Fourteen-year-old Sante isn’t sure where she comes from, but she has a recurring dream of escaping a shipwreck in a sea chest as a baby with her lifelong companion, golden eagle Priss. In the chest was an African bamboo flute, a drum and a dagger inlaid with diamonds. Sante was found and raised by Mama Rose, leader of a nomadic group of misfits and gypsies. They travel around contemporary southern Europe, living off-grid and performing circus tricks for money. Sante grows up alongside two twins, knife-thrower Cat and snake-charmer Cobra, whom she is in love with. During a performance in Cadiz, Sante recognises two men from her dream. They come after her to retrieve the treasures from the sea chest. Sante finds out that she is an Ashanti princess, whose parents probably perished in the shipwreck. After Cat rescues a beautiful red-haired girl called Scarlett from a gang, Mama Rose’s band are forced to flee the city. But Sante and Cobra stay behind, determined to find out more about her family and where she came from.
A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars is a magical realism novel that follows fourteen year old Sante and her friends as they live off the grid and travel around Europe. Sante has a recurring dream about a shipwreck and longs to know the meaning of her dreams and what really happened to her parents.
I really wanted to love this book, I thought it sounded like a really fascinating book and I loved the blend of real life and magic but in truth it fell a little flat for me. I thought the cover was stunning and the story was a wonderful mix of magic and folklore, but for I couldn’t connect with the characters and the plot felt a little chaotic for me.
Badoe has a really beautiful writing style and this was the part of the book I enjoyed the most. I liked our protagonist Sante well enough and she undergoes a massive amount of character development in the book but I just didn’t fall in love with the story the way I was really hoping to. I liked seeing her relationships with the rest of the circus troupe – how they look after each other and become such a close knit family.
The story highlights a lot of really important issues, focusing on human trafficking, refugees, friendship and family. The plot is pretty quick paced and the world building was interesting. Overall this book is a fascinating debut and I definitely want to read more from this author but was a bit on the disappointing side. If you’re a fan of magical realism or quick paced stories, this one might be just what you’re looking for.