Constellations of Scars
Melissa Eskue Ousley
Published by: Midnight Tide Publishing
Publication date: June 9th 2021
Genres: Adult, Dark Fantasy, Fantasy
“An indelible story of loving yourself in a world of dreadful realities.” – Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Not all gifts are a blessing. Some are a curse.
When Amelia turned 12, she began growing pearls. Every month, a crop of beautiful pearls bursts from the skin on her back. Her mother, Denise, believes her daughter is blessed, and sells the pearls to put food on the table. Amelia sees her condition as a curse. As the pearls form, her body aches and her skin grows feverish. The harvest of pearls brings temporary relief from the pain, but leaves her back marred by scars. Denise hides Amelia away from the world, worried that Amelia’s gift will be discovered and she will be abducted for the wealth she can provide. Now a young woman, Amelia realizes she has become her mother’s captive, and plans her escape. When she runs away from home, she finds a new family in a troupe of performers at a museum of human oddities. She soon discovers the world is much more dangerous than her mother feared.
Every month since she was twelve years old, Amelia has grown a series of lumps on her back and shed perfect pearls instead of having a menstrual cycle. Amelia's mother sees the peculiar gift as a reason to lock Amelia away for fear of anyone else finding out. However, her mother also closely monitors Amelia's pearls and sells them for her own gain. Homeschooled and not allowed to leave her house since she was twelve, the now 21 year old Amelia is plotting an escape. Saving just a few pearls each month, Amelia decides she has enough for a bus ticket and picks her way out of the locked attic when her mother is gone. Amelia finds herself in Portland, but without any skills, she is a fish out of water. When trying to sell her pearls, Amelia meets Peter who is opening a museum of human oddities. Without disclosing her secret, Amelia fits right in. However, Amelia's trusting nature lands her right back into another prison.
Constellations of Scars is a New Adult fantasy with a very intriguing plot. I loved the idea of a monthly shedding of pearls, like a human oyster. Amelia's mother gave off a Gothel vibe, saying she kept Amelia locked away for her own good. Amelia's character was very interesting and the story is told from her point of view. I do wish that she dove deeper into her feelings about the pearls, accepting herself, and learning how to be a person in the world. It seems that everything just happens to her, rather easily, without much emotional connection. I was also very interested in all of the people at the museum and would have liked to know more about their backstories as well. The pacing of the story seemed a little too fast for me, quickly jumping from one stage in Amelia's journey to the next without allowing time for Amelia to learn and grow. The ending was especially fast. The last part of the book abruptly changed to an engaging and heart-pounding thriller that could have been deeply explored and rounded out Amelia, Peter and Gabriel's characters even more. Overall, a unique story of perseverance, acceptance and hope.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
Melissa Eskue Ousley is an award-winning author living on the Oregon coast with her family, a neurotic dog, two charming cats, and a piranha. Her suspense novel, Pitcher Plant, is set in Seaside, and won a 2018 Independent Publisher Book Award. Her young adult novel, Sunset Empire, debuted in a bestselling boxed set. Her short stories have been included in Rain Magazine, The North Coast Squid, and various anthologies. When she’s not writing, she can be found volunteering for her local wildlife center, caring for injured owls and hawks.
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