The Last Fallen Star by Graci Kim is a new middle grade in the Rick Riordan books. Riley Oh is an adopted Korean girl who just wants to be a witch like her family.
Riley Oh can’t wait to see her sister get initiated into the Gom clan, a powerful lineage of Korean healing witches their family has belonged to for generations. Her sister, Hattie, will earn her Gi bracelet and finally be able to cast spells without adult supervision. Although Riley is desperate to follow in her sister’s footsteps when she herself turns thirteen, she’s a saram–a person without magic. Riley was adopted, and despite having memorized every healing spell she’s ever heard, she often feels like the odd one out in her family and the gifted community.
Then Hattie gets an idea: what if the two of them could cast a spell that would allow Riley to share Hattie’s magic? Their sleuthing reveals a promising incantation in the family’s old spell book, and the sisters decide to perform it at Hattie’s initiation ceremony. If it works, no one will ever treat Riley as an outsider again. It’s a perfect plan!
Until it isn’t.
When the sisters attempt to violate the laws of the Godrealm, Hattie’s life ends up hanging in the balance, and to save her Riley has to fulfill an impossible task: find the last fallen star. But what even is the star, and how can she find it?
As Riley embarks on her search, she finds herself meeting fantastic creatures and collaborating with her worst enemies. And when she uncovers secrets that challenge everything she has been taught to believe, Riley must decide what it means to be a witch, what it means to be family, and what it really means to belong.
All quotes are from an advanced reader copy and may not reflect the published book.
“Anger will only make it hurt more. Know that you are loved, more than anything in the entire three realms.”
The Last Fallen Star is a sweet debut novel and new trilogy in the Rick Riordan books. These books bring mythology from different cultures to life and accessible through the form of middle grade. I love these books and the way they teach me something new every time I pick them up. I really, sincerely wanted to enjoy reading this book- however, I didn’t. The ending is the case for the three stars I’ve given it, and the plot was fantastic. It was the execution that seemed to hinder this book more than anything.
“Don’t let a curse define who you can and can’t be. Only you have the power to decide that.”
There were times when, instead of feeling taught about these myths, things were info-dumped onto me. As an adult reader, I have no problem with this. Middle-grade readers, however, tend to prefer a show don’t tell method of storytelling. Some of the plot aspects that brought things together seemed convenient dialogue-wise. This prevented me from connecting to the characters.
“It’s my actions that define who I am, not who I was born to, or what blood flows through my veins, or even what magic I can weld. And the fact of the matter is that I chose all these people, and these people chose me.”
Riley Oh is a cookie-cutter character. She is a known cry-baby in the first half of the book and then is suddenly not in the second half of the book. It felt like her crying all the time was supposed to be a character flaw, but then we removed it. Her best friend Emmett is, quite frankly, rude. He’s selfish and not particularly funny. I think Emmett reminded me somewhat of little brother characters in books and movies, but he wasn’t supposed to be anyone’s annoying little brother. The story hinges on important character growth for Riley, and while it does happen, it’s not as impactful as it could have been. This is mostly due to her lack of internal character flaws.
“My name is Riley Oh, and I was born to shine.”
I was incredibly interested in this world of magic, and the lore within it. This is what kept me reading and would have me consider reading the second book. However, I would just hope that the pacing, dialogue, and character development would grow a little bit more before then.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.