Friday, 27 February 2015

Review: Night of a Thousand Stars by Deanna Raybourn

Huge thanks to Netgalley for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

On the verge of a stilted life as an aristocrat's wife, Poppy Hammond does the only sensible thing—she flees the chapel in her wedding gown. Assisted by the handsome curate who calls himself Sebastian Cantrip, she spirits away to her estranged father's quiet country village, pursued by the family she left in uproar. But when the dust of her broken engagement settles and Sebastian disappears under mysterious circumstances, Poppy discovers there is more to her hero than it seems. 
With only her feisty lady's maid for company, Poppy secures employment and travels incognita—east across the seas, chasing a hunch and the whisper of clues. Danger abounds beneath the canopies of the silken city, and Poppy finds herself in the perilous sights of those who will stop at nothing to recover a fabled ancient treasure. Torn between allegiance to her kindly employer and a dashing, shadowy figure, Poppy will risk it all as she attempts to unravel a much larger plan—one that stretches to the very heart of the British government, and one that could endanger everything, and everyone, that she holds dear. 

As you are all well aware by now, I love Deanna Raybourn’s books. They are beautifully written, fantastically researched and filled with glorious settings and characters. They tick all of my internal boxes for what makes a great read. My heart will always truly lie with the Lady Julia series, so whilst I loved the first two standalone books Raybourn released set in the 1920s, they couldn’t quite compete with my love for Julia. So you can imagine how thrilled I was when I sat down to read this book and discovered that Raybourn had very slyly been setting up a beautiful interweaving of stories. The three standalone 1920s books were carefully slotted together with appearances from characters in different books, and at the end of ‘City of Jasmine’ a very interesting appearance of the Vespiary. Which then linked back to the Lady Julia novellas. And then came full circle with this third book where Poppy (our plucky and feisty heroine) turns out to be Plum’s daughter. I could have cried. It was so wonderful to have that little glimpse of the characters from Lady Julia, through Plum’s scenes and Poppy discovering her Aunt Julia’s diaries that we ourselves know and love. It was wonderful and made this book incredibly special having that link.

The characters were brilliantly written as always, and I think Poppy is my second favourite heroine only to Julia. She was so wonderful. Funny and snarky and brave and determined and so full of life and stubbornness. (I wonder where she gets it from…) I was quite sad to know that we wouldn’t see any more of her story beyond this book, because by the end of the story I’d become rather attached. Raybourn has a fantastic way of writing characters that just makes them work. They feel real, their struggles and hopes and journeys and I love being given the chance to peek in on that.

The other highlight is of course the setting, and this time we were treated to a glimpse of England and then whisked back to Damascus which was a wonderful return. I loved Raybourn’s rendering of the city in ‘City of Jasmine’ and it was brilliant to return just after the Starke’s foray there. She brings the city to life until you can almost hear the vendors and smell the flowers and spices. This is a book that evokes all of the senses.

And then we have the plot itself. Full of twists and wonderful surprises as well as some dark and terrifying moments, Raybourn has an incredible gift for prose. She is a born storyteller and one who I will happily continue following as long as she may publish.

This is a wonderful book and stands well on its own without having to read any of the other books. However there is a huge amount of joy to be experienced for those readers coming to it off the back of the other 1920s books or from Lady Julia herself.

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