Set the Stars Alight by Amanda Dykes
As a young child, Lucy Claremont is fascinated by the tales her father weaves by the firelight. Each night, in an aged brick cottage in London, the family of this humble watchmaker, uncover a world of light and wonder. But it’s one story in particular that captures Lucy’s imagination — two hundred years earlier, a ship vanished into the night along with the traitor who stole her. Dedicating her life’s work to the finding of this lost ship, Lucy learns she needs the support of her childhood friend Dash to help unravel the puzzle.
Her evenings, however, were magic. Each day, as the sun began to set over Candlewick’s towers and the stars began to appear, and the flats across the courtyards were coming to life with the blue glow of tellies, she returned to the glass house and felt the rush of the city drop away. The cottage was a place where tales spun inside every dusty shaft of golden-hour sunlight. Where each evening, stories and riddles were told around flickering flames — crackling hearth fire in winter months, pirouetting candlelight in the summer.”Set The Stars Alight, Amanda Dykes
Over two centuries earlier, the young son of an Admiral finds himself bound for a life on the seas. But a chance encounter with a shepherd forever alters his life and sets him off on a course charted for betrayal and heartbreak. As Frederick finds himself in a world of trouble, he will do anything to protect the family he’s built — even if that means sacrificing himself.
As past and present collide, Lucy’s search leads her to this long-hidden tale. With each layer of the mystery chipped away, Lucy finds herself one step closer to the healing she so desperately seeks. Can she let Dash back into her life again? Can they find the missing ship, Jubilee? And more importantly, can they uncover the greater narrative lying behind her father’s candlelit stories?
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This book was magical. I originally chose this book based on its cover (because honestly, how gorgeous is that?!?) and was pleasantly surprised to find that the story within was even more beautiful.
I was immediately captivated by the storytelling. The words ripple across the page like poetry. Each chapter contains descriptions that are vivid and rich, without distracting from the intricacy of the story. Layering story upon story, Dykes has meticulously crafted a novel that you want to sit and savour, letting the story unfold at its own pace.
Often times, with dual narrative books, I find myself enjoying one of the stories more than the other. I speed read through certain chapters in order to get back to the “more interesting” timeline. But that wasn’t the case with this book. I found myself equally immersed in both stories.
The characters are the kind you find yourself rooting for. The ones with real problems and flaws that make them endearing and loveable rather than annoying. Partly, this is due to the strong friendship theme that is carried across the entire novel — friendships that hint not just at possible romance, but a sense of family forged by choice.
I was also inspired by the depth of each story. The author says that writing this book was like “those wooden nesting dolls, where each doll opens up to reveal another doll inside. On it goes, layer by layer, story upon story.” And that’s exactly what it felt like. I arrived at the end of this book, completely in awe of the numerous hidden parables and overarching narrative nestled throughout this novel. It’s extremely well built and for that, I give Dykes a round of applause.
In many ways, this novel felt very reminiscent of Kate Morton’s books (another favourite author of mine.) And with storytelling like this, I am excited to read more from Amanda Dykes! This book has earned a permanent place on my bookshelf — something that’s not easily done in a crowded apartment. For that, I give it an absolutely beautiful, 5 stars.
2020 Categories “Set The Stars Alight” could fit under:
Written by a female author, book with romance, book published in 2020, a strong friendship theme, story takes place on a form of transportation.