My rating: 5/5 stars
For the first time in a while I have mixed feelings after reading a book. When I feel like I need a relaxing book, I always look for a light plot, to keep me away from things that are not ok for me. Mia Sheridan is always my “shelter author”, because her stories are full of love, compassion and joy, making me believe in a world were love can conquer basically everything. “Once we were starlight” looked like a relaxing book, but it was NOT. I think that up to date, it is one of the most complex and risky from her “repertoire” because you can see how she wanted to raise awareness and involve us in a love story we could follow, but react in the same time because of the happenings. This is a life lesson with capital letters, strictly because of the plot, but even if it’s painful to even imagine being in a scenario like that, the love story of this book was fantastic and I have no words do describe it. Only Mia could break your heart and put it together again like this.
A bed posed on a stage under a dazzling spotlight. An audience of hungry eyes. And him, the other half of my soul, our supple bodies moving as one . . . Sundara: the lush and forbidden oasis in the desert where men travel to watch acts of sexual deviancy, and the only existence seventeen-year-old Karys has ever known. But despite a life where secrets and sin are in high supply, and freedom remains far beyond their reach, Karys and her partner Zakai find safety in each other, their passionate love the light that helps them both survive the darkness.
Karys and Zakai have been living in Sundara all their lives, surrounded by what they called as family, but also curios eyes who attend their show. Being part of this community is no strange to them, but considering their age, everything is wrong an twisted. Minors, brought here without any recollection of their past, the 2 of them were merely entertainers from a full chain or organization which has only one scope: human sex trafficking. But, in this horrible place, Karys and Zakai have each other, and even if many consider they are too young to fall in love, their hearts belong to one another irrevocably. You can say that a trauma brought them together, but wrong – life brought them together and in a way, sheltered them from other who wanted more than they could offer.
Karys was the soft one, the dreamer and the girl who thought love can heal everything. Being a child when brought to Sundara, this was her home and Zakai the other half of her star. Even if we are not witness of their falling in love, we find them stronger than ever, in a place so wrong for their pure hearts. Her thirst for knowledge and her loyalty towards Zakai were impressive and I loved reading things from her POV, because her pure and naïve mind was breaking my heart too. The way she expressed about simple things, objects, extremely familiar to us, but foreign to her, was shattering and that innocence is worth reading and hoping that something good will come for her. Zakai on the other hand, being more mature and more direct in approach, is more aware of his surroundings and tries to find a way to match reality with lies. His love for Karys is as strong as hers and his devotion is limitless, from my POV amazing for a boy that young. Mature, but in the same time innocent, the 2 of them are victims of evil and wicked, of people who exploit them emotionally but also physically in order to gain money.
There are a lot of topics which Mia inserted in the book, beside a wonderful love story. Her connections are always strong and you can always feel the love radiating from the characters, but putting them into this environment changed too much the scenario, leaving the reader without breath. She challenges us to imagine such a plot, to think and live alongside the characters and maybe see what we would do in their spot. The changing of scenario was very confusing for Karys and Zakai and she put an accent on PTSD and the effects it could have on children taken from a world they always knew and brought all of a sudden in an unknown one. We should also focus on the one who rise, make a carrier or find purpose in something which once, made them suffer. The focus on taking a certain path and making mistakes is highly pointed out and I felt so sorry for Karys and Zakai because of their choices and what lead to them. Of course, you would have to read the book, but concentrate more on the moral part of the story.
After that, of course, we are talking about the aspect that started it all, human sex trafficking, which had an effect on all aspects of our characters life and love story. I think that even if Mia brought this subject in the story, she wanted her readers to understand the gravity and importance of making a difference, even if writing a review about the book and outlining the plot with this subject. For example, it made me open Google and search, and what I read devastated me. I will let you a link here, only 1 of the various sources I found. The aspects which shocked me most?
Estimates suggest that, internationally, only about .04% survivors of human trafficking cases are identified, meaning that the vast majority of cases of human trafficking go undetected.
Human trafficking earns global profits of roughly $150 billion a year for traffickers, $99 billion of which comes from commercial sexual exploitation.
So, as you can see, Mia gave Karys and Zakai story a twist, considering the majority of the victims don’t have such luck. I really admired her courage and I think this is what a book should teach you to do. You have a brilliant love story but you also have a message, a strong and documented one which deserves all the focus and chance in the world because it is out there for everybody to read and to talk about. Sundara is not a fantasy place, it is not the Night Court or The Institute in NY, is something real, where real people get hurt and suffer. I would like to say to Mia that her message managed to be loud and clear and please do not feel afraid or discouraged because of this topic, it has hit its mark in a very impressive way and I think that all of her readers will say the same. 🙂
Once we were starlight. But now, we were a universe.