Yaz is traveling with her whole tribe to the Black Rock, a place where, once every four years, cursed children are thrown into a hole in the ice to meet their end. Yaz expected to be thrown. What she didn't expect was to survive the drop, only to realize that she wasn't cursed, but gifted with power. More power, perhaps, than anyone has ever wielded in Abeth since the days of the Missing...
"Many babies have killed, but it is very rare that the victim is not their mother. When the father handed his infant to the priestess to speak its fortune the child stopped screaming and in its place she began to howl, filling the silence left behind. Omens are difficult and open to interpretation, but if the orcale that touches your newborn dies moments later, frothing at the mouth, it is hard even with a mother's love to think it a good sign."
I've been lucky enough to review thirteen books by Mark Lawrence, but after my fifth or sixth review, I've always struggled to write another one. I can only talk so many times about his unparalleled prose, his captivating world-building, his propulsive narrative or his vivid imagery, and the fact that my reviews are usually addressed to readers who haven't yet read the book in question only makes it that much harder since I'm not willing to tread in spoiler territory. Nevertheless, here we are.
Yaz is perhaps Mark's most compelling protagonist. Despite her minimum to non-existent knowledge of how the world works, having spent her whole life in the Ice, she is cunning and plucky. One way or the other, she will always work her way out of a difficult situation, more often than not ending up in a more complex one. But what truly sets her apart from Jorg, Nona, and even Jalan, is that while they were morally grey protagonists, Yaz is, simply put, a good person. No matter how many times she is presented with an opportunity to save herself in other people's expense, she will always end up choosing the "right path", and I loved her for it. The characters that surround Yaz are also well fleshed out, although the detestable ones far outweigh the likeable. Most of the story takes place in one place, and therefore the worldbuilding isn't that much developed (or further expanded if you've already read The Book of the Ancestor), although there are enough glimpses in the history, ecology and geography of the world to make it fascinating. The magic system is ambiguous, but that is only to be expected in the first book of a series.
And above it all with the frozen light bleeding all around it, some great dark... thing, a creature as large as the sky, like a hand but not, a creature of spindly legs reaching out to encompass the world, supporting a knotted body the colour of venom and despair.
The Girl and the Stars is full of pathos, heart, and joy, but what truly makes it stand out is something that I'm always looking for in SF books, but never expected to find in Fantasy. A sense of wonder. I came to the book looking for adventure and got it, but didn't expect to experience one of those rare moments that trigger the mind into expanding and taking in a mind-blowing concept.
The Girl and the Stars is out on April 21, 2020. You can pre-order it HERE.