The Girl and the Stars is the most recent release from Mark Lawrence, kickstarting a new trilogy set in the same world as his Book of the Ancestor trilogy.
As per usual, I loved the idea of a Mark Lawrence book more than the reading of it, but there’s still fun to be had in the frozen wasteland he’s conjured here.
The book follows Yaz, a member of the Ictha tribe, one of several groups eking out existence in a harsh frozen landscape. Life is hard, and it’s made the Ictha and their fellow tribes hard as well—children who aren’t strong enough to survive on the ice are sacrificed, tossed into the Pit of the Missing during an annual ceremony so they won’t drain resources from the rest of the tribe.
While Yaz survives the ceremony, her brother is deemed unworthy and thrown into the Pit, spurring her to leap in after him. But what awaits them in the caverns beneath the ice isn’t a long drop and a quick death, but a tribe made up of “Broken”—the others who were cast aside by their tribes for being imperfect now living their lives in the subterranean ruins of an ancient civilization.
But the Broken aren’t alone in the tunnels; they’re locked in an unending battle with the Tainted—others who fell and were claimed by demons living in the ice, all working under the command of a shadowy presence known as Theus to reclaim pieces of himself lost in the ice.
Frigid Highs & Cold Lows
While this is “Adult Fantasy,” it reads almost like a YA book. There’s a vaguely defined love triangle (maybe even a love square? if that’s a thing?) and, while there’s plenty of violence, it’s relatively restrained in terms of gore with some minor exceptions.
Mark Lawrence is a professional worldbuilder, and it’s easy to get sucked into the post-apocalyptic landscape he conjures, with tribes struggling to survive and making hard choices to do so.
Lawrence is also one of the best in the biz when it comes to hooking readers, and The Girl and the Stars is no exception—the opening line of the novel, “Many babies have killed, but it is very rare that the victim is not their mother,” had me riveted.
Unfortunately, the novel starts to lose steam about halfway through, managing to both meander and cover too much ground simultaneously. Encounters start to feel like a slog, an endless barrage of action setpieces that lose their potency, and Yaz’s commitment to her mission—rescuing her brother from the Tainted—feels less noble and more irresponsible as things go on. At the same time, so much is happening with individual characters and the factions they comprise that it can make a reader’s head spin.
However, even if this isn’t Lawrence’s strongest work, it has its charms and the action and worldbuilding are legitimately interesting and entertaining at times, especially earlier on in the novel. It starts to wear out its welcome at the halfway point, but you may be so invested by then that you don’t mind.
I’m not sure if I’ll come back for the next installment in the trilogy. If I do, it likely won’t be at the top of my list when it releases. As it stands, Your Mileage May Vary here.
You can purchase a copy of The Girl and the Stars here.
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