Starless by Jacqueline Carey
Reviewed by GGGinny
What I drank: Gin and Ginger. It’s easy and it tastes good.
Jacqueline Carey is back with an amazing adventure not seen since her New York Times bestselling Kushiel’s Legacy series. Lush and sensual, Starless introduces us to an epic world where exiled gods live among us, and a hero whose journey will resonate long after the last page is turned.
Let your mind be like the eye of the hawk…Destined from birth to serve as protector of the princess Zariya, Khai is trained in the arts of killing and stealth by a warrior sect in the deep desert; yet there is one profound truth that has been withheld from him.
In the court of the Sun-Blessed, Khai must learn to navigate deadly intrigue and his own conflicted identity…but in the far reaches of the western seas, the dark god Miasmus is rising, intent on nothing less than wholesale destruction.
If Khai is to keep his soul’s twin Zariya alive, their only hope lies with an unlikely crew of prophecy-seekers on a journey that will take them farther beneath the starless skies than anyone can imagine.
Drunk Overview: So, gods walk the world, and there are a bunch of different prophecies that outline a cataclysmic event in the future. Khai was born the shadow to a sun-blessed princess (sun-blessed people have seeds that allow them extended lives). Khai trains their whole life to protect the princess. Once they meet up, prophecies start to coalesce and oooooh.
Drunk Thoughts: This book is absolutely gorgeous
- I LOVED Khai and Princess Zariya’s dynamic. The prophecy and link between the two of them made for so many fun interactions.
- But I particularly enjoy characters who meet and know they’re immediately meant to be in each other’s lives. I know it’s rare, but I’ve experienced friendships like that and, they’re kind of lifechanging.
- Ugh, there’s so much I want to say, but I don’t want to spoil anything.
- So lets start with other things.
- The world that Carey built is so interesting. Looking at how different gods shaped the culture around them.
- The backdrop of the cloister where Khai grew up was a wonderful place to start! I could picture the sparseness of this rocky structure so well.
- But then you add in the politics of all of these different countries.
- This shows up early when you have a community that speaks in double-speak to honor their god, versus a community that values battle above all others, and yet another place where artistry and grace are all important, and the three are all fighting for a hand in marriage…
- There were just all of these details that made the world feel so full and so unexplored!
- And that continues as the travel begins to widen even further, there are multiple sea-faring communities that I just wanted to know more about!
- The book felt like it was so well placed in a world that even though the parts we saw in the book were limited, I felt like I had a decent understanding of so much more.
- (I would also say, there are some gods I think I would appreciate more than others – constant battle or double-speak sounds exhausting).
- I will also say that this book was labeled as “slow paced” on Storygraph (where I moved when I realized I wasn’t getting what I wanted from Goodreads – not a plug, just a fact), and I feel like I tend towards faster reads. but god the writing in this kept me interested from the very beginning.
- I can’t tell you if it was Khai’s perspective (which we get from the very beginning), the (again) details that we get about the world (including how they handle different kinds of disability requirements – more on this later), or if the story was just built that well. But the first (I’m guessing) third of this book is functionally a training montage and yet I was completely enthralled.
- My only complaint about this book is that it ended about 20 pages too soon.
- Onto the characters:
- I’ve talked a bit about Khai (and this is a minor SPOILER), but the gender dynamics at play were fascinating, especially when considered by different cultures.
- Khai is bazhim (probably spelled wrong), but basically he was born as a girl, raised as a boy, and has to figure out what he feels like as the book goes on. I’m using primarily male pronouns as that is primarily how Khai thought about himself.
- But I thought there was a lot of beauty in how Khai went about exploring his gender, and how Zariya helped with that.
- And Zariya, she’s unable to walk due to a childhood disease
- And (THIS IS ANOTHER SPOILER) I kind of love the fact that the seed that extends life didnt change that.
- It was a wonderful story that showed her strength wasn’t about the physical.
- This book explored her disappointment that the seeds didn’t change anything, while also focusing purely on her joy of finding the other half of her soul (Khai – if that wasn’t obvious), and her love of adventuring.
- The book was really clear that there were things she could do and things she couldn’t, but god she was such a badass.
- There was a scene with this very painful descriptions and my heart went out to her.
- I will say, this book does also have it’s fair share of “red-shirts” or people who were there more as cannon fodder than characters.
- But this book also wasn’t precious about not killing anyone (there’s one series I’m thinking of that couldn’t stand to kill off a single named character even in a massive war – and came up with absured reasons to bring people back and UGH, the worst). I would argue that it was even a little more blood-thirsty than I expected it would be.
- But that doesn’t detract from the fact that when we were getting towards the end, the tension had built up so well – with the prophecies, and the slow journey showing the peril our characters were headed towards, and the foreshadowing?
- Legit, I think I only have one complaint about the book:
- Without going into details, there was an event that I was really looking forward to, and while the ending as it is is satisfying, I was disappointed that the event I wanted didn’t happen.
- And in the end, that is such a minor complaint! I wanted more of the story and didn’t get it. Boo-hoo.
- If I want more of the stort I can reread the book and probably find soemthing new.
What it Pairs With: The renn-faire in Maryland serves a drink called a bee-sting that’s half mead and half cider. I’d say that. This book has so many sweet bits but packs a punch.