Review: The Girl and the Stars
Mark Lawrence’s Book of the Ancestor trilogy (EBR Archive) was easily one of my favorite fantasy reads of recent years. The time I spent with Nona in the world of Abeth was some seriously good reading. So when I heard that the author was doing another series on the same world and that he was cruising through the writing (have already heard of significant work being accomplished on book 3 of the series), I was uber excited to get into it.
THE GIRL AND THE STARS (Amazon) is the first in a planned trilogy that contains a place and people far-removed from what we read in the Book of the Ancestor. If you’re going to dive in this book, you should know that ahead of time. Apart from being set in the same world, this is a completely different story. Don’t be upset about it though. Mark Lawrence is a great author. He’ll do you right.
Yaz’s people are the Ictha. They are a tribe that lives in the far north, where the world is nearly as cold as the void and being anything approaching nonchalant will get you killed. They are a strong and harsh people that live with death and the strain of survival in the extreme cold of the frozen planet of Abeth. As such, they are a proud people with history and ritual, and they keep to their ways. For to stray from the path that their ancestors have trod for them means death for one and maybe many. This is perhaps the most difficult lesson for Yaz to swallow though. For she is different than the rest of her people. And the time has come for those who are different to be removed from the tribe.
This book has an opening sequence that is possibly one of the best I’ve read in the last ten years. So well done. From the feel of the surroundings and the steeping of history and the present into the natural progress of the storyline to the perfectly built character and motivation of Yaz, I just can’t say enough good about it. The end of Chapter 1 absolutely floored me by what happens, and the events that transpire in that first chapter are vital to everything that comes afterward. I don’t know that I could have hoped for a better beginning to this new series. Totally knocked it out of the park.
The majority of the story is told in surroundings that are completely new to Yaz. Unlike the green strip of “normal” land where Nona roamed, the world of the ice is far removed from what the large majority of we readers are used to. There is rock and ice and some water and cold… and a bunch of variation on that handful of things. As such, the world that is painted in this book is very limited in its presentation. So it feels smaller. Tighter. In some ways this lends to the focus of the story, but it others it can lead to some mild monotony because of how similar every place in the story feels. There’s very little to distinguish one place from another.
Another tale on the world of Abeth that starts on the ice but soon dives beneath its surface and goes a bit sci-fi in the process. An entertaining tale.
This is broken up some by the introduction of locations and relics of The Missing, the ancient people that first came to Abeth and spawned the several types of people in the world. This world has always had some aspects of science fiction in it, and those pieces of the story become much more prominent in this book as the fantastical world of magic where Yaz (and Nona) live, collide with the science and technology of the long but apparently not-so-dead past. Even though these parts of the story intrigued me and made me hungry to know more about how all of this will come to play a part in Yaz’s story, I never really understood the significance (and sometimes even the logistical details) of anything that happened with regard to The Missing. Mostly I just felt confused as to what was going on and read along for the ride.
This theme carried over into the rest of the story as well. Yaz is thrown into the middle of what feels like a minor war, and she’s only given very little time with which to develop any meaningful relationships. The one exception to this is the relationship that she has with her little brother, Zeen, but he doesn’t play much of an active role in the story until pretty late in the book. This lack of significant relationships between Yaz and the secondary characters made the interactions, betrayals, and losses less impactful than I think they otherwise could have been. The entire story happens in a relatively short amount of time, and Yaz just never got to a point that anything about what was going on in the violence happening around her meant much of anything (to me) because of that lack of connection (for her). Even when Zeen makes his re-entry into the story, I felt like he was almost ignored, and so this one solid relationship that I had been holding onto for the entire book really fell flat for me.
From a world-building perspective, this story relies heavily upon what was completed in the Book of the Ancestor series. From the types of people born to the world to the source of magic and its use, there is very little time spent building up our knowledge and understanding of how things work on Abeth. In some respects, I think this could be a sticking point for those that read this series first without having previously read the Book of the Ancestor. Without that background, these aspects of the world feel very thrown-in; the magic very generic, all-powerful, and lacking consequence. I think if I would have come into this book without having read the Book of the Ancestor, these pieces of the story would have bothered me significantly more than they did.
The story is still a great one. Full of exploration and discovery, friendships and betrayal, violence and victory and crushing defeat. It had a lot of the things that I love to find in a story. It just didn’t quite grab me like I wanted it to because of the few issues I’ve mentioned. That being said, I think this story provides some great setup for the next book in the series. Perhaps not as much potential as I saw after finishing RED SISTER, but I’m still definitely excited to see what Mark Lawrence has planned for us next.
- Recommended Age: 15+, mostly for violence
- Language: Very little, but the occasional f-word
- Violence: Gets pretty violent and bloody in parts; nothing gratuitous though
- Sex: A few mild references