Book Review: The Unmarked Girl (YaraStar Trilogy, #1) by Jeanelle Frontin

  • Title: The Unmarked Girl
  • Author: Jeanelle Frontin
  • Where to buy: Amazon (affiliate link)
  • Genre: YA Fantasy
  • Would I recommend: Yes. It’s geared toward middle-grade and older, but it’s an engaging fantasy read for adults, too!

Synopsis:

Unlike everyone else on Mira, Yara has no birthline markings. She was found as a baby by a Photak and taken to the Photak village, despite how strange she looked. With an unknown origin, unmarked skin, and unusual features, the Elders were extremely wary that the baby could be a secret weapon of the Skotads. Mysteriously, however, Yara could withstand the rays of Sunstar, which no Skotad ever could. She was allowed to stay. Sixteen years later, still without any clues to her origins, Yara is training to be a warrior for the Photak Tribe. Now, an eerie, soft voice begins to haunt her dreams. It asks only one question every time:

“YaraStar… do you know who you are?”

Buzz about The Unmarked Girl:

Winner of the 2019 CODE Burt Award for Caribbean Young Adult Literature

Listed in Kirkus Reviews’ Best 100 Indie Books of 2019 and the top five (5) Best Indie Middle-Grade & YA Books of 2019

“An engrossing sci-fi/fantasy that breathes new life into old tropes.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“What an enjoyable read. ‘The Unmarked Girl’ is a book that excites the imagination and keeps you eager to explore its many twists and turns. A well-crafted story set in a fantasy world, which can easily be interpreted as an allegory about our contemporary world. I look forward to the next saga in the trilogy.” — Tim Reid, Filmmaker/Actor

The Photaks and the Skotads used to live in peace on Mira. The Photaks were sun-dwellers, out in the daytime. The Skotads, unable to withstand the bright rays of the Sunstar, were active during the night. As so often happens with different groups, jealousies and misunderstandings crept in, and it ultimately led to a war so intense, a large part of Mira was destroyed. The planet no longer rotated. The Photaks dwelt in endless day, and the Skotads who survived were only able to survive by retreating into the Greens, the deep, shadowy forest where Photaks risked light blindness if they stayed too long.

Yara is a conundrum. She’s the only living being on Mira who isn’t marked with birthlines showing her family, her place, her role. She was found abandoned as a baby and taken in by a Photak couple, in spite of serious misgivings on the part of many of the tribe members. Her blue hair, iridescent eyes, and clear skin make her something to be feared for a lot of people. But her adoptive parents love her without reservation, and she has two fast friends in Kristos, the chief’s son and her sparring partner, and young Mila, who thinks Yara is the best ever.

Yara is training to become a Photak warrior, and the day of testing draws near. She is a fierce fighter and expects to do well, even with the distracting, mysterious voice in her head asking her repeatedly, “YaraStar…do you know who you are?” The big day arrives, and something in her fighting style makes the powers that be suspect that she is really a tool of the Skotads. Things quickly take a turn for the worse, and Yara must flee or die.

Jeanelle Frontin creates an intriguing world in the planet Mira. I have a hard time wrapping my brain around a planet that’s half blown away. How does it continue to exist? Wouldn’t gravity cause what was left to eventually collapse in upon itself? At any rate, I’ve never read another book where the setting was a partial planet that had stopped rotating. And I like the longer days of summer, but let’s be honest. I think endless day would get old pretty quickly.

She also gives us a character we can care deeply about with Yara. My heart just ached for Yara. She wanted so much to belong, to proudly represent her tribe as a warrior. But the thing she wanted most was denied to her because people were afraid of what they couldn’t categorize and identify and name. And what they feared, they had to try to destroy. Sounds a lot like our world sometimes, doesn’t it?

As an interesting added bonus, there’s music to go with the book! You can check it out here. Frontin’s creativity and talent is mind-boggling, and the music is enchanting. I highly recommend it.

The book ends on a cliffhanger that puts Yara in an interesting position. Big changes are happening. Does she survive? What did the last words she heard from the mysterious voice mean? I’m ready to read book two and find out!

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author. I am voluntarily leaving this review. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.

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