"A Wilderness of Stars" | Reviewed by Bea Jacquin
“A Wilderness of Stars,” by Shea Ernshaw, is a tale as old as time…or rather the stars themselves. This young adult title is a marvelous story of courage and adventure.
As far back as Vega can recall her mother told her stories about the constellations—nights spent under a blanket of stars as her mother wove tales of them to help her remember, the Last Astronomer passing her knowledge down to her daughter as it has been done for generations.
No stars were more important than Tova and Llitha, for when they appeared in the sky, Vega and her mother would leave the valley and find the Architect. Together, the three would find a cure for the disease known as consumption. It was a horrid extremely devastating and unbearable infection slowly eating away pieces of a person, their hearing, their sight, their strength until there wasn’t enough left of them to survive.
Vega has waited her whole life for Tova and Llitha to appear. But, when they finally do arrive, the elation she’d anticipated doesn’t come. Her mother is too weak to make the journey and Vega must go on alone.
As her mother warned, the wilds outside the valley are dangerous. Vega soon learns of her ignorance about the wider world. It seems everyone outside the valley has heard the tale of the Astronomer and know about the Last Astronomer who bears the secret of their salvation.
She tries to keep the mark that reveals her identity, the constellation tattooed on her neck, hidden. But It’s not long before it’s discovered and the dangers her mother warned her about become reality. She finds herself being pursued by a group known as the “Theorists”, a fanatical group that believe Vega is the key to their survival. The Theorists believe it is not her knowledge but her actual being that will cure consumption and are more than willing to test this theory on her. Rescued from the Theorists by a girl named Cricket, Vega finds herself on the run again.
Once Vega finds the Architect the pace drastically picks up as his instructions are to take her to a ship waiting in the sea, a journey made all the more harrowing as the Theorists are still on their trail. Vega believed reaching the ship was going to be the answer to the sickness and while the ship does hold answers, it contains so much more than just the cure.
Knowing only the small bit of the world she was raised in, Vega's desire to meet new people and experience unfamiliar places brings on anxiety, a feeling many of us have felt. Her hesitation during pivotal moments subtly reminds readers of her sheltered life and the true breadth of her undertaking.
Ernshaw’s vivid writing draws you into Vega’s venture, inviting you into a world where sickness has laid claim to most of the population, taking many of technological advances along with it. Beautiful world building plays backdrop to Vega’s harrowing journey, one that keeps you promising yourself “just one more chapter”.
Equal parts heartbreaking and hopeful, “A Wildness of Stars” embodies finding hope and a reason to keep going even when it feels like you’ve lost everything.