Written in Starlight

It was almost exactly one year ago when I read Isabel Ibañez‘s debut novel, Woven in Moonlight. Its sequel, Written in Starlight, was one of my most anticipated books of January 2021. I was determined to read it before this year ends, and in these final weeks of 2021, it was exactly the book I needed.

Written in Starlight by Isabel Ibañez
SeriesWoven in Moonlight (#2)
AudienceYA
GenreFantasy
SettingBolivia
Number of Pages362
Format I ReadHardcover
Original Publication DateJanuary 26, 2021

Official Summary

If the jungle wants you, it will have you…

Catalina Quiroga is a Condesa without a country. She’s lost the Inkasisa throne, the loyalty of her people, and her best friend. Banished to the perilous Yanu Jungle, Catalina knows her chances of survival are slim, but that won’t stop her from trying to escape. Her duty is to rule.

While running for her life, Catalina is rescued by Manuel, the son of her former general who has spent years searching for allies. With his help, Catalina could find the city of gold that’s home to the fierce Illari people and strike a deal with them for an army to retake her throne.

But the elusive Illari are fighting a battle of their own—a mysterious blight is corrupting the jungle, laying waste to everything they hold dear. As a seer, Catalina should be able to help, but her ability to read the future in the stars is as feeble as her survival instincts. While searching for the Illari, Catalina must reckon with her duty and her heart to find her true calling, which is key to stopping the corruption before it destroys the jungle completely.

Review

Written in Starlight picks up right where Woven in Moonlight left off. (If you haven’t read the first one, stop reading this review right now, because there will be spoilers!)

The Illustrian Condesa, Catalina, has refused to accept her new Llacsan queen, and so has been banished to the jungle. Any jungle is certain to be dangerous, but here, in this fantasy version of Bolivia, the danger is even more present. Catalina doesn’t just need to watch out for hungry jaguars and venomous frogs; she must also avoid the deadly magic and the people who follow her.

Catalina is ill-equipped to survive in this jungle, putting it mildly. Luckily for her, it isn’t long before she happens to meet up with Manuel, a man she hasn’t seen in three years. They were once friends, and she had a crush on him, but he’s now determined to do his duty as her protector. As her guard, he refuses to cross certain boundaries with her. There will be no mixing work and pleasure with this guy!

The first 200 pages of Written in Starlight are set entirely outdoors, following Catalina and Manuel as they ward off dangers left and right, moving through the jungle to reach the elusive Illari people. This book is packed with action – mudslides and caimánes and flesh-eating butterflies, oh my! They’re also working through their personal issues. Catalina has a lot of growing to do, not just to be a good Condesa to her people, but as a young woman in her own right. She and Manuel also need to come to terms with their true feelings for each other and whether a relationship between them is possible.

I love the transformation they each go through, especially Catalina. She’s a caring and brave person, but there’s so much she doesn’t know. Catalina matures a lot through Written in Starlight, become surer of herself, more understanding of the different peoples and religions, more forgiving of those who seem to have betrayed her, and more in control of her magic. By the end, she’s a much better and happier person, and I love how it all works out.

Catalina’s relationship with Manuel is a slow burn, complicated by his professional devotion to her as his Condesa, their past, and what the future holds. They’re quite opposite in many ways, but they also balance each other.

Friendship plays big role here, too. Catalina feels betrayed by Ximena, and those feelings simmer for much of the book. Can she ever see Ximena’s point of view? Can they ever be friends agin?

Another thing I really loved about Written in Starlight – like Woven in Moonlight before it – is the intersection of Bolivian history and folklore. The groups of people here (Illustrians, Llacsans, and Illari) are made up, but I imagine at least one of them is based on real groups of people from the Andes region, like the Incas. Indeed, the Illari (and I think the Llacsans?) speak Quechua, one of the languages spoken in South America before the Europeans conquered the lands and made Spanish the primary language. I interpret much of Catalina’s journey as learning her history and accepting these other (marginalized) peoples. Perhaps it’s unfair to see them as her enemy. Perhaps they deserve her trust and respect.

Written in Starlight is more adventurous and action-packed than most books I read, but I ended up really enjoying this book. It offers South American history, beautiful descriptions of the jungle, great character growth, and a satisfying ending to the duoloy.

Final Thoughts

If you loved Woven in Moonlight (and I hope you did!), Written in Starlight is a wonderful follow-up and a perfect close to the series. I’ve loved both of Isabel Ibañez’s books so far, and I can’t wait to read more from her in 2022. I’m already excited for her next novel, Together We Burn, set in a magical Spain, as well as an anthology she’s part of, Reclaim the Stars. Stay tuned for my reviews of both.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

About the Author

Isabel Ibañez

Born and raised in Boca Raton to a pair of Bolivian immigrants, matured in Orlando and currently living my adult life in Maitland, Florida. I’m an avid movie goer, a giant word nerd, and talented in mispronouncing basic English words, which is just the beginning of my endearing quirks. I love to doodle, cook, and read (sometimes a book a day—I know, I should really go outside more). I freely admit to loving the heck out of Young Adult literature (Potter!) and am a raving romantic sentimentalist—I adore Austen, James, Hardy and Wharton. I’m big on imagination, traveling, trivia about world history, and getting to the heart of the things. I have a profound fondness for all things Anthropologie. 

Along with writing, I’m also a graphic designer, specializing in greeting cards. My work has been sold in nationwide brands like Anthropologie (!!!), Crate and Barrel, and Paper Source, and in over 350 mom and pop shops around the country. To take a look at recent designs, check out 9th Letter Press, a company I founded and sold in 2017.

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