Happy Sunday and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for THE LAST FALLEN STAR by Graci Kim! I’m so excited because today I have an excerpt of the book to share with you! This book is truly amazing and I’m so so excited to for you to find out more about it, PLUS enter for a chance to win a print copy!
The Last Fallen Star by Graci Kim
Series: Gifted Clans #1
Published on May 4, 2021 by Rick Riordan Presents
Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Mythology, Retellings
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Author Links: Website, Twitter, Goodreads, Amazon, Instagram
Best-selling author Rick Riordan presents Graci Kim's thrilling debut about an adopted Korean-American girl who discovers her heritage and her magic on a perilous journey to save her witch clan family.
Riley Oh can't wait to see her sister get initiated into the Gom clan, a powerful lineage of Korean healing witches their family has belonged to for generations. Her sister, Hattie, will earn her Gi bracelet and finally be able to cast spells without adult supervision. Although Riley is desperate to follow in her sister's footsteps when she herself turns thirteen, she's a saram--a person without magic. Riley was adopted, and despite having memorized every healing spell she's ever heard, she often feels like the odd one out in her family and the gifted community.
Then Hattie gets an idea: what if the two of them could cast a spell that would allow Riley to share Hattie's magic? Their sleuthing reveals a promising incantation in the family's old spell book, and the sisters decide to perform it at Hattie's initiation ceremony. If it works, no one will ever treat Riley as an outsider again. It's a perfect plan!
Until it isn't. When the sisters attempt to violate the laws of the Godrealm, Hattie's life ends up hanging in the balance, and to save her Riley has to fulfill an impossible task: find the last fallen star. But what even is the star, and how can she find it?
As Riley embarks on her search, she finds herself meeting fantastic creatures and collaborating with her worst enemies. And when she uncovers secrets that challenge everything she has been taught to believe, Riley must decide what it means to be a witch, what it means to be family, and what it really means to belong.
My Family of Healing Witches
So here’s the thing.
There are only two days left until my sister’s initiation ceremony. In two sleeps, Hattie will turn thirteen, and she will have to prove to the entire congregation of gifted clans in Los Angeles that she has what it takes to become a witch. A healing witch. A real Gom.
And she’s gonna be amazeballs, of course. I mean, it’s her birthright. Healing magic flows in her blood, as it flows through our parents’ blood, because we, the Gom clan, are descendants of the Cave Bear Goddess—the patron goddess of service and sacrifice.
Well, except me.
Sigh. Yep. My own thirteenth birthday is only a month away, but unlike my eomma (that’s my mom) or my appa (that’s my dad) or my sister, I’m a normal, non-gifted person without a lick of magic. I’m a saram.
I was adopted. And don’t get me wrong. My parents try super hard to make me feel part of the gifted community, and I love them so much for it. But the truth is, the harder they try, the more I realize how much of an outsider I really am. I’m different.
Hence why I’m here, sitting behind the reception desk of the Traditional Korean Medicine Clinic that my parents run, doing mind-numbing data entry instead of practicing healing spells like my sister.
The bells chime on the clinic’s door, and I jolt up in my chair as an old, dark-haired man limps in. He looks like he could be Korean, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen him at temple.
“Welcome to the clinic!” I say. “How can I help you?”
“Good morning,” he says, wincing as he wobbles up to the desk. “My name is Robert Choi. I’ve just moved here from New York, and I was told to ask for a James or Eunha Oh. I think I’ve sprained my ankle.”
He slides his wrists together, and the water in his Gi—the cylindrical glass charm on his bracelet—sloshes a little as it rubs against his skin. An image of two suns and two moons appears on his right wrist with the motion, and the symbol glows green.
Ah, he’s a Tokki—an infusing witch. All witches get the same gifted mark on their wrists when they do magic, but it reveals itself in different colors depending on which clan they belong to. The mark is also how we can tell which patients are gifted and which are saram. If they’re saram, we have to make sure they don’t know we heal with magic. The infusers make special memory-erasing potions for that.
I know what you’re thinking: Why would you keep such an awesome skill secret from the world? Well, Appa says if
My Family of Healing Witches
the saram found out about the gifted clans, that would bring grave danger to our community. People don’t like what they can’t understand. It scares them, and scared people do foolish things. I guess that makes sense.
“You’ve come to the right place,” I say, smiling brightly. “James and Eunha are my parents. And sorry to hear about your foot, Mr. Choi. Appa has just finished up with a patient, and there’s a free slot for you now if you’d like it.”
“Ah, you must be Hattie.” He nods knowingly at me. “I hear you have an initiation ceremony coming up. I hope you are well prepared.”
I shake my head. “Hattie’s actually my sister. I’m not… Well, I can’t…” I trail off, and Mr. Choi frowns.
“That’s odd. They said the Ohs only had one daughter.”
Oof. The comment spears right through my chest, but I stay silent and put on a well-rehearsed fake smile. What I’d really like to do right now is take out my Gi bracelet (if I had one) and heal his ankle right here and now, to prove how much of an Oh I really am. Or at least stand up for myself and tell him I’m part of this family, too. That’s what Hattie would do if she were in my place.
But I’m not my sister. I’m not brave like she is. I prefer to keep my head down and stay out of trouble. Trust me, it’s easier this way.
A warm hand squeezes my shoulder, and I look back to see Appa standing behind me. I didn’t hear him come to reception. “This is Riley, most definitely our daughter, and the most dedicated Gom I know.” Appa beams at me, and then extends his hand to Mr. Choi. “Welcome to our humble clinic, Robert.
And welcome to LA. Come with me, and let’s get that ankle looked at.”
Appa leads the hobbling Mr. Choi down the hallway, and a stinging heat builds behind my eyes. Sigh. Yet another day in the life of Riley Oh—the wannabe witch living in an exclusive gifted world.
“Riley!” Hattie runs up to the reception desk, puts her elbows on it, and rests her chin on her palms. Her rounded cheeks are pink, and her hair is damp with sweat. “Please come save me. Eomma is driving me up the wall. She’s making me repeat the incantations a billion times, and I don’t know what they mean anymore. I mean, honestly, what are words even?”
“She just wants you to do well at the initiation.”
Hattie rolls her eyes, but she knows I’m right.
A successful initiation ceremony is the most important rite of passage in a witch’s life. She’s got to perform three spells that satisfy the elders in the gifted clans council, and then say her vows in front of the whole congregation at temple. That’s hundreds of people from five different clans, not to mention our patron goddess, who will be watching from the Godrealm.
Then, and only then, will Hattie get to wear her Gi around her wrist without adult supervision. Without it, she can’t do any magic. So yeah, basically, it’s a big deal. I mean, no pressure or anything.
Hattie fiddles with the earth-filled charm that’s attached to a gold chain around her wrist. Eomma usually keeps my sister’s Gi in her enchanted safe, and Hattie only gets to wear it when she’s practicing spells with our parents. “Okay, but can you come with me anyway? Eomma’s all cranky and flustered, and I need moral support. Please?”
I make a serious face and pretend to be preoccupied with the patient database. “I’m kinda busy.”
“Pretty pleeease?” She gets all up in my face and makes big puppy-dog eyes at me. “You can have my favorite sweater. And I’ll do all your chores for a week. Come on, Rye, have a heart!”
I hold off as long as I can before laughing. “Okay, okay, you twisted my arm.” I push her sweaty mug away. “Just wanted to see you beg. Looks good on you.”
“You’ll pay for that!” She slaps me on my shoulder but grins, and then drags me out of my chair and down the hallway to Eomma’s consultation room.
Eomma is inside, pacing back and forth while holding the family spellbook up to her nose. Her glasses are foggy, and her black perm is bouncing like a halo around her head. “Hattie, there you are! Now come back and practice the wound-closing incantation again.” She points her finger at a Korean word in her spellbook. “And remember this time that the p is aspirated, so don’t be shy—put your whole diaphragm into it. Puh! Puh! See? Like this—puh!”
Hattie drags her palms down her cheeks and gives me an exasperated look. I stifle a laugh. Eomma is in fine form today. She pulls off the plugged-into-a-power-socket and rest-is-for-the-weak! looks better than anyone I know.
As Hattie reluctantly follows Eomma’s lead to aspirate her puhs, I study their two faces. And, for the billionth time, I wish I looked more like them.
I’m told my biological parents were of Korean ethnicity, too. But that’s about where the similarities end. Where my Gom family are round, petite, and unblemished, I’m tall and freckled. I’m all pointy chin and high cheekbones, with more angles than curves. I’m the one people raise their eyebrows at when they look at our family photos.
Before I know it, my eyes are burning and I quickly wipe them, embarrassed. Ugh. Classic me. This is what my best friend, Emmett, calls my “leaky-bladder eyeball problem.” You see, I have a slight issue controlling my tears. When I’m sad, I cry. When I’m angry, I cry. When I’m frustrated, I cry. I’m basically really talented at crying.
Hattie says it’s a good thing—that I’m in touch with my feelings (more like drowning in them…). And Eomma and Appa say I’ll grow out of it. But let’s face it—compared to my confident-and-composed family, I’m flawed. It’s yet another piece of evidence that I’m not a true Oh. That I’m weak and don’t belong.
Eomma has now prompted Hattie to practice her vows, and my sister reluctantly obeys. “I vow on the name of Mago Halmi, mother of the three realms, mother of the six goddesses, mother of mortalkind and all creation”—Hattie’s lisp is making an appearance, which only happens when she’s tired or stressed—“to carry out my sacred duty to heal those in need. To uphold the Gom clan motto of service and sacrifice… and…and…”
She trails off, forgetting the words, and I finish the sentence for her. “And I understand that with my gift comes great responsibility—to my clan, to the gifted community, and to our ancestor, the Cave Bear Goddess, who blesses us with her divine power.” I might not have a Gi or magic running through my veins, but I know my stuff.
Hattie gives me a grateful look. Thanks, she mouths. She puts her hands on her hips. “See, Eomma? Riley is so much more ready for an initiation than I’ll ever be. Have you spoken to Auntie Okja about Rye being allowed to do one, too?”
I stick my hand in my pocket and squeeze my onyx stone to calm my nerves. It’s shaped like a curved teardrop, and it’s the only thing my biological parents left me. Hattie thinks it might be a family heirloom or something, but I just like how hard and real it feels in my hand. It’s only a stone (and not nearly as cool as a Gi), but sometimes I carry it with me, because touching it reminds me that I came from somewhere, too.
“Sorry, girls. Your appa and I have been trying to find a good time to tell you….” Eomma sighs. “Auntie Okja tried really hard, but the other elders just won’t budge.”
I lower my eyes, mostly to hide the new trickle of disappointment forming on my eye line. My stupid leaky-bladder eyeballs fail me again. “Oh… That’s okay,” I say, even though that’s far from the truth. “Thank you for trying.”
Hattie raises her eyebrows at me. “No, it’s not okay.” She turns to Eomma. “You and Appa are always pushing for more inclusivity in the gifted community. This is the perfect opportunity to make a statement, isn’t it?”
Eomma looks sheepish. “You’re absolutely right. But change takes time. Some of the clans aren’t as progressive as we are. They’re arguing that, without a Gi, Riley wouldn’t be able to cast the spells anyway. And if the council can’t witness the spells during the initiation, they can’t make a fair assessment.”
I shrink, but Hattie pushes back. “But that’s the whole point. Rye knows the words to all the healing spells, back to front. If the council just gave her a chance to prove herself, maybe the goddess would be convinced and grant Rye a Gi, too.” She rolls her eyes. “They’ve got it all backward.”
“I understand, sweetheart. You know I do. But the other elders think it’s asking too much of the Godrealm to bless a saram with magic. That it would be impertinent of us. Disrespectful, even. Your auntie is only one voice among five.”
Hattie raises her hands in exasperation, and I want to melt into the floor and disappear. I hate being the reason they argue. “Seriously, it’s okay, Hat—” I start, trying to calm my sister.
“What’s disrespectful is not even giving Riley a chance,” Hattie continues. “If she tanks the initiation and the Cave Bear Goddess doesn’t give her a Gi, then fine. Or if Riley doesn’t want to do it, then that’s also fine. But not giving her the freedom to choose? That’s wrong on so many levels.”
When Eomma doesn’t respond, Hattie squeezes my hand, and a determined look appears on her face. I call it her boss face, because no one in their right mind would mess with Hattie while she’s wearing that expression. “As soon as I’m old enough,” she says, “I’m gonna run for Gom elder. And when I do, mark my words, I’m going to shake up that place. The whole secret-society thing is so outdated.”
“I have no doubt you will achieve that, and so much more,” Eomma says, and I totally agree. I mean, why stop at council elder? Hattie for president! I can see the enamel pins already.
I squeeze Hattie’s hand back and feel a warmth spread through my chest. For everything I don’t have, I definitely won the jackpot as far as my sister goes. She is literally the Best. Sister. Ever.
“It’s a shame you can’t just do a spell to share your magic,” I joke, trying to lighten the mood. “One where the recipient doesn’t need a Gi. That would solve all our problems.”
A grin spreads over Hattie’s face. “Crowdsourced magic. Now that would jolt the clans into the twenty-first century, right, Eomma?”
We both look to Eomma, and she laughs nervously.
Hattie and I share a glance. Eomma only laughs like that when she’s hiding something.
“No. Way,” Hattie says. “There actually is a spell for sharing magic with a saram, isn’t there?”
My jaw falls to the ground. Impossible!
Eomma mumbles something under her breath but still avoids our eyes, and that is a dead giveaway. “It’s not that simple, girls,” she finally admits. “It’s dangerous, and even if it worked, it wouldn’t be permanent. The spell would have to be redone again and again—”
“What’s the name of the spell?” Hattie interrupts. “And where can we find it?”
And were you ever going to tell me about it? I silently ask, my gut rolling into a tight knot.
Eomma closes the spellbook in her hands with a decisive thud. “This conversation has gone on long enough.” She looks at the clock on the wall and gasps. “And we’re going to be late for temple! Quick, go get your appa. We’re leaving in two.”
She hurries us out of her consultation room, and I get my butt moving. I wouldn’t miss temple for anything.
“Rye!” Hattie stops me in my tracks and grabs my arm. “Did you see Eomma glance at the book when I asked where we could find the spell?”
I shake my head. I hadn’t noticed. I was too busy wondering why my parents had kept this from me when they knew how badly I wanted to become a witch.
“I know that book’s only supposed to have healing spells in it,” Hattie continues, “but maybe Eomma just told us that so we wouldn’t snoop. Maybe the magic-sharing spell is in there, too. In fact, I’m sure it is. Where else could it be?”
I frown. We’re not allowed to touch the family spellbook—not until Eomma and Appa deem us ready. And besides, breaking rules makes me erupt in hives.
“But, Hat,” I start, “you know I was joking before, right? Even if the spell is in there, I could never ask you to share your magic. Besides, Eomma said it was dangerous. She wouldn’t lie about something like that.”
She snorts. “Who said I wanted your permission? Didn’t you hear me drone on about choice before? If I want to share my magic with you, who are you to stop me?”
I stare at her, wondering what I ever did to deserve such a selfless and fearless sister.
Hattie lowers her voice, and there’s an excited twinkle in her eye. “Looks like we need to get our sticky hands on a certain spellbook, wouldn’t you say?”
As she drags me to Appa’s consultation room to fetch him, I hear a small voice in my head.
Could I actually become a healing witch—a real Gom? Could this be my chance to do my parents proud and prove to the gifted community that I belong?
I know I shouldn’t get my hopes up. It’d just be a recipe for disappointment.
But here’s the real crux of the problem, folks: I, Riley Oh, have a sweet tooth.
And hope? Well, hope tastes sweeter than candy.
Copyright © 2021 by Graci Kim
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What do you think about The Last Fallen Star? Have you added it to your tbr yet? Let me know in the comments and have a splendiferous day!