Emily R. King, the bestselling author of the Hundreth Queen books, returns with a new series featuring another strong and unusual heroine. Everley Donovan’s best friends are sex workers, her one desire is for vengeance, and she is literally heartless. After her family was slaughtered in front of her as a child, the killer ran her through with a sword, piercing her heart. Her clever horologist uncle created a clockwork heart for her; since then, obsessive Everley has focused solely on exacting revenge.
Once again, King proves her fantasy chops. Before the Broken Star is a rollicking adventure with next-level world and myth building, and complete with religious warfare, a corrupt monarch, and political tensions. The book opens with a creation myth in which the two central deities are a white horse and an enormous tree that holds up the sky. And legends from this intricate world are sprinkled throughout, including one about a princess who ripped the fabric of time to protect the prince she loved. The latter story becomes particularly relevant later in the book when Everley gets much closer to the myths of her childhood than she ever expected.
Populating this complex world is a fantastic supporting cast. Everley’s uncle is the voice of reason, trying his best to educate and protect his feisty niece and constantly repairing and refining her mechanical heart. And Everley’s sex-worker friends provide emotional depth and a bit of comic relief – from crafty madam Vevina, who always has an angle, to best friends the Fox and the Cat, a pair of plotters and fighters.
But in the end it’s Everley’s show. Driven by her pain, anger, and single-mindedness, she eschews her uncle’s calls for caution, challenges a forced marriage, and makes several shocking discoveries about her own past. She’s strong enough to be the centre of this finely crafted world and her clockwork heart remains a fascinating plot device, featured consistently and relevantly throughout the story rather than disappearing after acting as a narrative hook.
There are plenty of characters, myths, and history introduced in Before the Broken Star to carry the series forward. But what will keep readers tethered to Everley is the complex ethical quandary she’s struggling with: “Could you become a monster to destroy one?”