ADVANCED REVIEW: Fall Hard for ‘The Last Fallen Star’

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The Last Fallen Star

The Last Fallen Star by Graci Kim is the first book in a new series, Gifted Clans. It is published by Disney-Hyperion under the Rick Riordan Presents imprint. Riley Oh always wanted to be initiated into her clan, the Goms, just like her sister and the rest of her family. She wanted healing magic and to be accepted as a part of the Gifted community. But she is saram, or non-magical, and the circumstances of Riley’s adoption are also mysterious. And the L.A. chapter of the Gifted Clans is especially wary of anything out of the ordinary. That is, ever since the Horangi scholar clan, who betrayed the rest of the community 13 years ago, were banished and severed from their patron god and magic powers.

In the world of The Last Fallen Star, there are six Gifted Clans, each with their own patron god and unique magical abilities ranging from healing to illusions to knowledge to combat. Much like the Rick Riordan books (which get a nice little reference early on), they’re modernized takes on classic Korean mythologies blended with ample creative and original ideas. The book is filled with Korean words, customs, and culture that firmly ground the book in the community it takes place in and represents while making it accessible to any reader to partake in.

Reading The Last Fallen Star is one of the first times I’ve read a book about Gen Zers that really felt like it was in the voice of a Gen Zer. The narration by Riley is embedded with so much personality, in much the same way that Rick Riordan books are famous for, that I can completely picture her and every other one of the book’s many teenage characters. The topical references are on point, but just the language Riley uses and the way she organizes her thoughts are spot-on for a 13-year-old.

I specifically emphasize that it’s the teens who are well fleshed out because in general, the adults are a bit less so. We spend less time with them, but I had a much harder time picturing most of them in my head than I did the younger characters. But, the absolutely apparent personality of Riley, her sister Hattie, her best friend Emmett, and all the other teens help make some of the very YA tropes less cringy. 

I’m often less than thrilled when the plot of a story, YA or otherwise, revolves around a total unwillingness or inability to communicate. With teens, I get it; they’re not known for being the most open books, but it’s such a tired trope sometimes. It bummed me out at first that The Last Fallen Star was premised around the same notion in the beginning, until the secrets get let out early enough that the rest of the book can proceed freely. And once it does, oh boy does it proceed.

The adventure through a unique and original amalgamation of Korean myths is fresh and exhilarating as Riley races to right a grave wrong while uncovering her past and a great conspiracy. The pace never lets up once it gets going and blends some intense action moments with really emotional and reflective ones. There’s a particular chapter where Riley provides a favor to a ghost in exchange for valuable information that made me absolutely weep inconsolable. It was so beautifully written and delivered. The learning moments were occasionally written out in very obvious language as Riley explains what she is coming to understand after an experience. But given the young reader demographic and the weight behind these moments, they are only effective on every front.

More than anything, I’m really impressed with Kim’s willingness to let the first book in a new series end the way it does. It is far from the typical ending to the first entry in a series and for that, I am possibly even more excited for the second book than I already would have been. The world Kim builds and the systems of governance, magic, and religion she weaves have me absolutely captivated. I’m already theorizing all the ways the next book might expand on these ideas and I’m sure that I’m going to be totally surprised by all the creative directions I never even considered, just as I was throughout The Last Fallen Star.

The Last Fallen Star is a great start to a new series. I loved the opportunity to dive into a culture and mythology underrepresented in fantasy books and cannot wait to explore it further in the next Gifted Clans book.

The Last Fallen Star is available wherever books are sold on May 4th.

The Last Fallen Star
5

TL;DR

The Last Fallen Star is a great start to a new series. I loved the opportunity to dive into a culture and mythology underrepresented in fantasy books and cannot wait to explore it further in the next Gifted Clans book.