Stars, Hide Your Fire by Kel McDonald and Jose Pimienta
Iron Circus Comics (October 5, 2021)
162 pages; paperback $15; $9.99 e-book
Reviewed by Joshua Gage
Andrea and Darra live in a dead-end Massachusetts town, making their way through high school with hopeful (but slim) dreams of escape. Everything’s going according to plan until a chance encounter with an otherworldly spirit named Carmen changes everything! Carmen promises Andrea eternal life, but a mysterious young boy named Liam shows up claiming he had also made a deal with Carmen, and it didn’t go well . . . 100 years ago. Liam must convince his new friends of Carmen’s evil nature before Andrea is tricked into a supernatural bargain that will upend her new life before it even starts in Stars, Hide Your Fire written by Kel McDonald and illustrated by Joe Pimienta.
What makes Stars, Hide Your Fire so intriguing is the ennui felt by the characters, particularly Andrea. She constantly finds herself at odds with her town, where the most fun teens can have is hanging out at the local convenience store and breaking into abandoned buildings. When Carmen offers her a chance for something different and an escape from the monotonous drudgery of small town life, Andrea falls for the trap. As this is a book geared towards teen and YA readers, this tone will certainly appeal to the intended audience. Then McDonald flips the script and adds in dark fantasy elements that make for a really exciting and redemptive tale.
Jose Pimienta’s artwork is well balanced, and only serves to draw the reader into the tale. The line work is very soft, and has elements of realism without an overly cartoony or stylized style. This makes the setting seem real for the readers, and allows Pimienta enough room to create some dark and disturbing scenes while also making it YA friendly, which helps to accentuate the tale and its dark undertones for readers.
Overall, Stars, Hide Your Fire is a really fun book. Clearly geared towards a YA audience, teens and tweens will really enjoy this tale. However, adults, too, will find a narrative of interest. This book is strongly recommended for fans of dark fantasy and YA graphic novels.