I've followed UK-based Darkstar for the past couple years on Instagram, watching as they've experimented with different sizes, paper, and covers in order to refine their notebook design. They now seem to have settled on two main products: a Pocket Notebook that's 14.5cm x 10cm (slightly smaller than A6), and a larger "Adventure Notebook" that's 20cm x 14.5cm. Today I'll take a look at the Pocket Notebook in the "Shine Star Black" color scheme, which Darkstar recently sent over for review.
When I first saw these notebooks in person, "Field Notes Night Sky" and "Pitch Black" first jumped to mind, primarily because all these notebooks feature black covers with reticle grid paper. There are, however, two key differences between the Darkstar and Field Notes products: minimal branding and paper weight. I love that Darkstar limits their cover design to the single "Shine Star" logo, which lends the notebook a sophisticated and understated look - great for working professionals who may not be able to get away with carrying "Dime Novel" or notebooks with shiny holographic covers into meetings.
The 100gsm paper that Darkstar uses is high quality, feels nice to write on, and as far as most pocket notebooks go, works fine with fountain pens. Darkstar states on their website that the paper "will stand up to a range of writing instruments from Blackwing Pencils to Broad Fountain Pens," and that's not inaccurate - the Shine Star notebook contains 54 pages of good paper that's very usable with most fountain pens while keeping to a very fair price point. That said, you all know I have an extremely high standard for labeling something "fountain pen friendly," which is "zero bleedthrough", and I did experience some pinpoint bleeding on the reverse side of a page. If you only write with very wet broad or stub nibs, and insist on using them in your pocket notebooks, you may have some trouble if you want to write on both sides of the page.
For this writing sample, I used a Montblanc 146 with a medium stub (Robert Oster Fire & Ice), a medium TWSBI 580 (Diamine Deep Dark Red), a Schmidt .6mm rollerball refill, and a Pelikan M800 with a fine cursive italic. All of these pens are relatively wet writers that I wouldn't typically use in a pocket notebook, but I wanted to push the paper to its limits. While I did experience some pinpoint bleedthrough with the stub and the TWSBI, the finer nibs and rollerballs didn't bleed or show through. Nothing feathered on the Darkstar paper, which is a big plus.
Takeaways and Where to Buy
I can see these Darkstar notebooks getting some serious use in the future. Since I carry and use my notebooks at work, I tend to gravitate towards sturdy, more understated books (i.e., solid and/or subtle cover designs) over some of the more intricate offerings like those that Field Notes has released in recent quarters. I can appreciate those from a design perspective, but something along the lines of the Darkstar Collection notebooks better suits my day-to-day needs.
You can purchase Darkstar Collection notebooks directly from Darkstar's website. The pocket notebooks are priced at £6.99 for a three-pack (approximately $9.20 US), and the larger "Adventure Notebooks" are sold in packs of two for £7.99. In addition to the basic black, the notebooks come in orange, red, and yellow. Darkstar offers free global shipping on orders over £20, so it's worth your while to stock up.
Disclaimer: Darkstar sent me the notebooks featured in this review for review purposes, free of charge.