The Girl and the Stars

I've said it before and I'll say it again. With well over a million copies sold worldwide and four quality series under his belt, there's no question that Mark Lawrence now deserves to be ranked among the very best SFF authors out there. He has continued to make a name for himself with each new release, pushing the envelope further and further with storylines that always grew in depth and scope. It's evident that "That thorn guy," as George R. R. Martin referred to him at a convention a few of years ago, has come a long way since Prince of Thorns was first published back in 2011.

Although quite different in style and tone, The Broken Empire and The Red Queen's War series shared the same universe. The same can be said of the Book of the Ancestor and the Book of the Ice trilogies. It's too early to tell whether or not these last two series will ever overlap the way their predecessors did, but you can rest assured that you can fully enjoy The Girl and the Stars even if you are a newbie. To all ends and purposes, though they occur on the same planet, this marks the beginning of a brand new story arc, with new protagonists, a new setting, and new plotlines.

And like all of Lawrence's first installments, The Girl and the Stars is the opening chapter of what should be another compelling trilogy.

Here's the blurb:

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.

There is no question that Mark Lawrence's novels have always been character-driven works. Still, worldbuilding often played a somewhat important role in his three fantasy series. The Book of the Ancestor trilogy featured a dying sun and a planet left with only a 50-mile wide corridor running along the length of its surface heated by a focus moon that allows mankind to survive from the encroaching ice that covers the globe throughout both hemispheres. The Girl and the Stars occurs hundreds, or even thousands of miles to the north, where the corridor and things we take for granted like trees are either unheard of or the stuff of legends. When I inquired last year, the author was still unsure whether or not this new tale takes place before or after Nona's story. Time will tell, I reckon.

Little was known and/or remembered of what is trapped under the ice in the Book of the Ancestor, with only hints of hidden and nefarious powers from the deep coming into play. And though it raises new questions, The Girl and the Stars offers some tantalizing answers about what lies under the ice. We learned in the last trilogy that the world of Abeth was colonized ages before by four different alien races known as the Gerant, the Hunska, the Marjal, and the Quantal. Descendants from these four "tribes" may have inherited special powers or abilities associated with each bloodline. Mixed bloods can potentially be even more powerful. But before the coming of these alien races and before the coming of the vast ice sheets which now cover the continents, the fabled Missing held sway. What ultimately happened to them and why they left is unknown. But confined under the ice are the remains of some of their cities and technology. Which means that, as was the case in the previous three trilogies, it seems that age-old technology might play a role in the Book of the Ice as well. As is usually his wont, Lawrence keeps his cards pretty close to his chest throughout this first volume. Yet it is evident that there is much more to The Girl and the Stars than meets the eye. Time will tell if this new series will echo with as much depth as its predecessors, but I have learned to have faith in Mark Lawrence. He hasn't left me down yet.

Unlike The Broken Empire and The Red Queen's War series, in which readers were thrown into an ongoing story, with flashback scenes filling in the blanks along the way, like the trilogy that preceded it The Girl and the Stars follows a more traditional format, with a young and more or less clueless main protagonist learning about the world and the plotlines at the same pace as the reader. As a child of the Ictha, Yaz's existence has always revolved around survival and superstition. There is no place for anything else out on the ice. Surviving a fall to the bottom of the Pit of the Missing will bring her face to face with a new world unlike anything she has ever imagined. Her time among the Broken will make her question her former life and the lies underpinning the laws that govern the tribes up on the surface. Her hitherto unknown talents will allow her to unveil ancient secrets that will make her see the regulator and the priests of the Black Rock in a new light.

Yaz of the Ictha is the main protagonist through whose eyes we witness events unfold. And though there are similitudes regarding their respective plights, she is a world away from the POV character from the Book of the Ancestor trilogy. Forsaken and friendless, Nona Grey was a tough nut to crack. She didn't open up easily, to other people as well as to the readers. Although it was easy to root for her, given that all the odds appeared stacked against her, it was nevertheless difficult to relate to Nona. After following the misadventures of the easy-going and likeable Jalan, it definitely took a while to finally get used to Nona and her quirks. Yaz is more empathic and a bit of a do-gooder at heart, which makes it easier to relate to her. That sensitivity will come to plague her and put her in perilous situations, but Yaz remains true to herself throughout the book. The supporting cast is comprised of a bunch of misfits, most of them thrown down the Pit of the Missing and miserably trying to eke out a living trapped under countless feet under the ice.

The pace is never an issue and remains relatively fluid throughout The Girl and the Stars. There are a few battle scenes that felt repetitives and could probably have been cut out without readers losing anything important in the process. I found the endgame to be interesting, but could have done without the cliffhanger ending. Thankfully, we're talking about Mark Lawrence and not GRRM or Patrick Rothfuss and we know that the sequel has already been written. Which means that a year from now, we know for sure that we'll discover what happens next. Having said that, I would have preferred for this novel to be more self-contained and to end with more resolution. Some may find this off-putting, while others won't have any problem with that. You mileage may vary in that regard, and this may understandably influence your overall satisfaction rating.

All in all, The Girl and the Stars is another multilayered introduction that sets the stage for what should be yet another entertaining and engrossing series!

The final verdict: 7.75/10

For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.

0 commentaires: