Review: Chasing the Star Garden by Melanie Karsak

January 13, 2015 3.5 stars, Book Review 11 ★★★½

Review: Chasing the Star Garden by Melanie KarsakChasing the Star Garden by Melanie Karsak
Series: The Airship Racing Chronicles #1
on December 4, 2013
Genres: Adult SFF, Romance, Steampunk
Pages: 325
Format: Paperback
Source: Author
Buy on Amazon

*This book was provided by the Author for review. No compensation was provided and all opinions are strictly my own.

An opium-addicted beauty.
An infamous poet living in self-imposed exile.
An ancient treasure about to fall into the wrong hands.

Melanie Karsak's Chasing the Star Garden takes readers on a thrilling adventure from the gritty opium dens of gaslamp London to the gem-colored waters of the ancient world. Lily Stargazer, a loveable but reckless airship racer with a famous lover and shattered past, reluctantly plunges into a centuries-old mystery in a romantic adventure best described as Dan Brown meets Mary Shelley.

It all begins on one of the worst days of Lily’s life. She just lost the London leg of the 1823 Airship Grand Prix. To top it off, a harlequin fleeing from constables shoved a kaleidoscope down her pants, told her to fly to Venice, then threw himself from her airship tower. What’s a girl to do? For Lily, the answer is easy: drink absinthe and smoke opium.

Lily’s lover, Lord Byron, encourages her to make the trip to Venice. Lily soon finds herself at the heart of an ancient mystery which has her running from her past and chasing true love and the stars along the way.

*Due to steamy scenes and depictions of drug use, this novel is intended for mature readers.


Chasing the Star Garden was overall best described as conflicting. I have a hard time placing it in any category beyond steampunk. The theme was decidedly adult, a story about a girl with an abusive childhood experience who has grown into an opium addict with self-destructive tendencies that she covers with bravado. The style of writing felt very teen fiction to me, which did not jive well with the major themes involved. One example is that minor story plots that came up and were resolved very neatly and quickly. To me that is a trademark of a book intended for a much younger audience. The juxtaposition was the lurid sexual details and the rampant drug use. I have spoken before about my dislike of reading any novel that depicts drug addiction in a friendly way.

Our main character Lily is a flight prodigy and I loved the description of the airships and the culture that developed around their racing. I would love to have a front row seat at the finish line of one of these races! The ship descriptions were well done and the profiles of the other racers were well fleshed out. This aspect of the story was well done and entertaining. Lily’s personal life leaves much to be desired. Her strange and graphic relationship with Lord Byron and stunted relationship with the mysterious Sal were a major part of the novel and I felt that it took away from the possible pool of readers. I personally felt this novel is wildly inappropriate for teenage girls because of these relationships and graphic dealings with rape and abuse. I also believe that they will alienate most men from the story as well. The historical element was a bit fantastical (which I appreciated) and I hope that future novels explore some of the divine magic touched upon and a lot more ship racing and description.

So- conflicting. I loved that Lily had made something of herself. I hated that she was an opium addict and so far gone she failed to see her addiction. I loved that she was a sexual being and in more than one relationship. I hated that it stemmed from abuse and that one of them was a tool for mutual self-loathing. Adult theme- juvenile set-up. Big problems, easy solutions.


When not taking care of my two children, husband and mini doxy, rushing here and there on the go, I can always be found reading. Fantasy of course being my favorite genre, but not the only I'll read. Oh yes, and I throw bad books.

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11 Responses to “Review: Chasing the Star Garden by Melanie Karsak”

  1. Danya @ Fine Print

    Wow, based on your description I can see why you’re so conflicted about this one Maggie! I agree, I often feel that juvenile writing does a disservice to more mature plot lines – especially ones dealing with sensitive topics like abuse and addiction. Steampunk is a favourite of mine so I may pick this one up, but I’ll keep in mind that the writing may not be up to par.
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  2. kara-karina

    Hm-m, I wouldn’t peg it for YA though, Tabitha. Karina Cooper and Stacia Kane describe a junkie heroine too, and while Lily is not complex she is why too dark and carefree for YA audience. I don’t know maybe I just don’t read that many YA books I am second-guessing myself now 🙂
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