Overview (No Spoilers):
Despite greatly enjoying Lawrence’s The Red Queen’s War and The Broken Empire trilogies, I’d initially delayed picking up more of his works with the misguided excuse that I was burned out of anything remotely grimdark. This hesitation proved unfounded when I stumbled across a post by Lawrence rating his books on a grimdark scale. The Book of Ice trilogy (2.73/5) caught my eye as it ranks low in comparison to my first dose of Lawrence’s writing, e.g., Prince of Thorns (4.43/5), and I was intrigued about the strong female lead.
The Girl and the Stars wastes no time by starting out with a fantastic opening sequence that irrevocably hooks the reader within the first 25 pages. Set in a realm ruled by ice and the bitter cold, we are introduced to Yaz of the Ictha tribe, who are are legendary for their remarkable strength. Every few years, the tribes of this icy region, including the Ictha, make the arduous trip to the Pit of the Missing where the “weak’ among their children are culled by callously being thrown into the menacing hole as everyone else looks on.
As the Ictha rush toward their destination, Lawrence quickly builds the suspense and dread as Yaz’s internal dialogue is rife with doubts and concerns regarding her impending fate. At this point in the story, only a few dozen pages into The Girl and the Stars, the potential outcomes seem fairly obvious. Instead Lawrence has several twists in store that serve to simultaneously shock the reader, while taking the story on a delightfully unexpected trajectory.
The worldbuilding in The Girl and the Stars is quintessential Lawrence as he effortlessly brings to life a foreign realm filled with horrors and wonders in equal parts. As with his other novels, the breadcrumbs of a long expired civilization lie forgotten and in this iteration, locked in the ice. This first novel of The Book of Ice trilogy packs in so many revelations, both regarding this ancient society and modern day tribe dynamics that it will constantly keep the reader reshuffling their knowledge of this frozen world.
Lawrence maintains a fast pace throughout The Girl and the Stars, with Yaz bouncing from one crisis to another with very little time to recover in between. While this format serves to keep the reader constantly on the edge of their seat, by the end I grew a bit numb to the heightened peril since the majority of the novel had been transitioning from one dangerous, overwhelming situation to the next. Due to Yaz having to continually fight for her survival, the growth and development of the surrounding cast was limited, though I look forward to seeing how the characters will evolve with the story.
Overall, Lawrence weaves a literary world that simultaneously captures the imagination while harnessing the claustrophobia of the reader in an exciting survival against old technology, corruption, and the ever present cold in The Girl and the Stars. Not to mention the surprising cliffhanger that will leave the reader impatient to pick up book two.
Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound):
- Will the cart actually be dropped back in the hole? Will Thurin, Zeen, Erris, and the others survive?
- Where is Maya?
- Why did the Regulator Kazik build the Hunters? Where are the hunters taking the other Broken? Why are they harvested?
- Will Quell survive?
- Erris is such a curious character. I want to know more about him!
- Yaz’s single minded determination to save Zeen at all costs grew frustrating, especially in light of everything else that was happening. Saving him also seemed so improbable, which was likely the point.
- Did Yaz actually kill Theus? Was Theus right that she would regret not siding with him? What will happen to him as he is reunited with more of his parts?
- How will Yaz somehow fight Sues?
- What is the extent of Yaz’s Quantal powers?
- What did Eular mean by Theus being prophesied by the City to be the most powerful of their kind?
- I totally called that Eular was a bad guy but it was shocking to still have him turn up at the end. What will happen to Yaz?
- What happened to Hetta in the end? I kept expecting her to pop up again.
- Will Yaz seek out Taproot? Will Eular find the needle?
- I struggled to understand why Pome kept his followers when he was obviously tainted?
- Where are the Missing? Are they still around?
- Does the greenbelt really exist?
- What is the source of “The River”? What powers does Yaz actually have yet developed?
- How will the Broken rebuild after Yaz left? Will the Hunters and the Tainted continue to take from their number?
- What did Yaz and Zeen’s parents do after they both ended up in the Pit?
- What will Thurin think of the outside world if he ever makes it?