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“If the jungle wants you, it will have you.” Hidden deep in the magical Inkasisa kingdom, there lies a lost city named Paititi. For decades, Paititi has aroused legends of warrior people, exotic foods, and high concentrations of gold. But it’s never been found. Paititi is protected by the Yanu Jungle: a land alive with colors, plants, and imminent danger. Each flower holds poison. Jaguars and other carnivorous animals roam the stretches of green. Rivers fester with humongous creatures and dangerous currents. Why, then, would anyone venture into this nightmarish land? For Catalina Quiroga, the answer is easy: revenge.

Written in Starlight by Isabel Ibañez, the highly-awaited sequel to Woven in Moonlight, is a story that follows ex-countess Catalina’s many trials in the Yanu Jungle. Catalina was supposed to be the new queen of Inkasisa, but her best friend Ximena seemingly betrayed her by choosing a princess named Tamaya to be the queen instead. Wounded, proud, and unaware of the danger in store, Catalina rejected Tamaya’s queenship and was consequently banished to the Yanu Jungle. Now, all Catalina can do is try to find the lost city of Paititi, hoping that she’ll be able to persuade their leader to ally with her, in turn gaining the army necessary in dethroning Tamaya. But Catalina’s always lived a sheltered life. Despite being born with the ability to interpret messages written in the stars, she can’t seem to use her ability correctly; therefore, is unable to see what dangers lie in her future. Catalina nearly dies in the jungle several times—until she unexpectedly bumps into Manuel, her former guard and love interest, who helps her find shelter and food. Fueled by Catalina’s thirst for revenge, they continue. But when Catalina’s old feelings toward Manuel are rekindled, ultimatums are wielded, and Catalina’s emotions become as plentiful as the stars above her, she must decide what the fate of Inkasisa will be: another war, or peace.

I love this book. I actually went out of town to get the first book in the series, Woven in Moonlight, and it was definitely worth it. I immediately fell head over heels for Ibañez’s writing: the description and metaphors were so real and heartbreaking. I was no less blown away by Written in Starlight. Usually, I find that sequels don’t live up to their predecessors, but this book broke the mold. I loved how the narrator (Catalina) was different from the narrator of the first book (Ximena) because it really extended the world of Inkasisa. I was able to see how torn apart the kingdom was through Catalina’s eyes.

The Latin influences in this book are also invaluable and make the novel all the more fascinating. The foods mentioned, such as paiche (marinated freshwater fish that is cooked over a fire) and fried yuca (a crispy, creamy version of fried potatoes) made my mouth water. It was very interesting to see the cultural influences that shaped the kingdom of Inkasisa. Even the word “Inkasisa” is from a different language—it’s Quechua for “royal flower,” which made me think of Inkasisa as an even richer, more fascinating place! The fact that Ibañez was able to incorporate her heritage into her writing was beautiful.

The overall theme of Written in Starlight was very important as well. Catalina, though at first furious and vying for the throne, begins to realize that she might not want the crown so much as the story goes on; she starts looking into paths that are more appealing. This novel teaches you to find yourself instead of being subservient and passive just because you think it is your duty.

All in all, I thought this book was a gorgeous and memorable read. I would recommend Written in Starlight to anyone looking for a good YA novel! It has a little bit of everything so everyone can enjoy reading it: fantasy, mystery, adventure, romance, drama, action, and suspense. This book made me fall in love with Isabel Ibañez’s writing even more, and can’t wait for a potential third book in this series to be released!

Written in Starlight by Isabel Ibañez. Page Street Kids, 2021. Buy the book here and support Stone Soup in the process!

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