Mini-Book Review — The Brilliance of Stars

27 Feb

My book club’s selection this month is The Brilliance of Stars by J’Nell Ciesielski. I had heard quite a bit of positive chatter about this historical novel set in the WWI-era and featuring spies and was anxious to read it. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. It is a very well-written novel that started out strong with me. Two teenaged orphans stumble upon a nefarious Russian plot and are swept into a secret organization with roots in early American history. Charged with clandestine activities that serve American interests, yet unsanctioned by any government, Talon is a wonderful creation filled with clever and skilled spies honed to wreak havoc in the name of good. So far so good. History, suspense, and a sizzling romance made me want to read more. But . . . the deeper into the book I got the weirder and more implausible the story became. At least that’s my opinion. I am the first to say that a reader must suspend disbelief, but I had a hard time believing what I was reading. The book takes the reader on an adventure from Washington, D. C. to Russia in the throes of revolution to the remote wilds of Romania. The bad guys are very very bad (creepy/evil is a good term too) and the good guys do things (assassinations, bombings, etc.) in the name of good. Themes such as abandonment and self-worth fill the pages. Like I said, a lot of people have loved this book. I’m just not one of them. There is a big cliffhanger at the end which may persuade me to read the sequel. I’ll have to think on that a bit.

Audience: Adults.

(I purchased this book from Amazon. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Amid the chaos of the Great War, two elite assassins learn precisely how dangerous it is to have something—or someone—worth losing.

Washington, DC, 1914. Ivy Olwen knows how to survive on the streets without two coins to rub together. Then destiny thrusts her into the nest of a covert agency of assassins sworn to drive back the world’s darkness, and she acquires a new set of lethal skills. Her education—from explosives to etiquette, sharpshooting to sabotage—is as far reaching as the organization’s missions. But it’s the hours she spends among the towering bookshelves in the library and stargazing on the roof with Agent Jack Vale that make her heart fly.

Jack knew plenty of hardship before the agency refined his rough edges, transforming him into the man who never misses. But he didn’t know the feeling of home until Ivy entered his world. Now Jack’s heart drums with a singular purpose: he will fight for her, fight alongside her. No matter the cost.

When the pair is sent on a seemingly simple mission to take down Russia’s newest and most dangerous arms dealer—a soulless man using the Great War as an opportunity to further his own depraved agenda—they discover that no amount of training could have prepared them for a manhunt that takes them across the frozen tundra, to the Crimean Peninsula, and along the Trans-Siberian Railway . . . only to discover that there is evil in the world they will never understand.

The first book of an epic duology from bestselling author J’nell Ciesielski, The Brilliance of Stars incorporates her signature blend of thrilling adventure, glamorous espionage, and sweeping romance.

Bestselling author and with a passion for heart-stopping adventure and sweeping love stories, J’nell Ciesielski weaves fresh takes into romances of times gone by. When not creating dashing heroes and daring heroines, she can be found dreaming of Scotland, indulging in chocolate of any kind, or watching old black and white movies. She is a Florida native who now lives in Virginia with her husband, daughter, and lazy beagle. Learn more at

2 Responses to “Mini-Book Review — The Brilliance of Stars”

  1. Cindy Davis February 27, 2023 at 6:35 pm #

    Lovely review. This one is not one that interests me at all. I have heard good things but it never grabbed my eye.

    • rbclibrary February 27, 2023 at 6:58 pm #

      Thanks! I thought I was kind of tough on the book, until I read a blogger’s review of another book. The only thing she liked about the book was the title and the cover!

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