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Even the Darkest Stars #1

Even the Darkest Stars

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Kamzin has always dreamed of becoming one of the emperor’s royal explorers, the elite climbers tasked with mapping the wintry, mountainous Empire and spying on its enemies. She knows she could be the best in the world, if only someone would give her a chance.

But everything changes when the mysterious and eccentric River Shara, the greatest explorer ever known, arrives in her village and demands to hire Kamzin—not her older sister, Lusha, as everyone had expected—for his next expedition. This is Kamzin’s chance to prove herself—even though River’s mission to retrieve a rare talisman for the emperor means climbing Raksha, the tallest and deadliest mountain in the Aryas. Then, Lusha sets off on her own mission to Raksha with a rival explorer, and Kamzin must decide what’s most important to her: protecting her sister from the countless perils of the climb or beating her to the summit.

The challenges of climbing Raksha are unlike anything Kamzin expected—or prepared for—with avalanches, ice chasms, ghosts, and other dangers at every turn. And as dark secrets are revealed, Kamzin must unravel the truth about their mission and her companions—while surviving the deadliest climb she has ever faced.

437 pages, Kindle Edition

First published September 5, 2017

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About the author

Heather Fawcett

15 books2,351 followers
Hello! Welcome to my page.

I'm the author of books for adults and children, including Emily Wilde's Encyclopaedia of Faeries, Even the Darkest Stars, Ember and the Ice Dragons, The School Between Winter and Fairyland, and more.

I'm only occasionally on Goodreads, so if you want a more reliable way to get in contact with me, I'd recommend using social media (I'm on Instagram and Facebook) or the contact form on my website.

Review policy: I only review books that I love, which is why you'll only see 4 and 5 star reviews here. Because readers often ask me about my favourite books and authors, I'm aiming to use this page as a place to collect all of my recommendations.

Also, I am NOT the author of More Than a Mom: Living a Full And Balanced Life When Your Child Has Special Needs. I've asked Goodreads to remove it from my page several times but it keeps getting re-added. If you have questions about this title, please direct them to the other Heather Fawcett!

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5 stars
1,083 (27%)
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3 stars
1,030 (25%)
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67 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 793 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,993 reviews298k followers
August 12, 2017
“I never thought someone like you could exist.” He watched me with a half smile on his face. “A girl from a tiny village many explorers have never even heard of, with greater skill than most of them will ever possess.”

Super special heroine... ✓
Love triangle... ✓
Hot dude #1 is lifelong best friend... ✓
Hot dude #2 is an obnoxious newcomer... ✓
Virtually nothing happens for 75% of the book... ✓

The only reason I am not giving this one star is because the setting is so excellent. The author's world-building is undeniably strong and I have never read about a fantasy version of the Himalayas with a culture based on that of Nepalese people. I want to rate it higher based on that premise alone.

Unfortunately, though, nothing else impressed me. The characters were stock and forgettable, and I seem to often have a problem with journey books when the plot in its entirety consists of a bunch of people moving from one location to another. It is especially dull in cases like this when the narrator (and, therefore, the reader) is not told why they are going or what they are looking for. It leaves me asking the question: why should I care?

The strong sense of place cannot hold this book up on its own. It's a painfully-boring slow trek through the Himalayan wilderness as Kamzin develops feelings for the mysterious River Shara, whilst also trying not to hurt her best friend and ex - Tem. All we know is that River has been sent on an expedition by the Emperor to find something and he needs Kamzin to lead him there. By "there", I mean through the perilous Mount Raksha.

There's too much conversation and journeying and not enough action. If you are a huge fan of mountaineering and think a mountain expedition sounds like an exciting story, then you might have more luck with this. But without more exciting characters, or just some tension or drama in general, I found it very hard to persevere. There was once in the whole book when my interest stirred - I made a note of it! - and that was at 75%, and it unfortunately didn't mark a turning point. The brief excitement quickly died down again.

I thought there was a lot of missed potential, to be honest. In the early chapters, we hear about witches and mountain spirits - I was really intrigued by the bird-human monsters - but for the vast majority of the book, these are just stories and very little is done with them. The witches, especially, are notably absent , though theories about them pop up in many conversations.

Ultimately, I just think neither the story nor the characters are particularly interesting. I applaud the author for heading into new territory, but this journey did nothing for me.

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Profile Image for Laura.
425 reviews1,255 followers
September 7, 2017
This sounded so different from your standard YA fantasy novel with the mountainous Himalayan setting being the most standout aspect. I was excited for the Royal Explorer to come in and pit sister against sister. Unfortunately, other than the setting, everything else was entirely forgettable. If I hadn't read this as quickly as I did, if only to get past the slow pace, I would've forgotten details needed to go on. Now after sitting on the story for a week before reviewing, I can remember the big things that happen. But I'm wondering...what happened in between? The problem is I know that nothing happened. It just was so boring and slow until the big twist happens, which is actually quite predictable.

The majority of the book is characters on a journey up the mountain with one sister traveling with the royal explorer and crew. The other sister is on her own mission up the mountain. It's a race up the trek, but Kamzin also feels the need to protect her sister.

Oh, and you can't forget the magic. There is a magical system and Kamzin is training to be a shaman. Meanwhile, her bff Tem shows a great affinity for magic. And her sister Lusha is really into astrology and reading the future in the stars. I wish this magical system was better explored.

It is unfortunate that the sister relationship wasn't used to the book's benefit. The story follows Kamzin, and leaves us not caring about Lusha at all. Lusha does a lot of off-putting things that made me wonder if she really even cared about Kamzin in the same way Kamzin did about her. It just felt like a bossy older sister who thinks she knows best, but didn't feel real beyond that.

This feels like a bit of a wasted concept. It could've been done so much better.
Profile Image for Ben Alderson.
Author 21 books13.5k followers
December 7, 2017
That ending really saved this from being a THREE STAR.
I mean hello BIG TWIST.
I MEAN helllooooooooooooo

I am going to need book two.. right NOW ahh!
I can't wait
Profile Image for Katherine.
265 reviews158 followers
January 31, 2021
Super conflicted with this one. 😌
The beginning half of the story was way, way too slow. Nothing exciting really happened until the final hundred pages. You can only describe climbing a Mountain so much. Inevitably you get tired of hearing it described a million different ways.

I will say, The last leg of the book is definitely better, and I was actually excited during those final scenes. I'm mostly going to continue onto book two because I already own it 😅. (I blame, Book Outlet!)

If you like climbing stories, survival, Shaman magic, Witches and a slow-paced book--you might give this one a go. Again, I'm conflicted. I enjoyed aspects of the story (it's very atmospheric), but I never really connected to the characters. Hopefully in book two things will pick up.

(3) 🌟🌟🌟
Profile Image for winnie ʚïɞ.
665 reviews221 followers
May 3, 2020
two stars ∗

i had absolutely no idea what this book was about when i picked it up, but i had heard that it had dragons in it so i was super excited. however, the dragons in this book are only used as floating lamps, basically. that was disappointing, but that was also mainly my fault for not reading the synopsis to figure out what the book was about exactly.

instead of dragons, this book follows kamzin, a girl who loves to explore. because of this, she’s dreamed of becoming one of the royal explorers. one day, river shara, the most well known royal explorer, shows up in her small town and takes her on a dangerous mountain climbing adventure.

the plot was quite interesting! i’ve never read another book like it, tbh, so that was nice. i loved seeing kamzin’s interest in climbing and hiking, and she was a very sassy and smart main character. however, i did personally feel like the middle of the book was dragged out a bit too much, and found myself skimming through the pages here and there.

Profile Image for emma.
152 reviews566 followers
September 3, 2017
DNF @ 74%.

Hmm. Hmmmmm. I'm feeling very conflicted about this book. It had a really promising start, and the worldbuilding was consistently FANTASTIC. The descriptions of the rugged terrain of the mountain range, the snow and ice and glaciers, the sense of mysticism and legend, the PET DRAGONS……….it felt like the kind of story told around a campfire on a chilly night, full of so much adventure and potential that you can feel it crackling in the cool air. Unfortunately...........none of the atmosphere and gorgeous settings were enough for me to push past the flat characters.

Kamzin, our main character, is the younger daughter of the chief in her small, mountainous village. For as long as she can remember, she’s wanted nothing more than the chance to serve as one of the emperor’s elite explorers, traveling to foreign lands to chart the furthest reaches of the empire.

Kamzin is a strong and capable climber and navigator. Sadly, she suffers from traces of the all-too-common “I’m not like other girls” syndrome. She thinks she’s superior because she doesn’t care about her clothes, doesn’t have perfect manners, and has Big Dreams of leaving behind her small provincial town. She looks down on the pretty girls who dance and flirt with boys (especially the very tall and handsome and douchey River Shara, who by the way she definitely does not have a crush on wait what who said that?). Oh, and she’s kind of an asshole to Tem (her best friend) too. He very clearly has feelings for her, and she kind of walks all over him in her efforts to impress River.

She’s just……very meh. Tem and River were equally meh for me, and none of the supporting characters were very interesting either. The love triangle was also a tired cliche (mysterious/famous/bad boy newcomer vs. sweet/supportive/boring best friend), and I didn’t care about the characters enough to be invested in it at all.

It’s mainly a credit to Fawcett’s stellar worldbuilding that I made it through the first three quarters of this book. I hoping it would get better, that I would see more development, grow attached to the characters……nope!! If I had more time this week, I might have finished it, but it was feeling like such a chore that I finally decided not to continue.

It also feels very long. The plot—or at least the first 75+ percent of it—consists of a very lengthy and tedious journey through an icy mountain range. There’s a lot of conversation and mountain climbing and not much else, so if that sounds interesting to you, you might enjoy this more. There were some interesting parts, and the descriptions of the landscape were truly beautiful, but it seemed to drag on for much longer than it should have.

I received an ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Acqua.
536 reviews192 followers
March 7, 2019
I've never read anything quite like this.

4.25 stars.

YA fantasy is my most-read genre, but Even the Darkest Stars surprised me. It's not about saving the world or defeating an evil ruler or winning some magical competition. It's about climbing a mountain no one has ever climbed (and survived) before, and it's set in a fantasy empire inspired by the Himalayas.

The setting felt magical, and it had a rich, detailed mythology. The people of Azmiri have familiars, magical talismans, and use small dragons to light the rooms. There are witches, fianguls, and demons who will strike dangerous bargains with you, feeding on your soul.

If you don't like to read about long journeys, this is probably not the book for you. If you, like me, love description of cold, forbidding landscapes, and love to read about climbing, try Even the Darkest Stars. It's also the perfect winter book.

I loved Kamzin a lot. Her curiosity, her love for the mountains - she didn't feel like a typical YA character. She's not good at magic or fighting, she's good at surviving and climbing.
Some reviews say she has not-like-other-girls syndrome and... I don't agree. Being a bit boy-crazy (and I've read far worse than this), not being feminine and having a difficult relationship with your sister doesn't mean feeling superior to other girls! Can we stop hating on female characters for no reason?

I didn't like the male characters as much. Tem is the typical YA best friend who is in love with the main character and tries to hold her back, and River is the bad boy. Yes, there's a love triangle, kind of, but the main character states she's not into one of them anymore, so... not really?

River was condescending and irritating for most of the book. Those are qualities I hate in love interests, and for part of the book I hated him.
And then I had a theory. A theory that made me stop hate him.
I won't spoil anything, but I will tell you this: to make me like an unlikable character, you don't need a tragic past, an excuse or a description of nice abs - you need the right framing. It's always all about the framing.

I'm not even mad that I guessed all the plot twists. That was the way I wanted the story to go, and I'm glad it did.
And that ending. I mean, I saw it coming, but actually reading it...

Now I'm worried for the sequel. I don't want the love triangle to reopen, or the book to take a black-and-white approach to the conflict. But this ending has so much potential and I can't wait for the next book.

Trigger warning: death of a pet.
Profile Image for Carol (StarAngel's Reviews) Allen.
1,683 reviews600 followers
December 23, 2018
OMG...it's been awhile since I have enjoyed a book as much as I did this one! Even though I found myself frustrated with the heroine...she still tugged at my heartstrings!

And River?? I don't know whether to love him or hate him.

Only the next book in the series will help with this...and now I have to wait a WHOLE YEAR???

Profile Image for Rachel E. Carter.
Author 9 books3,518 followers
January 27, 2023
Unexpectedly epic.

Honestly the blurb for this book never interested me but hearing reviewer friends liked this made me curious and put the book on my TBR months ago... I'M SO HAPPY I GAVE THIS BOOK A CHANCE!!! The setting was AMAZING (I have a thing for harsh landscape/survival-ish stories), the romance was worth it, and honestly I've never really read anything like this -I so appreciate the author's research into mountaineering (I felt like I was right there with Kamzin) and the setting was so creepy and harsh I loved it (like I said, I'm a serious survival story buff). I found parts of this book (the middle to the not-quite-end) a bit slow but really this book was perfect. And I love how it ended -so many questions for how things will be resolved (I won't drop any spoilers but yasssss, the love interest has another side, hehe!)...

The one thing I didn't like. And when I said I didn't like I mean I was ready to cry buckets because it was so terrible to read.... .

Another author to watch, guys, and give this book a chance -you won't regret it!!!
Profile Image for Scrill.
408 reviews204 followers
December 15, 2017
They climb a mountain.

The Story- I was really looking forward to this book. When I picked it up I said to myself, “Mountains, Gandalf! Mountains!” No joke, I like to quote LOTR aloud quite a bit. But you know what? That’s all that there really was to this book. Sure there was actual story going on in the background, but in the foreground? Climbing, hiking, snowing, falling, climbing, mountain village, mountain peak, valleys, forest, snow shoes, rope, rocks, etc. THEN at 90% the story changes, you get some answers from the questions that are just danced around through the beginning, and then it’s all “to be continued” in the next book. WHICH I REFUSE TO SUFFER THROUGH. I cannot believe I didn’t DNF this book. It was literally putting me to sleep every night. I would read two pages in bed and would doze off! If it was good, I would have had problems falling asleep because I would be so absorbed in the book. Frustratingly though, it wasn’t!

The World Building-I don’t mind the superficial magical world building that was involved in this book. But I do mind the fact that there were dragons in this book and they were basically just used as lamps. I’m not joking! I thought, ooooh dragons. But they weren’t anything but flying torches!

The Characters- I thought all the characters had really superficial personalities. Everyone had their skill and that was all was pressed upon. Either they were a good or bad shaman, a good or bad climber, or were just there for filler.

The Soundtrack- Mew – Snow Brigade

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Profile Image for Eilonwy.
826 reviews207 followers
March 6, 2018
Kamzin, second daughter of her village-Elder father, is apprenticed to the local shaman. But Kamzin stinks at magic. What she really wants is to follow in the footsteps of her mother, an explorer. When River Shara, the Emperor’s official explorer, arrives in her village on his way to Raksha, the tallest mountain in the Aryas range, where a talisman that will protect the nation from witches is said to be hidden, Kamzin seizes her chance. But working for River means working against her older sister, Lusha, and risking the life of her best friend, Tem. It also means coming face to face with the monsters that roam the Aryas … and the darkness that can be found in human hearts, including Kamzin’s own.
I really enjoyed this!

The setting was awesome, in a Himalayas-like mountain chain. Everyone has to have some proficiency at climbing and navigating ledges and boulders, but Kamzin really loves testing herself on the trickiest terrain she can find. She enjoys nothing more than finding a way up or down a seemingly impossible cliff face. This came across less as braggadocio, and more as a deep love of place and the challenges offered by that place.

The characters are excellent, too. Kamzin felt completely believable to me as a 17-year-old. The other characters were all well-developed, with their own motives and agendas driving them, which maintained tension throughout the story. There’s some mild romantic tension between Kamzin and River, and Kamzin and Tem, but it’s not a ridiculous love triangle: it’s more that Kamzin sees that she has multiple possibilities. But she doesn’t need to choose immediately, and everyone is mostly focused on the mission.

Their goal requires focus, because much of it is taking place across unfamiliar, barely-charted terrain. In addition to the cold, bad weather, and the difficulty of traversing glaciers and icefall as they head upward, the land is populated by supernatural creatures: witches, ghosts, and fiangul, vicious bird-headed beings. Magic can help, a little. But a person really needs to keep her head, and not allow herself to be distracted.

I loved the mythology in this book. The witches are mostly off-page, but their menace hangs over the story. I liked the magic: everyone has some mild talent for it, and some people are naturally much better at it than others, but it takes a toll in both physical and mental energy on everyone who uses it.

The pacing was breathless, with no good place to stop reading, as action and surprises fill every page. The action and plot twists were balanced by Kamzin’s growing experience and character development. The plot threads all led somewhere and tied together. Information provided at the beginning of the story turned out to be important at the end.

This was one of my favorite reads so far this year! I’m so happy when a YA fantasy is so well-written and plotted. I’m really looking forward to spending more time with Kamzin in Book 2, which I think will tie up the plot (this looks to be a duology rather than a trilogy). But it doesn’t come out until December! Argh. This didn’t exactly end on a cliffhanger, but it sure wants to be continued.

I’m not sure if I recommend reading this book now, or waiting until both are out so you can just read them together.
Profile Image for Inge.
349 reviews894 followers
September 11, 2017
3.5 stars

Gosh, Even the Darkest Stars was absolutely beautiful. The setting especially - most of this book takes place in the mountains, because our characters are trying to find an ancient talisman at the top of Mount Raksha. Incidentally, this book could really do with a map, but the world-building itself was very nicely done. We're talking about an age-old feud between humankind and witches, pet dragons, familiars, pet dragons, shamanism, PET DRAGONS. All of it pampered around this beautiful scenery of snow-covered mountains and star-filled skies. I was mesmerised.

The story itself was also really good, though a bit slow. Even though Goodreads says my Kindle edition was 304 pages, it felt a lot longer. While I had a really good time reading this book, things get a bit monotonous when the characters are constantly walking and trekking, walking and trekking, doing some climbing, more trekking... Even this glorious mountainous setting get old after a while. Therefore, Even the Darkest Stars felt like it was 100 pages longer at times. It especially dragged around the 60-70% mark, when I wondered how we still weren't at the ending, and read paragraphs three times without taking anything in.

The ending, though, made up for a lot of that slowness. It definitely sets things up beautifully for the sequel, which I am very much interested in. Sounds like we'll be in for a good ride.

Thank you to Edelweiss and the publisher for providing me with a copy
Profile Image for Lauren.
848 reviews929 followers
October 1, 2017
A solid 5 star read!

I didn't really know what to expect when I picked this up but it definitely wasn't what was contained within. Even the Darkest Stars is a fabulous, dark and snow-filled read with some great characters (Kamzin, River, Tem and Ragtooth, of course) and leaves you wanting more. The atmosphere is tense and eerie and the descriptions of the mountains were superb! I followed Kamzin every step of the way and I even figured out one of the characters from nearly halfway in (I knew there was something suspect about a certain character).
I thoroughly enjoyed this and will definitely be purchasing the sequel; with an ending like that, it's impossible not to continue!
Profile Image for Anissa.
67 reviews915 followers
May 12, 2017
Wow, this took me by surprise and swept me off my feet! I loved this story from start to finish and devoured it in almost one sitting. I loved all of the different characters in this, and the mountainous setting was so unique. That ending has left me dying for the second book!
Profile Image for h o l l i s .
2,478 reviews1,895 followers
August 21, 2017
I'm tempted to award a whole extra star for the sole fact that this isn't a trilogy and everything will be resolved in the next book. Buuuut.

Okay, real talk. The setting in EVEN THE DARKEST STARS is so cool (see what I did there, ps it's about climbing a giant freezing cold snowy ass mountain, incase you didn't know..), I'm pretty sure it's based off the Himalayas, and it's so vivid and breathtaking. Which is the upside to a book set around a journey-style adventure. Bad news? It's an entire book set around a journey-style adventure. Which means there's a lot of not much happening because they are camping or climbing or cold or hurt.

That being said, I (mostly) really liked our leading lady. She's probably supposed to be a special snowflake but isn't because she can't do magic, thereby overruling her father's desire for her to be the village shaman in training, she isn't pretty, she's the youngest daughter, and she and her bestie have already tried dating and failed at it. So even the love triangle.. isn't, really, though I suppose you could argue the fact. What she is good at, however, is climbing. She wants to leave her small town and explore. So when the Royal Explorer, basically the second most powerful person in the kingdom after the Emperor, comes into town, she wants to impress him and help him on his mission to save the kingdom.

"I'd like you to speak to the herdsman about hiring another yak. I don't like the looks of the one your father offered. The way it stares at me, it's as if it's plotting something. I don't travel with plotters. Thieves, liars, cheats, that's all right, but I can't stand plotters."

Other than our heroine, there were moments I'd find I really liked River, the aforementioned Royal Explorer. Some of the banter between them was cute. A little YA-y modern but hey, whatever. I'm not sure how I felt about Tem, the best friend and ex, but I liked the strength of their friendship and how that was more heavily emphasized than any jealousies. He also played a very important role in the journey other than 'I'm here because you need protecting/because I love you still/because other guy is cuter than me and I'm threatened' which was a nice surprise. As for the rest of the secondary characters, however, most felt me unmoved. Which is part of my problem with this story on a whole. I liked so much of it but didn't really feel anything? Maybe just because so little happened.

"What is he?"
"What do you think he is? A fox."
"Are you sure? Looks more like a hairball with teeth."
"He has some mange. There's no need to be rude about it."

There's magic, mystery, witches and wintry elements. The pacing was pretty consistent, which is to say a bit slow as they journey forwards both literally and, for some characters, emotionally, but the ending left us with one or two major surprises that guarantee I'll be back for more. I'm hoping for a lot more action in the final installment, though, specifically with the witches that were more of a threat than actually present in book one -- which, considering the ending, seems like a natural next step.

2.75 "I wanted to push against the world and feel it push back" stars

** I received an ARC from Edelweiss and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **
Profile Image for Tink Magoo is bad at reviews.
1,263 reviews203 followers
July 7, 2017

3.5 stars

I know I carry on about the flow in stories a lot, but really it can make all the difference and pull a mediocre tale up at least a star and Heather Fawcett has a style that's so easy to read that I found it hard to put this one down (even during the slower parts). Add to that the small mountainside setting and an adventurous trek surrounded by mysteries. I loved those aspects. The pacing was a bit off through the middle (slow) and end (rushed), but aside from that, I'm looking forward to some ass-kicking in the next book.
Profile Image for Margaret Rogerson.
Author 4 books13.6k followers
February 14, 2017
I had the privilege of reading an advance copy of ETDS, and it’s as incredible as it sounds - a breathless adventure in a truly unique setting. Though Fawcett doesn’t hold back describing the brutalities of mountain climbing, I couldn’t help but want to be there with the characters, taking in this landscape of sparkling, sharp-edged beauty layered with unforgettable monsters, high-altitude perils, and magic both gorgeous and terrifying. Above all, I’m sad to leave Kamzin and River behind.

This is the rare book that transports you so fully to a different world you feel as though you have lived there and explored it yourself, destined to be read over and over until its cover falls apart.

I absolutely can’t wait for the sequel.
Profile Image for Cindee.
858 reviews36 followers
December 8, 2018
I really loved this book it was very exciting I loved all aspects of the story can't wait for the sequel. I really liked the characters especially Kamzin and River even with what happened at the end that just makes me want more. I loved the story it was so very well written I loved everything from the journey to the romance and the magic and all of the interesting things that happened. So overall I loved this book and I really need that sequel now.
Profile Image for Cassie.
349 reviews65 followers
January 28, 2019
me: closes book.
also me: gets up to go bury it underneath the snow that’s piled in my yard.
me talking to book: now, sit there and think about what you’ve just done.

wow, what a terrifying and thrilling journey this was.

i throughly enjoyed this wintery tale. it was scary and surprising. for whatever reason, i didn’t think i would like this book. boy, i was so wrong. i will admit, though, that this story is very slow. but it also feeds you breadcrumbs of little bits of intriguing information that just has you thinking “i need to know more,” which is what helped me to continue throughout the story and enjoy it. the writing was also great, it definitely at times gave me chills simply because the way heather fawcett strung her sentences together made me feel the cold deep in my bones. at times, i truly felt as if i was on the mountain of raksha with these characters.

speaking of characters, i also really liked them. i felt for them and was rooting for them the entire time. especially tem, he has my entire heart.

and this fucking ending has my head spinning and i’m lowkey heartbroken???? it’s fine, i suppose. yeah, it’s fine. everything is fine. IT’S FINE.
(btw i’m looking at you, river) 👀

i so badly want to start the sequel right away but my eyes are burning because i’ve been reading for almost three hours straight, so it’ll have to wait until tomorrow. *cries into oblivion*

overall, i definitely recommend this! especially if you’re surrounded by snow and the temperatures are a deep freeze, like it is where i live. this story has definitely opened a gateway to polar fantasy for me and i can’t wait to explore more stories like this one!
Profile Image for Dani ❤️ Perspective of a Writer.
1,512 reviews5 followers
August 28, 2018
Check out more reviews @ Perspective of a Writer...

When the greatest explorer ever known demands to hire Kamzin—not her older sister Lusha—for his next expedition everything changes. This is Kamzin’s chance to prove herself—even though River’s mission to retrieve a rare talisman for the emperor means climbing Raksha, the tallest and deadliest mountain in the Aryas. Then Lusha sets off on her own mission to Raksha with a rival explorer who is determined to best River, and Kamzin must decide what’s most important to her: protecting her sister from the countless perils of the climb or beating her to the summit.

The short review...

I adored this book. I hadn't been as excited by a book like this one, I felt, in a long time. I was quite excited by the world building that came on strong (mountains, tiny village, climbing, shamans, dragon lights) and I could really root for Kamzim who is the opposite of her perfect and gorgeous sister. All she wanted to do is become an explorer like her mom and now was her chance...

I was ready and willing to follow her into the mountains with River where we would spend half the time climbing and the other half trying to convince River that she should become an explorer with his help. And I enjoyed where the story went from here... River became a favorite of mine even though he wasn't your typical romantic lead.

As a rather unique twist I had my brother read the book too! He is totally the YA demographic and enjoys action packed books with tons of magic and cool world building details... So you probably guessed he didn't enjoy it the way I did. He said it was a 3 star and I know he struggled to get to the really good bits at the end (which he enjoyed, though he was disappointed with how they treated each other in the end).

He loved the ideas in the book (the shamans, River, the witches) but was quite underwhelmed by the outcome of those ideas. He wanted more to happen and felt there was too much climbing! And I agree with him... if you don't enjoy a realistic edge to your story then this will probably feel incredibly slow as we travel through the mountains climbing with them. The events that happen embellish the climbing with magic and fun but ultimately the point is to get to the top of the mountain before her sister and River's rival.

Cover & Title grade -> A-

I love this cover! I love when typography is worked into the design in a beautiful way... And while at first you are going HUH at the title I found it to be a beautiful foreshadowing of what was to come in the story. One of those old fashioned titles that don't hit you over the head but are about the theme and are as timeless as they come! While I don't remember Kamzin wearing a loose cloak like pictured I was loving the rest of the art. The mountains and sky with the village nestled below! I liked that it was a setting cover as the atmosphere and the mountains play a huge role in the story... to the point the mountain is another character...

What in the world are you trying to say about Even the Darkest Stars? I'll let you decide!

#1 - It reads better for adult readers.
This isn't our world, so it has fantasy elements to it but it leans heavily on realistic events and the speed of events fits the tone of the book quite well. It simply feels more believable. It's less crazy and of a more realistic pace as compared to YA books.

#2 - It's about climbing and the mountains.
It's a realistic look at early climbing through a gorgeous mountainous setting. I felt like I was in the mountains climbing. I felt like I was an explorer! This may not be exciting to you...

#3 - The magic is more magical realism level than fantasy level.
This is a realistic world merged with a paranormal one. Because we are climbing a mountain there are hints of witches, shamans, and demons but on a limited basis. There are magic items like talismans, dragons that provide light and spells that are more helpful than miraculous.

#4 - It's a thinking reader's book!
Kamzin was quite thoughtful as she made decisions and considered what the right course was to proceed. If you consider River and his actions you will find yourself following Kamzin in her thought process and reach a similar conclusion as she did at the end...

#5 - It's not about the twists but about the reality of the story.
Because its a thinking readers book if you consider the foreshadowing and what you'd want to happen you can probably guess how things will end up. There aren't any red herrings here, in fact I hazard to guess they weren't meant to be twists but natural happenings that arose due to the current circumstances. It makes for a natural story that is enjoyable to read but not jaw dropping.

If you enjoy the idea of 3 or more of these points then this is a go for you to read! Even the Darkest Stars can be quite enjoyable for readers who want a story that is a little different, majorly real and an adventure that takes you step by step through the journey.

As a Writer...

There are sooooo many new contemporary magical realism out there to read nowadays that we are quite spoiled! I know that I love a story with the barest hints of magic that teases around the edges of an otherwise realistic world... Can you imagine that in a historical setting with just a tad more to the world building?! That is Even the Darkest Stars ... It is soooo hard to describe such a unique book, settling on any one label feels wrong.... This THRILLS me as a writer! While getting a book sold has a lot to do with FITTING in with the publishing industries genres... getting a book LOVED has a lot to do with DEFEATING your typical expectations at the same time. That is a balance that is hard to find and will be different for each reader.

Even the Darkest Stars is an amazing journey through a world that I LOVE! River takes Kamzin on her second expedition ever and they bond over climbing and overcoming their limits... Only to find shamans, demons, best friends, sisters and witches getting into the mix. It makes for a grand adventure that feels true to life!

⋆ ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Authenticity
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Writing Style
⋆ ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Plot & Pacing
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ World Building

You can find this review and many others on my book blog @ Perspective of a Writer. See my special perspective at the bottom of my reviews under the typewriter...
Profile Image for Caylynn.
679 reviews91 followers
January 24, 2020
Reread review- STILL 5/5 fucking stars. This book is so good and soooo underrated! Still highly recommend with all of my being if you like plot and character based journey novels.
As highly as Lusha thought of herself, she was no match for me when it came to applying stupid, brute strength to physical obstacles... I could navigate an icefall on a moonless night, and stick to mountains like sap. It was the one way I had always bested Lusha.

Let me tell you- if it weren't for Noverantale (an incredible fan artist on Instagram that I've been following for over a year), I would never have discovered this masterpiece. Seriously, this is such a hidden gem of a book, and I'm upset that it'll most likely never get the following that it deserves.

Even the Darkest Stars is basically a reimagining of the first explorers of Mount Everest, but in a fantasy world where witches are a nightmare legend coming back into power and animal familiars are rare and stubborn creatures that show up at the most random times of need for their masters. It has everything from tiny baby dragons used as floating lanterns to guide travelers and courtiers alike, to fire demons that make deals with shamans for greater amounts of power in exchange for bits of their soul or mind after each spell.

Amidst all of this magic and demonic relation, however, is the unspoken competition between two daughters of the head Elder of their mountain village. As our main character, we see from Kamzin's POV as she witnesses her older sister chosen for the expedition of a lifetime with the Emperor's Royal Explorer. Out of nowhere, Lusha betrays her family and the Royal Explorer, takes half of his supplies, and runs off with his head chronicler to traverse the dangerous Raksha mountain on her own. In her place, Kamzin is asked to lead River Shara- AKA the Royal Explorer- to the summit of Raksha and beat her sister.

This story made me laugh. It made me sigh in exasperation and tension. It made me wince in secondhand embarrassment, gasp in surprise, and shout (not really, but still) in anger and fright. The personalities of Kamzin and River were so unique and well-written. Kamzin's stubbornness, independence, and inability to turn down an opportunity to challenge herself clashed well with River's own stubborn refusal to open up, his desire to push the group to their limits to reach the summit first, and his air of disregard towards things that should ruffle his feathers but don't.
"I'd like you to speak to the herdsman about borrowing another yak. I don't like the looks of the one your father offered. The way it stares at me, it's as if it's plotting something. I don't travel with plotters. Thieves, liars, cheats, that's all right, but I can't stand plotters....Finally, see if you can find me a good ice ax. I lost mine."

"You LOST your-"

"A yak trampled it on my last expedition. Snapped it in two. Did you hear what I said about choosing your yak carefully?"

And the way that these two met, my god. It was so awkward and cringey and they were both so drunk that I couldn't stop laughing. I NEED more book with realistically awkward and bumbling teenagers/young adults that stumble through interactions like this.

I really can't say much else about this book without spoiling something. I recommend going into this book as blindly as possible-aside from what I've already spoken of in my review- so you can fully enjoy it's spectacular world building, scenery, characters, and dialogue for yourself.



Excuse me, what??? I'm waiting to write my review until after I finish the sequel, because I CAN'T WAIT THAT LONG TO READ IT.

BRB, gonna go binge All the Wandering Light now!!
Profile Image for Nina.
306 reviews409 followers
November 28, 2018
A Himalaya-inspired setting. Two sisters pitched against each other. Magic. Dragons. What could possibly go wrong? Well, as it turns out, a lot.

Even The Darkest Stars could have been amazing because the potential was definitely there. Unfortunately, the book suffers from three diseases which the author found no cure for: Special snowflake syndrome, lack-of-plot syndrome, and annoying-love-triangle syndrome.

Profile Image for Denise.
561 reviews
January 12, 2019
Dieses Buch war in 2017 in einer Fairyloot Box und seitdem stand es bei mir ungelesen im Regal. Denn auch wenn das Cover wunderschön ist, hat mich der Klappentext eher weniger angesprochen und damit hatte ich größtenteils auch recht.

Die meiste Zeit dreht sich dieses Buch nur um die Reise zum Ziel der Charaktere🙊. Sie wandern, klettern, wandern und klettern 😅. An sich habe ich damit kein Problem, aber nur wenn mich die Charaktere interessieren 😅.
Das war hier leider nicht der Fall...
Die Protagonistin Kamzin kam mir eher wie jemand vor, der sich um jeden Preis beweisen möchte und zu naiv ist 🙊. Ansonsten ist sie eher blass geblieben 😅.
Tem war für mich einfach nur "der beste Freund" und River fand ich von Anfang an komisch 🤷🏻‍♀️.

Demnach war das einzige an dem Buch, das ich richtig toll fand das Setting! Es war wirklich magisch und die Landschaften konnte ich mir richtig gut vorstellen 😊. Auch die ganzen Wesen wie die Drachen, Ragtooth und Co fand ich wirklich super dargestellt, auch wenn ich zu Ragtooth gerne mehr Infos gehabt hätte. Er nimmt ja doch eine wichtige Rolle ein, aber man erfährt nicht wo diese Begleiter herkommen und warum sie da sind...

Zum Ende hin (die letzten 30-40 Seiten) hat das Buch mich doch noch fesseln können, denn obwohl ich eine Sache wirklich erwartet habe, hätte ich sie nicht in dieser Form erwartet 🤔. Demnach könnte ich mir gut vorstellen, dass mir Band 2 bedeutend besser gefallen könnte. Erstmal werde ich ihn zwar nicht kaufen, aber ich könnte mir vorstellen irgendwann mal reinzulesen 😄.
Profile Image for Sarah.
3,343 reviews1,015 followers
January 5, 2018
Even the Darkest Stars is a fantasy story set in a fictional version of the Himalayas where magic, witches and demons are real. As the youngest daughter of the village chief Kamzin has spent her life training to become the next Shaman but magic isn't something that comes easily to her and all she really wants to do is become an explorer like her late mother was. When one of the Emperor's elite royal explorers comes to the village to prepare for an expedition to Raksha everyone expects Kamzin's sister Lusha to be chosen as his guide but when Lusha vanishes River turns to Kamzin to help him on his journey instead. This is a dream come true for Kamzin and a chance for her to prove herself but the trek is going to be more perilous than she ever could have imagined and she's going to have to make some very difficult decisions along the way.

I absolutely loved the setting of this book, the lush mountains are described beautifully and are like extra characters in the story, particularly Raksha, the largest mountain in the kingdom, one that nobody has been able to reach the summit of and the one that Kamzin must help River conquer. The thrill of the climb and the dangers they face along the way kept me completely hooked and it felt like I was right there with them on the climb. This is a fairly slow build story though, a lot of major plot elements aren't explored until quite late in the game and certain revelations made towards the end of the book change the way you look at everything that went before it. I actually enjoyed the slower pace here though and the way Heather Fawcett took the time to build her world and bring her setting to life in front of us.

Kamzin is a great character, she can be a little self-centred and tends to focus on her end goal at the cost of missing things along the way but her heart is in the right place and she just wants the chance to prove herself and make her father proud of her. I admired her determination and the way she just wouldn't quit no matter how many obstacles were thrown into her path. I could have done without the dreaded love triangle but it wasn't the main focus so I can forgive it. River was an explorer like Kamzin, he loved taking risks and I could definitely see the appeal because they had so many common interests but I also really liked her childhood friend Tem so it's hard to pick between them. Tem was less of a risk taker but he was just as brave, in fact I'd almost say he was braver because he was facing his fears because he wanted to protect Kamzin, he wasn't the strongest climber but he bought his own set of skills and they wouldn't have made it as far as they did without him.

I really enjoyed Heather Fawcett's debut novel and I'm looking forward to seeing how Kamzin's story ends in All the Wandering Light later this year.
Profile Image for Beatrice in Bookland.
460 reviews838 followers
June 24, 2018
"Hearts of shadow, eyes of flame.
None escape who witches claim."

This is not a bad book, but I just... wasn't that into it, I guess?

On one hand, I think this book's strongest point is the atmosphere. I don't even like mountains and all things related to it but the author made me want to buy a ticket to go ski. And I hate skiing (horrible childhood memories, ugh). And the familiars and little dragons were definitely a plus, they're so cute and cuddly, I want one.

On the other hand, the book's weakest point has got to be the pacing. The beginning and the last 30 pages are ok, they make you want to read and keep following Kamzin's journey but the middle part has so many boring parts. There are entire pages full of descriptions on how to scale a mountain and all the safety precautions the characters have to take and I just... don't care, sorry.

So we've talked about the strongest and weakest points of the book, there's only the meh point left aka the characters. I was never attached to them. Maybe I care a bit about Ten (and Ragtooth, obviously) but anything could have happened to Kamzin and River and I wouldn't have cared. I didn't even mind the final plot twist (btw, the plot twist wasn't shocking, everyone can tell something's wrong from the very first pages).

I don't think I'm going to read the sequel but who knows, maybe if I'm in the mood ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Profile Image for Laurie.
Author 19 books3,478 followers
July 21, 2018
I'm a big fan of both fantasy and books about mountain climbing (like Krakauer's phenomenal INTO THIN AIR - an all-time favorite) - so when I heard that EVEN THE DARKEST STARS was a mountain climbing fantasy, well, I was immediately all in. It did not disappoint. And was perfect reading for the recent heat spell we had in Vermont - because author Fawcett conveyed the visceral sense of climbing an Everest like mountain so well (with supernatural creatures on the prowl), I could almost feel the dangerous chill. This is a very difficult book to rave about without giving away major spoilers - so let's just say that there's some very nice chemistry with the supernatural (and delightfully cheeky) male lead (very nice chemistry - holy lord that kiss) and a unique take on witches and demons. And an end that took me completely by surprise that had me rush to pre-order the sequel. And honestly - can we talk about the cover to this and the sequel? Flat out some of the best covers out there today. Well done, Heather Fawcett. You just gained a new fan. #TeamKamzin #TeamAzar-at
Profile Image for Samm | Sassenach the Book Wizard.
1,147 reviews245 followers
November 24, 2019
Dafuq another book where my review disappeared?!

Anyway, I want a familiar. My familiar would 100% be a sloth or llama. I loved the focus on map making. I loved the romance triangle (for once!). I loved the adventuring. I loved the betrayal. I am super excited to read the sequel.
Profile Image for Isabella.
419 reviews104 followers
October 21, 2017
21. Oktober 2017:
Ich hätte niemals zu Even the Darkest Stars gegriffen, wäre es nicht in meiner FairyLoot von September enthalten gewesen. Ich hatte dieses Buch nicht einmal auf meinem "Radar", ehrlich gesagt – aber als ich erstmalig von der Prämisse las, war ich gleich Feuer und Flamme für Kamzins Abenteuer. Zumindest ich habe noch nie etwas in der Art gelesen, fand die Idee einfach unglaublich cool.
Obwohl es sich bei Even the Darkest Stars um ihr Debüt handelt, gelang es Heather Fawcett mühelos, mich von der ersten Seite an in den Bann zu ziehen. Die Geschichte entwickelt schnell eine Sogwirkung, die ich so nicht erwartet hätte – gerade in Anbetracht der Sache, dass das Buch nicht nur in einer fiktiven Welt spielt, sondern auch ein ganzes Magiesystem inklusive eigenartigen Wesen und Gestalten mitbringt, manche mehr, andere weniger vertraut. Dennoch hatte ich nie das Gefühl, dem Ganzen nicht folgen zu können; nur wenige Fragen über den Weltenbau blieben für mich unbeantwortet, und gerade für den Auftakt einer Reihe bin ich wirklich zufrieden mit der Menge Informationen, die ich als Leserin erhielt.
Fawcetts Schreibstil ist poetisch und bildhaft, gerade die Dialoge haben mir unglaublich gut gefallen. Andere Rezensenten loben insbesondere, dass es ihr gelingt, die Landschaft (insbesondere die Berge) dem Leser nahezubringen; das kann ich persönlich nicht bestätigen. Es kann aber auch gut daran liegen, dass ich weder mit dem Thema noch mit der englischen Terminologie vertraut bin und tatsächlich öfters mal etwas nachschlagen/googeln musste, um zu verstehen, was um Kamzin herum eigentlich gerade passierte. Wenn ihr sowieso mit dem Lesen auf Englisch noch nicht so vertraut seid, würde ich euch vielleicht raten, auf die deutsche Ausgabe zu warten. (Aber es lohnt sich!)
"Are you saying I can't do this?"
"I think you can do anything," he said quietly. "That's what scares me."

Was die Charaktere anbetrifft, hat Fawcett ebenfalls tolle Arbeit geleistet. Gerade die Protagonistin Kamzin ist mir mit ihrem trockenen Realismus sehr schnell sympathisch geworden. Sie ist nicht jemand, der sich kleinmacht oder schlechtredet; stattdessen kann sie ihre Fähigkeiten realistisch einschätzen. Die Familiendynamik zwischen ihrem Vater und ihrer Schwester hat mir ebenfalls gut gefallen – auch wenn das Verhältnis der drei angespannt ist, hatte ich als Leserin stets das Gefühl, ausreichend Gründe dafür zu erhalten.
Kamzins bester Freund Tem … ist nicht der übelste beste Freund, den ich je gelesen habe, aber ich hege immer noch diese seltsame bester Freund-Abneigung, die die Grisha-Trilogie in mir ausgelöst hat. (Heißt: Ich mag es nicht, wenn a) der beste Freund als weiteres Loveinterest eingeführt wird und b) der Protagonistin nur ein Klotz am Bein ist.) Es ist kein Spoiler, wenn ich sage, dass Tem sehr verliebt in Kamzin ist (die beiden haben es miteinander versucht und sie weiß, dass sie ihn nicht auf diese Weise liebt), und als Begleiter auf ihrer Reise ist er … zumindest manchmal nützlich. Also, ich bin zwiegespalten. Es tut mir leid. Vermutlich gilt wie immer, dass es an meiner seltsamen Aversion liegt, dass ich Tem nicht wirklich wertschätzen könnte.
Kommen wir zu dem Hauptaugenmerk à la dem mysteriösen Typen aus dem Klappentext namens River Shara. Hier wurde ich sehr positiv überrascht, einerseits, wie die Romanze zwischen ihm und Kamzin sich entwickelt, aber auch er als Charakter hat mir sehr gut gefallen. Bevor er und Kamzin sich erstmalig annähern, arbeiten sie miteinander und man erfährt einiges über ihn, seine Familie und seine Prinzipien. Ich habe die beiden sogar (sehr) geshippt, was sich bei mir zu einer Seltenheit entwickelt hat, also … ich bin immer noch echt froh darüber. Die Dialoge der beiden sind einfach herrlich, brachten mich oft zum Lachen und besitzen einfach eine grandiose Dynamik.
Grundsätzlich wird das Versprechen des Klappentexts gehalten: Even the Darkest Stars ist wirklich ein einzigartiges Buch, sowohl vom Weltenbau (es gibt kleine Drachen, die quasi als Lichter fungieren!), aber auch von den Charakteren (das All That Sass-Motto der FairyLoot ist definitiv zutreffend) her. Selbst die Geschichte hat eine komplett andere Richtung in den letzten paar Kapiteln eingeschlagen, sehr düster, aber unglaublich cool! Da kann ich auch bereitwillig darüber hinwegsehen, dass die Geschichte im Mittelteil etwas langsamer voranschreitet. Andererseits klebte ich auch so sehr an den Seiten, dass mir das kaum aufgefallen sind.
Der zweite Band, All the Wandering Light (noch so ein schöner Titel!), erscheint leider erst im September 2018. Andererseits bietet mir das genug Zeit, Even the Darkest Stars ein zweites Mal zu lesen – denn ich bin wirklich schwer beeindruckt von Heather Fawcetts Debüt und kann mir gut vorstellen, dass es einiges in Kamzins Welt gibt, das ich noch nicht entdeckt habe.

12. Oktober 2017:
Ich hätte die Fortsetzung bitte gerne gestern. Wie fies kann ein Ende sein?!
Profile Image for rachel, x.
1,739 reviews868 followers
September 15, 2017
Even the Darkest Stars was a beautifully atmospheric read. The Himalayan-inspired fantasy world it was set in was, by far, my favourite aspect of the story. The world truly came to life under Fawcett’s writing style. She truly has a knack for world-building with the way she was able to seamlessly blend Nepalese culture with her unique magic system. I adored that so many different magical races were present, especially how they tied in with the characters’ own folklore. The mini dragons were just so adorable and I always love stories with human-animal bonds. I did think that the fire demon and Familiar lore could have been developed more but I loved Fawcett’s spin on witches. Hopefully, they will play more of a role in the sequels!

I personally enjoyed the storyline. Looking back, I guess it was a little slow but it did not read like that. I was able to flip through this story incredibly quickly. The plot is a journey-plot at its heart though so there were a lot of walking, talking and making camp scenes. Did it bother me? No, not really. I really loved how it let us explore the world and it never became repetitive. There were lots of ‘action’ scenes to break the monotony of their expedition up. I also thought that it added an emotional element to the story: the danger of their journey was constantly present and kind of terrifying. I will say that one problem I had with the plot was how some scenes lacked the emotion they needed. I don’t quite know how to phrase it but there were a few times throughout the story where something happened and Kamzin’s reaction was so mild that it took the, I don’t know, the emphasis (??) out of the scene. I am mainly talking about . Both of those scenes should have caused Kamzin to react very strongly but she kind of accepted it and moved on without even blinking. I think that if Fawcett had tapped into the emotion of the story at these points, it would have helped to pull me into the story more. I felt too much like an outsider looking in, completely disengaged from the story happening before my eyes.

Unfortunately, the book did suffer from another fatal flaw: a love triangle. For the love of all things good and pure, I beg of you, authors please stop doing this to us! It is not realistic and by now, it is almost impossible to add anything unique to add to this trope. It is so tired, so worn out. It really disappointed me that it had to be included. It detracted from the main storyline and I had little patience for some of the petty drama it ignited. I could understand where the feelings between River and Kamzin might have started from: they had a lot of the same interests and had to spend a lot of time together. In fact, I would have been happy for River and Kamzin to develop a romantic relationship if it had been more appropriate. In the middle of a dangerous (read: deadly) mountain-trekking expedition was definitely not the place. Tem did also frustrate me. I understand you cannot help who you develop feelings for; becoming bitter about them remaining unrequited starts to toe the line of problematic, though. Yes, Kamzin did make a few dodgy decisions and he would not be a true friend if he did not try to stop her from pointing that out. I was just a little worried about his motivation doing so might not have been 100% pure.


I really enjoyed Even the Darkest Stars but it was not a standout read. Fawcett definitely has a talent for world-building and atmospheric writing. I loved this world, particularly its mythology and creatures. The plotline was engaging but a lot of the key scenes failed to capture the emotion of the situation. It made me feel oddly detached from the characters and their journey, which really hurt my overall enjoyment. I also thought that the incorporation of a love triangle was unnecessary and led to petty drama. lacked emotion. The ending was intense, though, so I look forward to seeing where the sequel will take these characters.

Review copy provided by the publisher for an honest review.
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