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Reviewed by Nell Mace-David
Opening sentence
‘If you bring the star to me, I will reward you… You, my child, will be reborn in my image–as a Gom and a healer. And I will restore your sister’s life.’
In The Last Fallen Star by Graci Kim, all Riley Oh has ever wanted is to be a part of her community. A true Gom, a healer, just like her adoptive parents and sister. To be a part of the five clans, to have magic. But she doesn’t. Riley is what her people call a saram, a non-gifted person.

Now, about these clans. Basically, they are groups of mortals doing their patron goddesses work in the world. And, oh yeah, they’re based in LA, and the entrance to the temple is a Korean fried chicken cart. There are the Gom healers, the Samjogo seers, the Miru protectors, the Tokki infusers, the Gumiho illusionists, and… the Horangi.

The Horangi are, or were, scholars. But they got power hungry and went rogue. There was a battle, many lives were lost on both sides. Eventually, the Horangi were exiled, and disconnected from their patron goddess, rendering them powerless.

Anyway, back to Riley. Riley’s sister Hattie is about to be initiated into the Gom clan, and Riley couldn’t be happier for her, but she also wishes she could be initiated too. Hattie, being the brilliant sister that she is, decides to find a way for that to happen. Her plan consists of summoning none other than Mago Halmi, the ultimate goddess. Let’s just say, that doesn’t go so well.

With the help of her best friend Emmett, Riley now must save her sister, and turn her dream into a reality. And it kind of goes without saying, but in a world where myths and real life collide, it certainly won’t be easy.

Graci Kim has spun a tale of magic and wonder, but most of all, a story of family, and of finding yourself.

I’ll be honest, I’m kind of a mythology nerd. But I had never really heard anything about Korean mythology until I picked up this book, and I’m very glad I did. From the very first sentence I was thrown into this mystical world, and I was hooked. This book is published under the Rick Riordan Presents publishing label, and you can see why. For those of you who don’t know who he is, Rick Riordan is the author of the Percy Jackson books (among other things). His genre is the kind of mythological fiction brought into the modern day world that you see in The Last Fallen Star. If you read this book and like it, you will absolutely like his work. His books are hilarious, and I would highly recommend them. But, back to the book at hand.

The world-building was phenomenal. It wasn’t too much at once so that it was overwhelming, but just enough to make you want to go deeper. Kim has taken Rick Riordan’s signature blend of contemporary and ancient, and turned it into something of her own. She has also continued with Riordan’s hilarious chapter titles, which I really loved. And I can’t talk about the world without talking about the food. Pass the tornado fries, please!

Riley and her story were incredibly relatable. Everyone wonders where they fit in sometimes, and this part of the story really tethered it to reality. Amidst the magical mayhem, all the characters are so human. Through this journey of a book, various characters struggle with grief and trying to find where they belong. Above all, the resounding theme is family. The goddesses’ family, Riley’s family and her missing parents, Emmett’s family. It shows that there is some family we choose, and some we don’t, but regardless, they are always there when we need them.

Unfortunately, I felt that there were some parts of the book that lacked depth. I know that this is a book that is directed more at middle-grade readers, but I think that some scenes were skimmed over a bit too quickly. The modern, laid-back writing style is something I really enjoyed reading, but in some places, it fell a little short on emotion.

Though I found some parts slightly shallow, others were surprisingly deep. There is a quote at one point that reads: ‘There is light within us all, as there is darkness within us all. These two absolutes make us whole. This is the way of the universe.’ When I read this, it really hit me how true that statement is. I think a lot of people try to hide their darkness, but for there to be light, it must be there. Like I said, deep.

This is one of those books that made me want to pick it back up and start again as soon as I finished. Rest assured; I will be getting my hands on a copy of the next book as soon as I can find one. Kim really killed it with that cliffhanger!

I would recommend this book to fans of Rick Riordan and his publishing label , people looking for a good fantasy book, or to any middle-grade or younger YA reader. If you’re looking to diversify your bookshelf, this one's for you. Happy reading!

- Nell is 15, homeschooled, and lives in Dunedin
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
ISBN: 9781368059633
Format: Hardback
Publication: 2021
Ages: 10+
Themes: Fantasy, Korean mythology, family