Let’s get a couple things about Mark Lawrence and The Girl and All the Stars out of the way.
- I have not ready anything by Mark Lawrence in the past. I do have a working knowledge of his past works due to my friend Kevin (you can say hi to Kevin at @xsouthofkevinx (in fact, please harass him, relentlessly, as it would amuse me greatly).
- Having stated #1, this is the last time I’m mentioning that in this review and everything hereby within, is from the view of someone who has not read anything by Mark Lawrence before.
- The first part of this review, admittedly, and I say admittedly because I do not want some all out holy war (not that there is ever any large amount of comments on my posts, but I feel the need to be proactive) in my comment section. If anyone wants to have a civil discussion about the first section of the review, by all means- fantastic! But it must be civil.
- Truthfully, #2 gave me a basis for even writing this review because outside of the world-building, which is how I will close the review? It is very hard to discuss The girl and the Stars without spoiling all the things. Once this book kicks off? IT KICKS OFF.
- There was no cat blood shed in writing this review. However, my blood was shed in retrieving my ARC from Gomez.
- I believe (unless someone wants to mention another author down in the comments) all my mortal since are now covered.
About That Upfront Section
Somewhat recently (Januaryish?) I wrote a very salty review about … well I might as well name it because I’m going to have to link the review, anyway. I wrote a review of All the Stars and Teeth. Now I’m not going to repeat that review here, but I’m going to hit some of the…eh… “high” lights? And for further details/context you can go look at the review. The important points is are two fold. No, actually… three fold, although I guess … let me just get on with it.
- Yaz (you know how long it took me to not call her Kaz?) – the main character of The Girl and the Stars vs. Amora the Main Character in All the Stars and Teeth.
- Tropes – more specifically the execution of said tropes.
- This kind of falls under #2- that “ceremony” in book one of a series, in whatever form it might take.
Let’s break this down one by one, shall we? Cool?
Yaz vs Amora
If you have read the linked review above you know but even if you haven’t I believe the general consensus is that Amora is a self-entitled brat. She states up front in the book that being queen (there is another word in the book but I can’t be buggered to look it up) won’t be handed to her because she’s the King’s daughter and that she has to earn it.
But then when everything at her seriously predictable ceremony goes wrong (don’t worry that is coming in a minute)? She flees for her life, takes off and spends the entire book talking about how dare they, she is the best thing for that country and basically being a spoiled, entitled witch who drinks a lot when she is supposed to be proving herself to her people. She outright says she doesn’t want to be married because, oooooh I get lavish gifts from suitors and then goes wandering a street fair because SHINY THINGS!
Yaz is the anti-Amora. Everything wrong with Amora, is right with Yaz. She is a bad-ass. She will meet her destiny head-on. Oh, her destiny? To be thrown into the Pit of the Missing, with all broken children
She doesn’t run from it or throw some hissy fit. In fact, she keeps the knowledge of her fate to herself, sparing her loved ones the grief of knowing they are going to lose her. She is tough and strong in her mind, selfless. She may ache for more than the life she would have, if she wasn’t about to be thrown into a dark, cavernous black hole. But she keeps those thoughts to herself, and is wracked with guilt over them.
Yaz doesn’t just talk about what is to be earned and who she needs to be for her tribe. She shows it in her actions, even at her own peril and self-sacrifice. There wasn’t a moment when Amora acted in this way.
This and the next section are going to be a bit tricky to discuss. I don’t want to spoil anything in The Girl and the Stars. So that side of the discussion is going to be a bit vague. I’m going to do the best I can, however.
My whole argument with All the Stars and Teeth was how predictable Amora’s ceremony was. All anyone kept talking about, Amora included, was how important the ceremony was to her and the entire kingdom. She absolutely had to pass her magic test. She kept “accidentally” hearing people talk badly about her dad. All the delicious foods and wine and fine silks.
The secret council meetings and political whispering that Amora was just dying to know so she could figure out what was happening. Again- not because she wanted to help her country as much as because she selfishly was just sick of being treated as a damn child. She just knew people were lying to her and HOW DARE THEY. Oh and did I mention the 10,000 (literally – that’s what was said) gallons of wine that was flowing. Again, I really don’t care about drinking… it just struck me for some reason.
The outcome of Amora failing and everything turning into such utter chaos was absolutely predictable. Not because a ceremony can’t work but because the execution was tired.
Is there a ceremony in The Girl and the Stars. YUP. Traditional. YUP. Is it discussed at length throughout the first chapter of the book (18 pages)? YUP. Was I a little worried about all of this? YUP. When the ceremony actually took place was I in complete shock? Well…
And this, is my whole point. It isn’t the ceremony that is, inherently, the problem. It is how the idea is executed in the context of the rest of the story. Lawrence, like the main character, executes it in a completely different fashion. There isn’t a predictability.
In fact, it is no see, I can’t even say that. Just trust me when I say, it isn’t predictable. Not only isn’t predictable but it further solidifies Yaz and throws the plot line into a direction that was impossible to see coming, as well. There are two holey and separate events during the ceremony that back slapped me twice, so hard, I had whiplash.
By the end of chapter 3?
In fact- just get me the mead Amora drinks in All the Stars and Teeth
Now, one could argue that how could anyone claim to have an idea as to where the plot is going in the first chapter of any book. I say nay, nay. Again, I knew right away what was going to happen in All the Stars and Teeth. Even putting that aside, we have all read books where we have called the entire plot right through till the end before chapter two begins (depending on the length of the chapter, of course). But that would be to miss my entire point. So. Don’t
Tropes In General
Look. Like I said in the review of All the Stars and Teeth. Tropes are a fact of reading lives. It is kind of hard to read a book that is devoid of any tropes. Six of Crows/Crooked Kingdom has tropes. So obviously, my issue here isn’t with the idea of tropes. My romance trigger aside (and that is my personal trigger so I can’t hold that against tropes. Many people LOVE that trope, no pun intended), tropes are basically literary devices (kind of). Again, it is the execution of said tropes. There are tropes in The Girl and the Stars.
Hints are dropped very early in the book that Yaz has a secret something running through her veins. She doesn’t know what it is but she thinks it is bad. She doesn’t tell anyone about it. As a reader it isn’t terribly hard to deduce that this is probably not bad and will serve her down the line at some point. When? Where? What it is? No clue. All there is to say is that it probably isn’t the shit show she thinks. I won’t go into further detail about it. Now that trope, which could be a few different ones, I won’t name because it takes more reading before you know exactly what it is, and I don’t want to give it away.
Thank you to Ace for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
The beauty of it is that Lawrence execution of it is superb. Over the course of the book, a set of dominoes fall because of this unknown. It isn’t an instant reveal. In fact without any knowledge of what it means, Yaz makes many brave, courageous and selfless decisions for nothing but the love of her people. Damn whatever is going on with her. It is only after these perilous decisions are made that she later, overtime, learns what is happening with her and then … well you’ll have to read.
Lastly, and aye this is tricky. But in the most general terms speaking? Yeah you have the big meanie showdown etc… Execution, again. If you aren’t rooting for Yaz and everyone she meets along the way by the end? I’m not sure what to tell you. But the end of this book isn’t just a cliffhanger because of how it ends, well not in typical terms that leave lives in the balance etc… It is a multi-dimensional cliffhanger that effects many story elements. I can’t say more than that but prepare for it.
I REALLY, REALLY WANT to commend Lawrence on another topic but it does not come up until the end of the book. So, I have to wait for book two but… BRAVO for your bravery, sir. That is a topic that I didn’t see being tackled.
Leaving the world of comparisons. I’ve never written a review like that before. I’m sure many will hate me for it but there was so much I couldn’t talk about that I needed a structure to root the review in AND the comparisons were like a case study. I couldn’t ignore them. Forgive me.
Lawrence knows how to build a world without dragging down a story. There is more than one world built in The Girl and The Stars. And see I can’t even go into that too much because it would spoil where the plot goes, where Yaz’s path leads her and I don’t want to do it.
He engages all five senses in the landscapes that he builds. Especially in feeling and sight. The icy depths of coldness, the lack of sight in the dark. Lawrence’s description brings both to life through the dialogue and action of the characters.
The foundation of the magic system is set-up and flushed out well for a trilogy’s first book. We go through it with everyone involved. Reader frustration is palpable because that is to share the character’s frustration. At crucial points in the book, this is especially true, if characters haven’t mastered the ability to wield it.
I can’t speak to those who are loyal, longtime readers of Mark Lawrence, especially those who have read the other books set in this same worlk. Nor others who are new to Lawrence, because reading is such a personal experience. I can say that for me, I cannot wait for the second book to come out. I can’t imagine Lawrence not growing his audience through The Girl and the Stars.