No one is who they seem to be. Everyone has a secret and the reader is kept guessing until the very end.
Kesia Lupo is an English author living in Bristol. She studied history at Oxford University and Creative Writing at Bath Spa. Lupo works as a children’s book editor but spends each morning before work, working on her own novels. Her debut book, We are Blood and Thunder, was released in 2019. We are Bound by Stars is another stand-alone fantasy set in the same world.
This is a story told in the first person by two people. Each chapter alternates between Livio, the grandson of the ruling Contessa. He is not interested in his destiny and would rather roam the backstreets of the city. Beatrice is a mask maker. She is one of mascherari triplets whose destiny it is to spend their life making masks which grant unique powers to their wearer. Neither of them are happy with their life and dream of one day escaping. Magic is generally inherited, but when they find strange things occurring in their vicinity, they suspect they are capable of more than they think. Things also begin to happen in the city as signs are left on the buildings and people disappear. Who is behind this and what do they want?
Over half of this novel is taken up with the backstory and life of both Livio and Beatrice. Their characters are multi-layered. We discover that they live in a society where nine gods are worshipped but long ago, there was only one. The island of Scarossa is ruled by both the Contessa and the Cardinal. We learn the history of the island and discover the politics involved. This lengthy telling of their lives helps the reader to understand their decision making and what drives them. Even though this is a completely new world, the reader is given more than enough information to allow themselves to be drawn in and we are able to imagine the island with its busy city streets, palazzo and temple.
The two lead characters are well rounded and very likeable. The reader becomes invested in their lives and by the time the real action happens, we are willing them to succeed. This is a story of destiny vs choice. Are we really locked into what is expected of us? Do we have the ability or even the right to change our circumstances? Pleasingly, all the threads are pulled together at the end and the reader is led towards the satisfying climax.
Lupo has definitely improved on her first novel. There are not as many twists and turns in this second offering, and she has slowed the plot down, but her characters are more rounded and the story has a better flow.
If you enjoyed Lupo’s first novel, We are Bound by Stars will definitely be the book to pick up. If you are new to her world, don’t worry as each one is able to stand on its own. Well worth a read if you are a lover of fantasy.
Reviewed by Sue Mauger
Distributed by: Bloomsbury Australia
Released: August 2020