A Pretty Setting but Ugly Words: A Review of The Blazing Star by Imani Josey
I hope everyone’s Valentines Day Candy is On Sale Day was great. I didn't get to go out and celebrate that this year thanks to some absolutely disgusting weather. My skin will be thankful about that though so I guess that's a win.
Enough about Valentines Day though. No need to talk about Forever Alone Day when you have the pleasure of talking about books. So meet this week’s review: The Blazing Star by Imani Josey.
The Blazing Star was published in 2017 and is the debut novel of Josey. In December of 2020, Josey published the second half of the duology entitled The Falling Star. Today we will only be talking about The Blazing Star, and boy, do I have thoughts on this one.
As always a spoiler alert is in order; although after my synopsis I think you’ll be able to predicate all the details on your own.
This week’s book follows Portia White who is 16-going-on-17. Josey makes a big point in mentioning Portia’s age even though it doesn’t play a role in the book whatsoever. We have our 16-year-old heroine who is the younger twin to a genius, 11-minute older sister named Alexandria. Portia feels utterly useless when compared to her sister; we have the perfect set up to a coming-of-age novel all ready to go!
After touching an ancient Egyptian artifact in a museum, she, her sister, and a freshman girl named Selene travel back in time to ancient Egypt. Their time traveling trip quickly becomes a harrowing adventure where they must find not only each other but a way to get back to their own time.
What happens during this adventure is a lot of learning about the Egyptian Gods and customs, fighting super powered scorpions and wizards, discovering someone in the group has magical fire/lightning powers, running away, and falling in love with strangers. One of those things is not like the other; I’ll let you guess which one.
I think I deserve a reward because this is the shortest synopsis I have ever written. This truly is the shortest synopsis that will ever appear on this site. I hope you’re all proud of me and are applauding right now. If you don’t, I’ll know and you’ll hurt my feelings.
You know what else I need to live? Proper grammar. I know, I know, I’m not always sure on all the rules; as I’ve said many times before. But even I know semi-colons don’t go in the middles of words! Even I know that sentences must be coherent in order to read them properly! Even I know when words are incorrectly spelled or when they are repeated multiple times in a row!
I swear, this book didn’t have an editor. You can find a grammar or spelling error on each page of this book. There were multiple times where I had to check I didn’t somehow get my hands on an advance reader copy. But no, the final published form of this book boasts the word “unable” spelled incorrectly as “unab;e.”
It just gets worse from there, and this was only 70 pages into a nearly 300-page book.
I was absolutely sold on the time traveling to ancient Egypt. This book had me sold the moment I laid eyes on it. Synopsis? Great. Book cover? Beautiful, love it. But it’s the lack of editing for me.
My next major fault with this book lies with its main character herself. Portia is determined to differentiate herself from her twin sister. Her whole life, she heard everyone around her state how amazing and smart Alexandria is. Obviously Portia is going to want to stand out and make a name for herself so she’s no longer just Alex’s twin.
Enter time travel. Upon finding herself 3000-years in the past, Portia finds herself to have some magical abilities. She can summon fire/lightning through her hands. It hurts like hell, but she has magical abilities! Finally, she’s different! She’s not just Alex’s twin sister! She’s the special one now!
Major problem though. Portia learns all this information and basically goes: “…ok.” She’s completely fine with everything that has happened.
She has time traveled 3000-years into the past. Her response to having done so is: “oh, it must have been because of my scarab necklace.”
She can summon fire. Her response: “weird, but ok.”
There are minimal questions, virtually no concern, and honestly, no care in the world. Where is the freak out? Where are the thousands of questions? Where is her inner monologue thinking this is all a dream and she’s passed out in the museum? There’s virtually none of that. There’s nothing at all. There aren’t even questions about how she got there or where she is when it becomes clear she isn’t passed out somewhere. Seriously, our main character will ask these questions one time and then not care when she gets a response; she pretty much forgets about them once the words escape her mouth. Even when the response she gets doesn’t answer her question, she doesn’t fight for an actual answer.
Portia is giving me absolutely nothing. Even when it comes to her new found magic powers, she’s giving 110% of nothing.
Again, there is no confusion, no questions, no concern about why her hands magically spit fire. She just complains about the pain.
The same things can be said about the other two teens who traveled with Portia. Alex shows more concern about the whole situation, but hey, that’s probably because she the “smart” one. Oh yeah, Alex’s whole personality is she’s smart. What a great, dynamic character we have here!
When it comes to Selene, not much can be said about her either. She too has powers, but she exhibited them in the modern day. She just gets more of run down on where they come from and what they mean during her stay in ancient Egypt. Basically, she’s a seer, but in The Blazing Star she’s referred to as an Eye. She can see visions brought forth by the Goddess Isis. She gets one trait, and that’s being an Eye.
As far as supporting characters go, there is no one even worth mentioning to be quite honest. There are three Priestesses in the Temple of Isis that befriend the girls, and then there is Merenptah who Portia falls madly in love with upon first sight; whether she knows it or not is up in the air.
The Priestesses at least offer something to the plot in the way of help and/or plot advancement; Merenptah does not. I love when authors include characters for the sole purpose of being a love interest. These characters typically offer nothing to the plot other than to be eye candy for the main character. Merenptah is really here just to waste everyone’s time.
Sure, he is important to the plot when it’s revealed who he actually is, but he doesn’t do anything. He’s there, he’s just there. I don’t know what else to say about him. He’s eye candy except I can’t really remember if any description of him is given, and if so, what he’s supposed to look like.
I guess this leads me to my next issue with this book: it’s way too predictable. You know the leading lady is going to end up with the only male character who isn’t a villain. You know Alex is going to feel inadequate in every single way possible. You know certain characters will die the moment you meet them. Not to mention, you know who is a hero and who is a villain from the moment they appear. That’s the worst thing that can happen. If a book is going to be this predictable, at least make the characters developed and dynamic enough that readers can retain some interest in the book.
The one thing this book has going for it are the lush descriptions of the ancient world. People aren't described well, but the setting is phenomenal. Ancient Egypt is perhaps one of the most interesting backdrops to have in a book. The history, customs, and landscapes lend themselves so well to writing. Scenes can become so much more lively with the inclusion of the world our characters find themselves in.
Perhaps my favorite descriptions came out of the chapters where our main three characters find themselves in the palace. The setting turns from simple stone walls to one’s boasting murals of the royal family and nature scenery with furniture dripping in gold overlay and other precious metals. The people wear gold headpieces, rings, bracelets, and necklaces fitted with precious jewels only the wealthiest and the highest born could afford. The finest silks and linens don those that pass by our main characters. It's all just so beautiful.
The history lessons Josey includes do just as well. The necessary information that’s presented to our trio makes me want to go out and watch documentaries on the ancient world until my eyes turn blood red and my head hurts. Honestly, that sounds like quite an enjoyable night.
Sadly, beautiful descriptions are not enough to save a book. The plot of The Blazing Star is far too predictable, the characters are static, irritating children, and the lack of editing is the worst I’ve ever seen. I won’t be picking up the sequel; I truly don’t care what happens to these characters nor do I care to see the villains defeated.
I really wanted this one to be good. I really hoped to discover a new Egyptian themed series to love. Tragically, I must continue that search for who knows how long.
Next week, I will be back with a review on a book I hopefully liked more than this one. Until then, stay safe and read a good book for me.