Title: The Girl and the Stars.
Series: Book of the Ice #1.
Writer(s): Mark Lawrence.
Release Date: April 21st, 2020.
My Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆.
The illusion of perfection has haunted many throughout history. It has brought some to entertain tyrannical measures to cleanse society of specific individuals deemed unworthy of life and others to adhere by certain maxims pertaining to their selves to attain what they desire and inch their way closer to their definition of perfection. After all, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link and if a community living on Abeth’s glacial and deadly ice is to survive, they will have to be wise about their societal structure. Epic fantasy author Mark Lawrence brings forth a brand-new spin-off to his Book of the Ancestor trilogy by diving into a cold world hiding layers of unthawed secrets deep in the heart of Abeth.
What is The Girl and the Stars about? The ceremony crowning sixteen-year-old Yaz of the Ichta‘s adulthood is finally upon her. East of the Black Rock lies the Pit of the Missing where the weak are pitched into a bottomless pit by the regulator who administers the only judgment that will allow children to remain with the community in the shivering cold of the ice on Abeth or fall to their death in a merciless condemnation for the broken children deemed incapable of survival. But this abyss hides much more than what it has been claimed to be by her community and Yaz will quickly learn that her talents are crucial to unearthing unparalleled powers, unspoken history, and unfathomable truths about life and the world in which she shivers in.
Resting the foundation of this story’s magic system on that elaborated within the Book of the Ancestor‘s trilogy allows Mark Lawrence to expand and lay out additional ramifications to the mythology that he once conceived from the ground up. These crucial details about the lore within his universe remain an abundance of pleasure, especially for fans of the original trilogy, and pave the way to an elaborate—if not sometimes overly-saturated—magic system that sadly loses a bit of its freshness as you unravel the intricacies of star-stones.
However, Mark Lawrence’s writing style does wonder in creating this brand-new world that continuously surprises the reader by revealing worlds within worlds, sort of like jumping into a rabbit hole to land somewhere unimaginable to a sixteen-year-old girl who has only known the laws of the ice that constrained her people to a life of survival. In this story, he creates a thoroughly claustrophobic atmosphere and adds a modicum of horror through terrifying creatures straight from the nightmares of abandoned children.
Unexpectedly, the story also leaves an unfortunately unwelcomed impression of a tale written as a young adult trilogy. The abundance of young characters, including the protagonist, who never truly stand out much due to the author’s focus on Yaz’s journey fails to offer this story the necessary supporting cast to keep me mesmerized by this new adventure. The typical chosen one trope is barely revisited as well but still offers the reader the chance to follow Yaz in her search for purpose. There is plenty to enjoy once you embark on this adventure where she learns to belong, especially when her place in this world has shockingly opened up to her following a dramatic emotional decision to follow her emotions rather than reason.
Concluding on an undoubtedly thrilling final act, the story, however, is entirely focused on Yaz’s quest but contains plenty of action allowing the narrative to ebb and flow throughout the book. From smaller-scale conflicts for leadership to larger-scale wars with mystical entities, there is a fully-realized world to explore in the first installment of the Book of the Ice and plenty of angles for Mark Lawrence to capitalize on in the following sequels now that he has raised the curtain on this part of Abeth.
The Girl and the Stars is a promising spin-off plunging deep into worlds filled with strange creatures and broken beings but softened by a tale of self-discovery, belonging, and friendship.
Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me a copy for review!