The Book of Whispers by Kimberley Starr

I recently had the opportunity to read The Book of Whispers by Kimberley Starr. First published 2016 in Australia, the stand alone book will be available in the  United States and Canada early 2018. A debut YA/fantasy novel, the book was a riveting, all encompassing read. A believable combination of fantasy and historical fiction, the novel is a look at the Crusades if they were being inspired and driven by a host of demons. The book follows Suzan, a girl who was raised in a convent, and Luca a recently titled Conte as they try to save the world from a host of demons (which only they can see), and their experiences with the brutal and atrocious realities that made up one of the most turbulent and horrific periods of Medieval history.

A part of the pilgrim force that marched from Europe to their final destination in Jerusalem, the unlikely pair must use a book that is Luca’s inheritance to decipher prophecies and stop the demons and cohorts who would take over the world. The book is a combination of magic, romance, and action, with the characters doing the best they can to bring good to a fallen world.

The writing is well done and the plot moved at a good pace. My only criticism is the transitions—it often felt as if I were being swept quickly into the next part of the story with not enough closure or preparation. I would be following along and next thing I know I have been picked up and dropped into the next scene. This caused for some confusion and reorientation to the timeline and what was occurring, though it was a small detracting factor to an otherwise solid work.

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Minor devils, demons, satyrs and hobgoblins.
From Olaus Magnus’ Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus, Rome, 1555.

Kimberley Starr’s writing centralizes around the theme of demons, and what they are exactly. While the demons in this book are real, tangible beings, they are a metaphor of the personal demons that every person carries around with them. What is it that causes humans to do monstrous things to each other? What are the things that motivate us? The demons in the book are linked to the seven deadly sins, reflecting the impulses and temptations that drive humans to do heinous things. But more important than acknowledging the fact that there are demons at large in the world, Starr’s work is a book of hope and inspiration: that they do not have the last say.

If anyone ever looks for a lesson in this book, I hope they find it in my belief that there are steps we can all take to make changes that matter to the world; we can all be more accepting of other people and other cultures. Anyone can make a difference.

*Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher, and author for providing me with a free copy in exchange for a honest review. All opinions stated here are my own.

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