A Sliver of Stardust
By Marissa Burt
Paperback, 376 pages
Wren Matthews is desperately trying to win the Science Trivia Olympiad, if only the large white falcon swooping around the room would disappear. The falcon does disappear, after dropping off a packet of sparkling papers containing nursery rhymes and an invitation to a place she’d never heard of. Joining her sort-of friend and rival in science, Simon, Wren embarks on a journey into a magical world that’s been right under her nose her whole life. Using nursery rhymes and stardust, Wren and Simon learn to weave the magic of the Fiddlers, but they may be in over their heads when an ancient evil threatens to resurface.
Not gonna lie, I was lured in by the cover of this book (and you can check out my Judging post for more detail). Naturally, the fact that it is also a middle-grade fantasy novel appealed to me as well. Sadly, it didn’t impress me, though I don’t think it’s a bad book.
What I enjoyed most was the way Burt wove familiar nursery rhymes into the story, using them to hint at things to come in each chapter and making them essential in the way Fiddler’s weave their spells. Fiddlers, those with the ability to use magic, use stardust and rhymes to perform all their spells. Some of the rhymes are twists on ones I remember from my childhood and others are crafted to suit specific needs like healing or creating light. Actually, all the rhymes used could be derived from others that I’m just no familiar with. Either way, I liked this part.
I also enjoyed Wren’s insecurities and emotional response to using magic. She takes everything in stride as she finds out about her new life and skills, but once immersed in the world of the Fiddlers she struggles to learn simple spells that Simon appears to master. Paired with strange dreams and little moments of shock about how her life has changed, this made Wren feel more solid than the other characters. One thing I can’t stand in any book is when someone from a non-magical world finds out they’re actually magical, or that magic exists, just says “oh, ok” and instantly adapts to their new surroundings. Simon fell into this category and I thought Wren was headed that way at first, so I’m glad she had a little more depth than that.
Otherwise, the story didn’t grab me and I didn’t feel immersed in the world of the Fiddlers. Many of the adult characters were paper thin (wokka wokka) and when Wren wasn’t having prophetic dreams most of her time was spent doing chores for Fiddlers or in Fiddler magic classes. Even though I don’t constantly read “magic school” type books, I am tired of that plotline.
Rhymes aside, the plot and characters weren’t strong enough to hold my interest and despite the action-packed ending, I won’t be reading the next book in the series.
Here is Burt’s website.