Wednesday, July 29, 2020

SET THE STARS ALIGHT by Amanda Dykes, Reviewed by Winnie and Paula

Amanda Dykes has once again written a magical, delightfully exquisite split-time novel that completely captivated me. With a setting in England and two stories aligning in different centuries—early 1800s and contemporary—the author has masterfully unfolded the stories layer by layer until they meld together perfectly for a powerful ending.

The characters are carefully drawn, realistic, and very endearing, and the stellar cast of secondary characters adds to the mystical charm of the tale. Richly painted settings, descriptive storytelling, and fascinating historical insight brought the story to life. The author’s lyrical, poetic prose enchanted me with its beauty and brilliance.

“Outside, the air slapped his cheeks with coolness and cleared his head.”

“And now . . . it felt like home again. Because family, gathered from odd corners of the earth and pieced together in growing friendship, was here.”

“This was a place of impossible. And what a beautiful impossible it was.”

There is a great spiritual depth to this book, with themes of Biblical truth, family, hope, healing, and the worth of a single soul. I found myself highlighting sentences and whole paragraphs, and when I finished, I immediately wanted to read it again to savor it and find the hidden layers.

“A single life can make more of a difference than we can possibly imagine.”

“In a world as dark as this, people forget how to see the light, so we need to remind them by telling the truth, paying attention. . . setting the stars alight.”

This author’s debut book, Whose Waves These Are, was my favorite book from last year. I’ve recommended it to countless people and even bought several copies to give for gifts. I’m sure Set the Stars Alight will be one of my top reads from this year. It’s bound for my keeper shelf. For a delightful, enchanting, beautifully written story, you’ll want to grab this one and savor every word.

*1 gave it 5 stars. I had a NetGalley copy but ended up purchasing my own print copy. It has a fairly strong organic faith element, but not preachy. This will definitely be one of my top books of the year.


Wow! Just Wow! After reading the debut book by this author, I was anxious to dive into this one. It certainly is on par with that excellent book.

This is an achingly beautiful story that has echoes of The Great Shepherd, The One who would give his life for his friends, and The Almighty God of the universe!

Simon Claremont has given his daughter, Lucy, the gift of stories, puzzles and riddles all containing Biblical Truth. He tells her: Don’t forget it, Lucy my girl. The God of the stars...He is coming, and coming, and coming after you. Always. The heart of a father who will never forget his daughter.

The two main characters in the present are Lucy and Dash. The name Lucy means light and she is the perfect complement to Dash who seeks out light from the stars in the darkness of night. They are childhood friends. Lucy loves the sea and all the mysteries it holds. Dash loves the night sky with its vastness and stars. In adulthood, they team together to puzzle out a legend of the ship Jubilee and the traitor Fredrick Hanford who disappeared during the Napoleonic wars. This makes for an engrossing story that blends present with the past in a profound way. The author drops clues along the way and it all plays out to perfection.

The lessons Lucy and Dash learn are for us, too. In the words of Simon to Lucy and Dash:

“Nothing is impossible.Just think. Pay attention. Stretch forward. 

"When things seem dark, Lucy, that is when you fight for the light. I think it is the duty to keep the stories, to pass them on. It is our duty- and our honor. 

"In a world as dark as ours, people forget how you see the light. So we remind them by telling the truth, fighting the dark, paying attention...setting the stars alight. There are things shining brightly all along, if we will notice.”

This is a story to savor and mine for deep spiritual truths. The settings are captivating, the characters inspiring, and the story mesmerizing. Worth much more than 5 stars.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House on behalf of the author. I was not required to give a favorable review. All opinions are my own.* 5 stars. Strong spiritual thread. 

BackCover Blurb:
Lucy Clairmont's family treasured the magic of the past, and her childhood fascination with stories of the high seas led her to become a marine archaeologist. But when tragedy strikes, it's Dashel, an American forensic astronomer, and his knowledge of the stars that may help her unearth the truth behind the puzzle she's discovered in her family home.

Two hundred years earlier, the seeds of love are sown between a boy and a girl who spend their days playing in a secret sea cave, while the privileged young son of the estate looks on, wishing to join. As the children grow and war leads to unthinkable heartbreak, a story of love, betrayal, sacrifice, and redemption unfolds, held secret by the passage of time.

As Lucy and Dash journey to a mysterious old estate on the East Sussex coast, their search leads them to a community of souls and a long-hidden tale that may hold the answers--and the healing--they so desperately seek.

Bethany House Publishers June 2020

Available in digital ebook, paperback, hardcover and audiobook:
Buy Set the Stars Alight at Amazon
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