Cover Image: A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars

A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars

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Member Reviews

I had tried to read this book, however, I could not connect with the writing style and recall it being confusing. As a reader, personally it is vital for me to enjoy the writing style of the author as otherwise, I will not be able to continue with the story. Hence, this is why I ended up not finishing the book. The one star rating is only explains what I have mentioned above as I did not get far enough into the story to review the content, plot, characters etc. I hope other readers will and have been able to connect with this story far better than I did.
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Unfortunately I found this book very difficult to get into and it simply did not keep my attention. I did love the cover and thought that the synopsis was interesting and engaging, but the style was not for me.
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A very uniquely written story that once i started reading it i couldn't stop. 
If you want something different, with good characters and interesting plot and not something that reminds you of a lot of other stories, give this one a try!
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The first thing to catch my eye was the cover but the story was equally breathtaking. Sante was a wonderful main character with great and careful development, and I loved the folklore and magical elements in this.
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*3.5 stars
So overall speaking I enjoyed reading this book. But I was feeling a bit confused as I was reading this book and I didn’t really understand the motivation for actions the main character Sante made. There was a magical realism aspect to this book, which did make it more enjoyable to read and made me more interested in reading more of it. It is a short read and the writing style did keep me engaged to story. But the reason I am doing a mini review, is just that I don’t really have that much to say about it.
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See video review down below.

Overall, I thought this book needed more time in the editing phase. It was a bit clumsy and the plot was extremely predictable, the characters often waaayy behind the reader in terms of putting together things that were supposed to be surprising or twists. The dream sequence felt way too obvious, and there were logical holes in it being represented as a memory. If Sante was a baby, she'd have no recollection of what was said or only a vague understanding of. it, etc. Often the characters' emotions felt rather illogical too, especially around the middle section where there was a lot of falling out. The worst part for me was the representation though -- while the author did a brilliant job of adding diversity to her books, the way she represented some of those characters was not good. Particularly, I found that 'Midget Man' being someone's name (and the MC and her friends who'd grown up with him being surprised that wasn't his real name) was a real issue. 'Midget' is a derogatory term. Also 'gypsy' and several other terms used in the book struck uncomfortable chords with me. I did like some of the creativity and the writing at times was engaging and inventive. This book just needed some tighter editing, I think.
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First of all, everyone look at that cover. It is *stunning*. It's the kind of book where you're drawn by its external beauty and then you're hooked by its internal one.

The narration is simple, it doesn't use a lot of fancy or complicated vocabulary to create a lot of beautiful images along with a plot which has almost everything a good story needs. And it almost doesn't leave anything in the open at the end of the book, but at the same time... *it does*. It does leave you with questions, but in a good way. The good way of the greatest books.

It comes with trigger warnings though. The main character and her family are travelling circus people so sometimes they receive slurs and mistreatment for it. It also makes reference to human trafficking and sexual abuse (through one of its characters) and slurs for a person who's mentally ill because of a trauma.
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Hello friends!! I know I haven’t posted a review in weeks, but that’s just me being busy (and happy) with college and college life. Still, it feels so good to be back!!! (I just wish this could have been a better read and a more positive review).

Fourteen-year-old Sante isn’t sure where she comes from, but she has a recurring dream of escaping a shipwreck in a sea chest as a baby with her lifelong companion, golden eagle Priss. In the chest was an African bamboo flute, a drum and a dagger inlaid with diamonds. Sante was found and raised by Mama Rose, leader of a nomadic group of misfits and gypsies. They travel around contemporary southern Europe, living off-grid and performing circus tricks for money. Sante grows up alongside two twins, knife-thrower Cat and snake-charmer Cobra, whom she is in love with. During a performance in Cadiz, Sante recognises two men from her dream. They come after her to retrieve the treasures from the sea chest. Sante finds out that she is an Ashanti princess, whose parents probably perished in the shipwreck. After Cat rescues a beautiful red-haired girl called Scarlett from a gang, Mama Rose’s band are forced to flee the city. But Sante and Cobra stay behind, determined to find out more about her family and where she came from.

I want to start off by saying that this book has one of the most beautiful, colourful, and unique covers I have ever seen. It’s just so beautiful, I could stare at it for hours. Now, that that’s been said, just know that the summary gives away a good chunk of the book. That’s not necessarily bad, but I’m happy that I read the summary months before actually reading the book, so I didn’t remember how much it gives away. Still, it sounds pretty exciting, right? Magical realism, beautiful Southern European scenery… Well, the execution falls a bit short.

The book is a bit confusing; we never know exactly where the magic comes from or how it works. I guess it’s a love-it-or-hate-it thing, but it really didn’t work for me and just left me frustrated and confused. No matter how good, interesting, or unique a magic system is, if I can’t figure out how it works, I just find it irritating. That was my main issue with this book.

Another major issue I had was Sante herself. She was bland, a typical hero of the Chosen One trope. Nothing about her stood out to me, but to be fair none of the secondary characters stood out either. In general, all of them were just too flat. The fact that the storyline seemed to move forward randomly, without a clear cause or purpose, didn’t really help.

I really enjoyed the circus bits and the family dynamics that existed between the characters. I have a soft spot for family dynamics, especially when we are talking about misfits and pariahs finding home and solace in one another. A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars had plenty of these relationships and bonds, and I really appreciated its family-is-more-than-just-blood message.

Overall, I’d say it’s a decent, yet pretty mediocre book. It’s not bad, and lots of the things that irritated me are just a matter of personal taste, but it’s definitely not an extremely memorable or life-changing read. One of its strongest assets was, perhaps, its diversity, as it included a dark-skinned black protagonist (and, honestly, how many of them do you see in mainstream media?), and even Romani characters, who are one of the most under-represented groups in media.
**An ARC was provided via Netgalley in exchange of an honest review**
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Disclaimer: I received a copy free from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Fourteen-year-old Sante doesn’t know where she comes from and is haunted by a past she doesn’t remember. The only clue she has is a recurring dream where she is escaping a shipwreck in a chest as a baby, along with her companion, an eagle named Priss. Along with this chest, she was found with treasures – an African bamboo flute, a drum, and a dagger, along with diamonds. Sante was found and raised by Mama Rose and her nomadic family who make a living as circus street performers. During one of their performances, Sante recognises two men from her dream. She wants to find out about her past and where she came from, and they want to retrieve to treasures she was found with. But her past and these men lead her down a dangerous road.

A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars was a magical and imaginative novel. Yaba Badoe’s writing is very descriptive and creates vivid and rich imagery. Yaba Badoe seamlessly blends magical realism full of Ghanaian mythology and folklore with a contemporary European setting also full of circus elements. The story is well balanced with two different stories running side by side, smoothly fleeting between flashbacks of the shipwreck and Sante discovering her past and connecting to her African roots and family, but also a story featuring Sante tackling a human trafficking group.

A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars discusses some really important topics such as human trafficking, underage sex work, child exploitation, and the dangers and desperation that comes with being a refugee. I would like to give a warning though - After surviving a shipwreck Sante finds a new family with Mama Rose, a Romani woman and they are street performers doing circus tricks etc, and the g**** slur is used and they faced a lot of discrimination and hatred which wasn’t called out in the text.

I loved the family dynamics that Sante had with both her surrogate family, and her biological family who she connected with through spirits and dreams. Sante’s search for her identity and belonging made A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars a powerful and emotive read.

Also, the artwork is beautiful and the designer definitely deserves high praise. There is also a good side f/f relationship which was a pleasant surprise.

Overall, A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars is a powerful and evocative debut full of rich imagery, and I am excited to see what Yaba Badoe writes next.

I have also posted this review on
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I'm feeling some random bullet points for this review, so I'm just going to go with it!

First, can we just take a moment to admire this amazing cover? You know I'm a total cover lover, and this has to be one of my favourites all year!
Now to the story. This is super quirky, and relatively short, YA  novel (probably towards the younger end of YA, but there are some pretty heavy issues covered, so look out for that. 
It has a great twist of magical realism - almost to the point of fantasy - which I loved. I feel like that contributed to me feeling really swept up in, and transported by, the story telling. For me it was one of those books where it took a few minutes to come back to real life after each time I put it down.
Whilst the circus setting in this was a bit different to Daughter of the Burning City, I feel like the overall vibe was a bit similar - a young female protagonist, the magical realism giving that sense as the reader of not quite knowing exactly what is happening, a pretty good ensemble cast of reasonably diverse characters. Because of this, I think it would be a good read-alike for people who enjoyed Daughter of the Burning City.
I gave it three stars out of 5
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Loved the cover of this book, and was really looking forward to reading it.

This is a book of two halves though.  I enjoyed the first half and then during the middle I just didn’t get it.  Didn’t get it.

Sante lives with a travelling circus, who have adopted her after finding her washed up on a beach as a baby.  

The book takes in the current, hard hitting issues of people trafficking and enforced prostitution.  It does it in a tough, no nonsense way without skimming over the niceties.  However, the novel links Sante back to her African heritage and the two threads don’t quite link together.

I also found that I really didn’t like some of the characters.  Scarlett being one.  In fact, I just didn’t like Scarlett.  I really wanted to like this, and enjoy the hard-hitting issues that are covered.  I just got lost with all the floating through the air, and the ghosts of the ancestors, and one dimensional characters.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for their free e-copy in return for an honest review.  I am just sorry I started of really enjoying this, but I just got lost about half way through.
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Trigger Warning: Derogatory language used for little people.

When I first discovered A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars by Yaba Badoe, I was immediately drawn in to the gorgeous, eye-catching cover. However, having finished the book, I'm really not happy with this book. I'm disappointed in the story, but also appalled by the offensive language.

Sante is part of Mama Rose's travelling circus, going from place to place, showing off their talents to make money, and staying off grid. But Sante wasn't always with Mama Rose. Mama Rose found Sante washed up on the shore of a beach by Mama Rose, in a sea-chest full of treasure. She has a reoccurring dream of the events that led to her getting there: on a ship with her family,  another ship barging into theirs, gun fire, and the people on board's desperate attempts to save a child before their ship goes down. Sante is full of questions about what happened, who her family are, who she is. And when two people in the audience of one of their circus shows watch Sante intently, she is certain she recognises one of them from her dream. When Mama Rose and her family move on, Sante decides to stay, along with Cobra, to find speak to this man, and ask her questions. But the people this man works for are more dangerous than Sante could ever imagine, and by staying behind, she may get her answers, but she may not be able to ever leave again.

A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars is a story of identity and belonging, of family, and what family means, and of people trafficking. The writing was compelling and beautiful, such wonderful descriptions, and I was gripped to Sante's story as she tried to figure out who she was. But I guess my main problem was I was expecting more. It's a quick read, but the pace felt off to me, and the tension. There are times when Sante is in extreme danger, but I didn't find myself all that worried. Disgusted, appalled, and angry, yes, but not worried. It was too early on in the book to be worried, and when there's so much of a book left to go, it just seems obvious that Sante isn't going to stay stuck or there wouldn't be much of a story. And even when things were terrible, I felt Sante was just too lucky. I don't know if it's very realistic for her to come out mostly unscathed, when others suffered so much.

I was also slightly let down by fantastical elements of the story. Sante can communicate with her golden eagle protector, Priss - she talks to Priss like she would anyone else, and Priss seems to understand. But we're told at the beginning of the book that Priss has told Sante about how she found her in the sea-chest and stayed with her, protecting her, and yet we never see Priss talk to Sante. That is never explained. Sante can read minds, but it's more than that, she can read their feelings, their personality, their history, work out who a person is. Pretty handy right? Well, Sante doesn't really do anything with it. She only uses it occasionally, and only to confirm what she already thought about someone. It's not a gift that has much use, or Sante doesn't use it well enough. And the ghosts... well, they're meant to be terrifying, but they never do anything that bad. Not until the climax. And then, I couldn't really tell you what happened. I don't think it was described that well, and there was no real explanation for what I did understand. "This happens." Ok, but how? And what does doing that do? How did that thing happening mean this is the consequence? I would have liked more detail of the climax, and more explanation behind what was happening.

There was a fair amount of diversity in the book. Sante is Ghanaian, there is an f/f relationship, and there are two Romany traveller characters among their troupe, who are also both little people. But that's something that really annoyed me the whole way through. The group of travellers Sante lives with are Mama Rose, twins Cat and Cobra, Redwood and Bizzie Lizzie, Mimi and... Midget Man. Seriously, Midget Man. I may have let that slide if it was a stage name for their act, even if it is highly inappropriate and offensive, and that circus "freaks" are just so wrong anyway (though he was more than a "freak", he had an acrobatic clown act with Redwood, Bizzie Lizzie and Mimi). But it's not a stage name. That is what everyone calls him. It doesn't actually come right out and state it, but from descriptions of his height, I think it's safe to assume he has a form of Restricted Growth/Dwarfism. It's so offensive and problematic that this little person is dehumanised by not being called by his proper name. He does have one, we find out later in the book - Elvis - though why it's not used we're not told. There's something about people hiding their identities, which, fine, but Elvis wasn't involved in that, so why not use his real name? It is never explained! I just feel if a little person was to read this, yes, they may see themselves in a book, but they would see a character who is like them referred to with a derogatory term. How is that going to feel? I hated it every time I read it. And while we're talking about inappropriate language, there were also two uses of "psycho", which isn't ok either.

Feeling disappointed with a lot of elements of the books is one thing, that's just down to personal tastes I think. But with Elvis being called derogatory term, I'm just really not happy with this book. Despite being beautifully written and being unable to put it down, I can't with good conscience recommend this book.

Thank you to Zephyr via NetGalley for the eProof.
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I really wanted to like this but I just couldn't - don't get me wrong, the subject and topic is important - but things just didn't connect. 

The pace is quite slow and the genre wasn't what I thought it would be. I was expecting a contemporary but it was a bit too fantastical and 'astro-projection' or 'animal magic' for me. 

The writing was lacking something - although the story was about the heart-breaking activity of human trafficking, I just didn't feel much of anything reading this. There were too many points of focus and things got tangled and messy.

It does have a gorgeous cover though, and the story of culture was great but in short, it's a great idea with a disappointing result.
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This review will be posted on my website, Foxes and Fairy Tales on September 30.

I had high hopes for A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars. The cover is so bright and stunning, and the plot summary hints at so many interesting things inside. Unfortunately, the book itself was a bit of a disappointment and I found myself skim-reading quite a few times.

Badoe has a unique writing style, where the sentences read almost as incomplete. It give the book a distinct voice and, in a way, makes it feel like the action is happening very fast. It's also full of metaphors and discriptions that don't quite ring true. Some people may really like this, however, it wasn't to my tastes. I found it a little jarring, and confusing at times -- the style doesn't always lend itself to clarity.

Plotwise, I think the biggest problem with A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars, is that it tries to do too much in too short a space. There's Sante, her travelling family of performers, and the revelations about the people who raised her. There are mysterious figures from her past and the mystery of her dead parents. There are two (sudden) romantic relationships developing, people-trafficking and a little bit of magical realism. Because there's so much, it felt like nothing was fully explored. Again, this made it confusing as we flitted from idea to idea. The serious topics of people trafficking and forced prostitution didn't feel like they were really given the weight they deserved.

I did really like the use of Ghanan folklore, Sante's dream-sequences and her connection to her bird, Priss -- but I think the rest could have been streamlined somehow. I'd really have like to focus more on the circus performers and the secrets they had or go into more depth on the people-smuggling and Sante's family's past.
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Unfortunately, I was unable to finish reading this book. While I was really looking forward to it for months, in the end, the book just couldn't hold my attention and I ended up DNF-ing it at around 30%.
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Disclaimer: I received an e-copy of this book on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

First off let me preface my review with trigger warnings I wish I had before I started the book. There's pedophilia mentioned, there's child sexual abuse mentioned and there are some scenes that are just really uncomfortable in that manner. There are also some comments that are really victim-blame-y and it's just really gross.

Now to the story. I really wanted to like this book. And I do like it. But I don't love it. Partly at fault for that is the confusing writing style for sure. For a long time, I was not sure if those ghosts were real or imagination or how they really fit in the story. The magical elements got so mixed with reality that often I just couldn't be sure what was really going on.

Despite that, I really grew to love Sante and Cobra and Cat. I also absolutely adored Scarlet.

And there's already another one of my problems. We are told that Scarlet was abused since she was really young and so she is very angry at her abuser. Despite this, she is only ever regarded as a burden or something to fear and mistrust by Sante and Cobra. Cobra even once questions how they can be sure that she's not actually in love with her abuser and wanted it. I had to stop reading for a while at that scene. While we do not at that point know about all of the abuse she faced (like the fact that he's a pedophile that gave her parents access to drugs and gambling so he could easily get their daughter), I already suspected that her past was a really dark one and felt that she deserved way more compassion than she got. 

And while I absolutely loved that Cat was immediately there for her, she was immediately there for her. They hadn't even exchanged words and already acted as if they were in love. This was explained by some mystical and short-lived soulmate idea, but it didn't make a lot of sense. In quite a lot of the relationships in the story there was only telling and barely any showing, which really made it unbelievable for me as a reader.

But now back to the main story. The mythology of this story is really amazing and I just wish there had been a bit more explanation.

Jess has a bird that watched over her since she was a little girl called Priss. Their relationship is really great and I really enjoyed reading about them. Another thing I liked was the circus life as it was really well taught and super interesting.

There's also a lot of political commentary in this story, but it switches its focus quite often. Corrupt cops, refugees being herded off into camps if they even managed to get to shore and weren't drowned, human trafficking, sexual abuse and living off the grid. And while I really enjoyed reading about all of this, in the end, it just made the story more confusing. It is simply too short to have such a huge plethora of issues in it and so none of them are fully fleshed out and I think the story suffers for that sadly.

There's also the repeated use of g*psy. And while Sante once mentions that it's a bad word, she keeps using it. Here's a review about why it shouldn't be used by non-Romani people. Another thing is that apparently barely any of these people have real names? Or at least Sante never learns them, as she refers to one of the adults in the circus constantly as Midget-Man. Get it, because we have to see that he's a Little Person. Ugh. While other characters at least have okay code names, this one really rubbed me the wrong way.

All in all, this story has amazing folklore, interesting characters, and a quite interesting writing style. I think I would have enjoyed this story more if I had gone into it wanting to read magical realism and not a contemporary. However, there are also quite a few problems with this book and so I couldn't enjoy it as much as I had hoped I would.
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I received an ARC of A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars from Netgalley. I had chosen to read it because the cover was so beautiful and I really loved the blurb, it sounded incredibly promising.

It's #ownvoices for Ghanian representation.


The writing style is quite unique in this book. It's very fast-paced, packed with action and dramatic scenes, and the sentences are quite short, thus making it seem as though it were a movie. However, I found the writing style rather confusing at times because it was too jaggered and I got lost easily. For example, I didn't know what she was referring to when Sante was talking about "his greens", and only realised after a while that she meant his green eyes.

There are two relationships in this book. The second relationship (which is between two girls), happens out of nowhere, they are immediately together, but they don't know anything about each other, and they also don't really care to find out anything. I found this rather confusing. I also thought that the story focussed way too much on the romantic relationships and not on the plotline of Sante finding out more about her family and where she is from.

There were some parts that I found rather problematic. The most jarring was the repetetive use of the slur g*psy. Even though Sante mentions that the word is inappropriate, she uses it to describe her friends, who are Romany. Mama Rose dresses up as a geisha in one scene, complete with the kimono, to do some thinking and this was so weird, especially considering that she's a white woman. The horse in this story is called Taj Mahal, and I didn't see why this would be the case considering that none of the characters are from India.


I enjoyed the premise of A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars but this wasn't my book.
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When I searched this book on Goodreads so that I could add it to my 'currently reading' shelf, I noticed that this book had a very low average rating and I just felt so disheartened. But, I started the book and read it til the very ending. The average ratings on Goodreads didn't miss the mark too much.

Fourteen-year-old Sante isn’t sure where she comes from, but she has a recurring dream of escaping a shipwreck in a sea chest as a baby with her lifelong companion, golden eagle Priss. In the chest was an African bamboo flute, a drum and a dagger inlaid with diamonds. Sante was found and raised by Mama Rose, leader of a nomadic group of misfits and gypsies. They travel around contemporary southern Europe, living off-grid and performing circus tricks for money. Sante grows up alongside two twins, knife-thrower Cat and snake-charmer Cobra, whom she is in love with. During a performance in Cadiz, Sante recognises two men from her dream. They come after her to retrieve the treasures from the sea chest. Sante finds out that she is an Ashanti princess, whose parents probably perished in the shipwreck. After Cat rescues a beautiful red-haired girl called Scarlett from a gang, Mama Rose’s band are forced to flee the city. But Sante and Cobra stay behind, determined to find out more about her family and where she came from.

Sante grows up alongside two twins, knife-thrower Cat and snake-charmer Cobra, whom she is in love with. During a performance in Cadiz, Sante recognises two men from her dream. They come after her to retrieve the treasures from the sea chest. Sante finds out that she is an Ashanti princess, whose parents probably perished in the shipwreck. After Cat rescues a beautiful red-haired girl called Scarlett from a gang, Mama Rose’s band are forced to flee the city. But Sante and Cobra stay behind, determined to find out more about her family and where she came from.

The sole reason why I requested this book on NetGalley, what that I wanted to read a book that wasn't set in the U.S, or had an all-white cast of characters. I wanted to read about different cultures so A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars seemed like the perfect read for me.

It's safe to say that this book completely let me down. I couldn't connect with the characters, I couldn't understand what was going on half of the time, and there just didn't seem to be any explaining when things were going on. There was also a problematic scene for me where Mama Rose (the character who looks after our protagonist, Sante) dresses up in a kimono and pretends to be a geisha. She even puts white powder on her face and says to Sante that she dresses up like this when she "needs to reflect and think on the things that are happening". So the cultural appropriation in that instance was completely wrong.

BUT, it's not all negative. Those 2.5 stars have to come from somewhere, right? Well, let's just take a moment to appreciate how beautiful the cover is! It's another reason why I wanted to read this book; the cover just immediately grabbed my attention. I also think that the author doesn't have a bad idea here as far as the story is concerned. Badoe - throughout this book - explores the themes of refugees, human trafficking and politics. But the whole problem with this book is that it's in the genre of magical realism... It just doesn't work alongside the themes of the book. I think if Badoe had gotten rid of the magical element of this book, it would have been so much better, and the dark themes of the book would be more prominent and would have had more impact.

Overall, this book wasn't that good. I loved the exploration that Sante has into her identity and how her dreams connect to that and I loved how Badoe touches on the surface of what it's like to be a refugee. However, the world building just didn't make sense and sometimes the writing style just didn't work for me. I'm disappointed that I didn't enjoy it, but I'm glad that I've read it.

Warning: contains triggers for sexual abuse and violence.

Disclaimer: this book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Released 7th September
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Lyrical, elegantly written and haunting, A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars is a compelling young adult novel that is sure to enthrall and delight.

When Sante was a baby, she had been the only survivor of a tragic sinking of a ship that had been carrying migrants and refugees to a new life full of hope and opportunity, but instead they had been cursed by a cruel fate that had seen them lose their lives in the most heartbreaking way possible. Washed ashore in a sea-chest laden with treasure, Sante was the only one who had managed to emerge relative unscathed from this perilous journey, but life is going to be just as challenging for her and although her people will no longer be with her physically, their spirit will continue to haunt her…

Fourteen years later, Sante is a member of Mama Rose’s unique and dazzling circus whose life is about to get even more complicated when the spirits of the dead migrants who had lost their lies in that heartbreaking accident begin to call her from their watery grave to avenge them. With dangers from the real and the spirit world threatening to overwhelm her round every corner, will Sante succeed in her quest to vindicate the lives of her people who had lost their lives in that accident and who are relying on her from the other side? Or will she be the victim of dastardly enemies intent on causing untold harm and damage?

A bamboo flute. A golden bangle and a ripe mango which must not fall if Sante is to tell not just her story, but that of the people she must honour…

A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars is a brave, bold, intelligent and topical read that tackles pertinent issues such as human trafficking and the plight of migrants and refugees guaranteed to make readers of all ages reflect, ponder and think about what is currently going on in the world and the current political situation. Yaba Badoe’s writing is rich, colourful and affecting, and despite the issues being discussed in the novel, is never didactic or preachy. My only quibble was that the pacing did flag slightly in the middle of the book, however, I was still riveted by Sante and the world Yaba Badoe brought to life so effortlessly.

One of the great benefits of being a book blogger is that you are introduced to books you wouldn’t otherwise have read and A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars is one such book. I am very grateful to have read this entertaining, magical and imaginative read which I wouldn’t otherwise have picked.

A wonderful read I recommend to young adults of all ages and one which I don’t think they’d forget in a hurry, A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars is not to be missed!
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A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars is a haunting contemporary debut by award-winning Ghanaian-British filmmaker Yaba Badoe. The story has a powerful, dreamlike narrative that weaves its way through a myriad of serious threats faced by Sante and her friends. Meet 14-year-old Sante, the survivor of a shipwreck, adopted daughter of traveler Mama Rose, playmate of twins Cat and Cobra, and her protector, a bird of prey named Priss, and a new friend, Scarlett, who knows more than she lets on.

Sante was a baby when she was washed ashore in a sea-chest laden with treasure. It seems she is the sole survivor of the tragic sinking of a ship carrying migrants and refugees. Her people.

Fourteen years on she’s a member of Mama Rose’s unique and dazzling circus. But, from their watery grave, the unquiet dead are calling Sante to avenge them: A bamboo flute. A golden bangle. A ripening mango which must not fall if Sante is to tell their story and her own.

Welcome to Mama Rose’s Family Circus for an evening of magical entertainment, incredible tricks, and daring feats created for your delectation alone – this is the introduction our main character, Sante, is all too used to hearing before her display of acrobatics designed to earn a coin from spectators. The traveling band of cobbled-together found family provides a rag-tag background for the plot, disappearing when needed and returning to cause further complications.

Sante herself is a headstrong character despite the lies she’s been raised believing. Her devotion to her adopted family is apparent throughout, even as she grapples with betrayal and her desire to learn about her birth family. She is also very brave, throwing herself full-bodied into danger’s way in order to rescue the desperate Scarlett when she’s in fits of despair. However, she is emotional, and sometimes her reactions don’t allow for full thought of consequences.

Badoe is a descriptive writer, and the world is seen primarily through Sante’s eyes, so the peripheral characters in the story are very much impressions from a narrow viewpoint. This means we never see much beyond the surface of their intentions until the ramifications are revealed – oftentimes to Sante’s confusion as she struggles to make sense of this dark world.

The villains of the piece, whose actions ensnare the 14-year-old and her friends into a world of child trafficking, are reduced to snatches of descriptions – Grey Eyes, Barrel Man, The Captain. This works to dehumanize them and create almost pantomime-like bad guys, despite the layers to their cruelty. The effect is distancing to the reader, though Sante’s revulsion and horror are all too present and shocking on the page. It’s a bold choice to handle such sensitive topics with frank and unapologetic strokes.

With plenty of ghosts in the form of visiting spirits, flashes of memory, and a protective bird of prey, A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars steps effortlessly between the contemporary Spanish setting and spiritual African roots. While the dreamlike narrative and sometimes too-fluid scene transitions can make this a bit of a rolling ocean of a read, purposefully disorientating, it is nonetheless a vivid and inventive tale that frames its serious themes in a state of watchfulness and integrity.

I would be remiss not to mention the absolutely stunning artwork by Leo Nickolls that accompanies Badoe’s text, a stunning image that has depth, fire, beauty, and attention-grabbing colors. The spirits that work their way through the text are evident in the ocean of blue and the blazing ferocity of revenge in the reds and yellows.

A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars is perfect for Potterheads and fans of The Gracekeepers and The Girl From Everywhere. Rich in the Ghanian legend, ghostliness, and African color framed by the dazzling circus and weighted, gritty, determined darkness, Yaba Badoe’s novel is a haunting story that demands a place on all shelves.
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