The Girl and the Stars is the start of Mark Lawrence’s new series, although set in the same world as Grey Sister, Red Sister and Holy Sister. Given how much I adored those books (they made it onto my Top Ten Books of 2019), I was slightly apprehensive about a new setting with a whole new cast of characters. I say this, and yet I’d been eyeing up the publication date with rising glee and anticipation. Imagine my delight, then, when the Mark Lawrence himself sent me a signed ARC to review.
This has not affected my review in any way, shape or form… but it was very much appreciated.
Plot summary for The Girl and the Stars:
In the ice, east of the Black Rock, there is a hole into which broken children are thrown.
On Abeth the vastness of the ice holds no room for individuals. Survival together is barely possible. No one survives alone. To resist the cold, to endure the months of night when even the air itself begins to freeze, requires a special breed. Variation is dangerous, difference is fatal. And Yaz is not the same.
Yaz is torn from the only life she’s ever known, away from her family, from the boy she thought she would spend her days with, and has to carve out a new path for herself in a world whose existence she never suspected. A world full of difference and mystery and danger. Yaz learns that Abeth is older and stranger than she had ever imagined. She learns that her weaknesses are another kind of strength. And she learns to challenge the cruel arithmetic of survival that has always governed her people.
Only when it’s darkest you can see the stars.
Star Rating for The Girl and the Stars: * * * * (four stars)
A copy of this book was provided to me by the author, in exchange for an honest review. This has not affected my thoughts and feelings set out below.
The Girl and the Stars is set entirely within the ice that covers the majority of Abeth, the world featured in the Red Sister series by the same author. Whilst there is no overlap between characters, the book still features gerants, hunskas, marjals and quantals – those with special, psuedo-supernatural, abilities. These feature almost immediately, albeit in a slightly different way than in the original series. This book walks an almost perfect line between linking the setting to the last books, but without rehashing it completely. It’s unique, but familiar.
The plot, however, is completely different – as it should be. New series, new story. I have to admit, I wasn’t completely sold on the mechanism used to set the ball rolling – Yaz makes a decision that just didn’t make sense to me and it made me slightly skeptical for a good few chapters. Once I got on board with it, however, it’s an interesting story with some good twists and turns to keep you on your toes.
The series is called The Book of the Ice, so it’s not a huge surprise that the story takes place entirely within the ice lands. That said, The Girl and the Stars does a good job of changing the setting within that limited sphere, so that we never feel stilted or bogged down within yet more bloody ice. The creativity that must be involved in keeping ice interesting is impressive, but it works.
I kept picturing Yaz as Aloy, from the Horizon: Zero Dawn game. She clearly doesn’t fit the icy cold setting, but hey ho. The mind sees who the mind sees. Yaz herself is slightly naive, impulsive, selfish and reckless. I can’t quite work out if she is meant to be all those things, although I suspect not, given she doesn’t really seem to develop throughout. That said, I didn’t dislike her. She’s not annoying as a person, it’s more that her actions are remarkably ill-thought out.
There is a large and varied cast of characters, and I found most of them to be more nuanced and interesting than Yaz herself. I particularly liked Maya, a shy young teenager who can cloak herself in shadows, and Thurin, who has never known a life other than under the ice.
The ending is interesting. It ends on a cliffhanger, but not one that feels cheap or forced. I can’t quite get over the lack of… progress made, but it has made me excited (already) to pick up the next book.
In short, I enjoyed The Girl and the Stars, even if not quite as much as The Book of the Ancestor series. But that’s okay. Whilst you don’t need to have read Red Sister et al before picking up this book, I would recommend it. I’m not sure how easy it would have been to follow the explanations of the ‘stars’ and the different abilities without the background knowledge gleaned from the previous series. I’ll definitely be picking up the next book, however far away that may be, as well as anything else Mark Lawrence deigns to write. Ever.