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I will admit: I was worried that The Girl and the Stars wouldn’t be as good as the Book of the Ancestor trilogy because I loved that one so much. But I was wrong! I absolutely loved The Girl and the Stars! It’s very different from the Book of the Ancestor, even though it takes place in the same world (Abeth). It has a higher Young Adult vibe to it, and Yaz is a more typical YA heroine than Nona was. But there were so many amazing twists and turns that I never saw coming, and the ending was just… I need the second book to be out now.
Mark Lawrence is a phenomenal writer and used to be a science guy. This clearly shows in his work, as he often combined fantasy with sci-fi elements. The Girls and the Stars is no different in this regard. Not only that, but he has a disabled daughter, who he takes care of. And it seemed to me that the Girl and the Stars picks up on an important theme related to that.
Publisher: HarperVoyager | Genre: YA/NA Coming-Of-Age Action Fantasy
Survival is vital when you live on the ice. And only the strongest ones survive. That’s why, every four years, all the tribes come together east of the Black Rock, to have the regulator inspect the children. If they are considered broken, they are thrown down the Pit of the Missing. And so, Yaz is torn away from her family and has to create a new life for herself in a new world full of difference, mystery, and danger. Slowly, she learns to challenge the cruelty by which her people have always survived. And in the dark, the stars are there to help her.
“What should you do? Who should you be? Everyone wants answers to those questions. Life isn’t that simple though. There’s no one thing we should do, no guiding quest, just as there’s no one person we should be.”
I love that the story explores the theme of family by blood versus found family, but the best theme is how society treats disabled children. It wasn’t too long ago when babes were thrown in the river to drown if they were disabled in any way. And in today’s society, when children can’t keep up, they’re given labels. Disorders. Drugs. Put away in special schools and homes. Is it fair to do so, because they couldn’t keep up ‘in the real world?’ Because they wouldn’t survive? Or should we give them a chance to try to make it on their own?
It’s honestly a tough ethical debate, and Yaz struggles with it throughout the book, with all the familiar arguments. It’s definitely some excellent food for thought, together with a highly entertaining story.
I loved Yaz as a character. I thought she was fleshed-out and realistic. She cares deeply about the people who are important to her and would do anything to save them. Many of the things she considers to be weaknesses– because she was taught so– are actually strengths. In this first book, she’s learning who she is as a person, and what kind of things she wants, as opposed to what her tribe wants.
“She understood that she wasn’t the selfish voice, or the kind one, she was the sum of a multitude, normally joined so close that the seams didn’t show, but liable to fall apart under stress. Everyone was. A mix, a recipe, the sum of their parts and more.”
Both Thurin and Erris were two of my favorite side-characters. Thurin is haunted by his past, and while trying to do the right things, he still has to earn back some trust. Erris is… well, I’m not sure what he is, to be honest. Somewhat of a trapped soul inside the city of the Missing. It reminded me a bit of the holograms in The Broken Empire. But Erris is so much more than that. Quell is also an interesting character. He grew up with Yaz, and, while he obviously cares about her, does seem to think of her as his property, in a way. It’s why I’m a bit less inclined to root for him.
It’s a different Abeth than the Abeth in the Book of the Ancestor. The Girl and the Stars features the world on the ice, which, to be fair, is the vast majority of the surface on the planet. It’s an intriguing world that deepens the knowledge that we gained in the first trilogy. But, again, it’s not necessary to read the Book of the Ancestor to enjoy The Girl and The Stars. We learn about the mysterious world of the Missing, an ancient civilization that was already long gone before the Ancestors arrived. All they left behind are these vast and enormous cities, which are all covered in ice. But that’s not all they left behind—though that’s something you should discover for yourself.
“Sometimes all your words are the wrong shape and none of them will fit into the silence left when the conversation pauses.”
What is featured in The Girl and The Stars that’s also part of the Book of the Ancestor, are the four ‘bloods.’ They’re the bloods of the Ancestors who came to Abeth on their ship (though this is not part of the beliefs of the ice tribes). These four bloods are Gerant, Marjal, Hunska, and Quantal, and each comes with their own ‘properties.’
Once again, it’s a very detailed world, but nowhere in the book was there ever too much detail or too long-winded explanations.
I suppose I could be short here: excellent writing. I just love the philosophical style of Mark Lawrence, and I enjoyed it here again. It might not be the best fit for this more YA-style-novel, but I don’t care. I love the descriptions, the beautifully crafted prose, and the wonderful dialogues. Lawrence manages to write both a fast-paced action story, with enough moments of reflection and pause, creating a real attachment to Yaz. It kept my attention right until the very end, all the while my heart racing with anticipation, hoping they would all get out alive, but not knowing how on earth they could ever get out of there.
“It’s what you do with time that makes it matter. I’d rather spend a year making new memories than a thousand wandering around in the same old ones.”
If all you want to know is the conclusion than here it is: read this book! It’s an amazing coming-of-age, action-packed fantasy novel, that has some sci-fi elements in there as well, and is perfect for both lovers of YA and NA novels. Lawrence’s writing style is beautiful and at times ponderous, touching on an important theme regarding the place of disabled children in society. It’s a story that entertains as well as provokes thought, and by the end, you will be wishing that the second book was already out.