost in. By the end, readers will be clamoring for more. Incredibly immersive and tightly plotted. 
— Kirkus Reviews

Game piece soldiers placed on a weiqui board provide a foreshadowing of the plot twists to come in this novel. Jiang Sev, of the First Class, has been demoted to the Fourth Class because of her traitor mother. The demotion has not dimmed the devotion of Sev’s Second Class friend, Tai-ge, whose family is tasked with “reeducating” Sev. Heavily influenced by the author’s experiences in China, this dystopian fantasy features a strong 16-year-old character who must navigate a world in which city leaders drop bombs on the lower classes while blaming the explosions on a nearby country. As Sev leaves the safety of the walls to face the Outside with the help of the chairman’s son, Howl, she begins to uncover the true nature of the city’s leadership, and that the rebels within the Mountain have their own agenda—one masterminded by a brilliant double agent and former colleague of Sev’s mother. Sangster does a masterful job of world-building, and takes the time to develop characters and a plot that twists in on itself multiple times. As with Sev, readers are dribbled clues that clearly point to more diabolical machinations on both sides. The backdrop of vicious creatures coupled with adventures in which survival is not always assured will keep patient readers engaged. The cliff-hanger ending guarantees a sequel in the offing, and the action-packed, adventurous prose makes it appropriate for younger teens. ­VERDICT Give to fans of Leigh Bardugo’s “Six of Crows” series and Sabaa Tahir’s “Ember in the Ashes” trilogy.
— School Library Journal

For most of her life Jiang Sev has been told her mother sold out the City and endangered its residents by introducing a sleeping sickness that causes violent compulsions. Her family was removed from the First Quarter and stripped of their home and belongings, her father and sister are dead, and her mother rests in a very public place in permanent sleep—a warning to all who would commit treason. Sev has been consigned to the Fourth Quarter, the quarter of lowest social standing. But when the government accuses Sev of a fatal bombing, the chairman’s son persuades her to leave and head for the Mountain, a rebel hideout, where Sev discovers the treachery that surrounds her. Though unspecified, the political situation and setting evoke China, from the military class informally known as “reds” to place and charactern names. There are twists aplenty, although less summarizing by the narrator would have tightened their execution. This may be Sangster’s first authorial outing, but the result is a gripping tale of trust, class struggle, and betrayal.
— Booklist

The people of the City are beset by encephalitis lethargica—sleeping sickness—and drug-resistant strains are cropping up. The symptoms can be violent, but 16-year-old Jiang Sev, who is infected, places her trust in the City. Years ago, Sev’s mother betrayed the City, infecting Sev with the disease, and now lies in stasis, on display above the Traitor’s Arch, leaving Sev branded and diminished in status. When Sev is blamed for a bombing, she and a secretive boy named Howl wind up on the run. Howl insists that answers lie at a far-off mountain, but the journey is dangerous, and the promise of safety may only be an illusion. Loosely inspired by China’s Cultural Revolution, Sangster’s vibrant debut is set in a world where class and status define its citizens; some genuinely surprising twists highlight Sev’s struggle to accept a reality vastly different from what she has known. Her candid voice propels the tense narrative to a conclusion that leaves no question where Sev’s convictions and loyalties lie and sets up the next chapter in her journey.
— Publishers Weekly

Sev’s mother betrayed the City, letting in the sleeping sickness that ravished the world outside and abetting the enemy, Kamari—or so says the government. Now, Sev bears a criminal’s brand on her forehead, lives in an orphanage, and undergoes daily rehabilitation. Framed for an enemy bombing for which the penalty is death, she escapes to the Outside with the help of unexpected new friends, and she realizes that neither the past nor future are what they seem. Sev meets many people in her flight from the City, including the mysterious double-agent Howl, the young Outsider June, and creepy soldier Helix; all of them have secrets and stories that reveal something about their environment.

Sangster’s vivid dystopia draws heavily from Chinese history, making for a refreshing change from the usual teen dystopia. The lush Asian setting in a post-apocalypic city, coupled with the harshness of the Outside, add to the plot’s momentum. Although the author retains elements familiar to the genre— such as oppressive governments and stratified societies—they come together differently and sometimes unexpectedly here, giving the story a fresh twist. The greatest theme of the book is trust, especially the devastation caused by its loss, as demonstrated when Sev is unable to change years’ worth of feelings upon learning new truths about her own history. In such an atmosphere, romance is a luxury and secondary to friendship. Deep worldbuilding continues throughout the entire story, rewarding attention and unspooling new information right up to the breathless ending (that leads into the next volume). The author’s note at the end of the book includes information on Chinese history and encephalitis lethargica (“sleepy sickness”), and reading recommendations for both topics. Young adult lovers of dystopian dramas will enjoy this new twist on the “old” standards.—Lisa Martincik.
— VOYA