The Girl and the Stars


The Girl and the Stars

by Mark Lawrence

3 out of 5

Synopsis
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.

Review
Yaz knows that she is going to get thrown down the pit, a sacrifice to keep her clan strong and healthy. She soon discovers a whole new world beneath the ice.

I received a free copy from Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Yaz is part of the Ichta, one of the four clans who live on the ice, who are renowned for their stamina.
She is weaker than the others, and although she tries to hide this weakness, she knows what will happen in the end.
Every few years, there is a reckoning, where all the tribes gather, and children are assessed. Those that are strong, are returned to their tribes as adults. Those that are weak, and will be an increasing strain on their tribe, are sacrificed for the good of the group.
They are thrown into the pit. As far as everyone is concerned, this is a death sentence.
What they don't know, is that their Broken children have their own community under the ice, where they mine for metal and stars, in return for food and supplies from the priests.
Of course, they aren't the only things down there.

I loved the world that Lawrence has created.
All Yaz and her kin have ever known is the world of ice they live on. It's ice as far as you can travel, eventually meeting the sea. Their whole existence is about survival; working together, and pouring every ounce of effort into staying alive. Their survival is precarious, and no one questions the need to throw weak children down the pit.
But they're not necessarily weak, they are just different. With traits that might be the next step in evolution, but unfortunately don't work well on the ice. Some are super-fast but can't keep warm; others are extra tall and strong, but need too much food.
Yaz is different, she's a quantal, someone who can control things with her mind. Just as her new friend Thurin can control water, Yaz learns that she can control the stars (spherical chunks of glowing rock that provide energy, but can also drive people insane).

I enjoyed following Yaz, as she discovered just how big the world was. She had always accepted the old stories, that the four tribes arrived from over the sea, and there was no other life than the ice.
She has never seen soil or rocks. She doesn't know what mushrooms are, nor has she any idea that plants grow.
She's warm, and for the first time in her life, she is free to make her own choices. She's not limited by merely staying alive.

Not everything is for the better. Not all the children that are thrown down make it to the relative safety of the Broken community. Some die from the fall; or are killed by cannibals. Some are possessed by demons that linger in the black ice, always hunting for their next victim.
There are unstoppable hunters, powered by stars, that roam the caves.

The setting was A-MA-ZING.

The not-so-good.
Yaz was an OK main character, and this was super-promising for the first third. She jumps into the pit to save her brother; discovers she has this awesome ability to control the stars (which means she's the only person amongst the Broken that has a chance to drive back the demons etc); and she's heralded as the bringer of change. She's all set to be a kick-ass heroine.
Then... she spends an awful lot of time drifting about with various people in her wake. Her goals constantly seem to be moving, and her drive seems completely selfish.
One moment she's giving a big speech to the Broken, promising to lead them to freedom; and the next, she's leaving them all to die under Pome's attack, with absolutely no shits given.
There are other hints along the way of saving the city, or saving the possessed; but these wither and die. 
The key group that Yaz is willing to protect constantly changes. It doesn't seem to matter who she saves, as long as a couple survive at the end of the story.

There are various characters that pop up and are super-important for a brief moment, but once the aide to the plot is done, Yaz doesn't spare them any thought. As such, it was hard to keep track of all the characters that were introduced. On the conveyor-belt, none of them particularly stood out or had any real depth, except from ex-possessed-Thurin and cute-assassin-Maya.

Overall, the writing and world-building was great. I don't think I'll continue with this series, but I'll definitely look into the rest of Lawrence's work.


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