The Girl and the Stars (Book of the Ice #1) by Mark Lawrence

The Girl and the Stars is the first Book of the Ice and a great start to series.  In true Lawrence fashion it has incredible world building and I suspect, as with the rest of his books, is going to be something that has the ‘big picture’ in mind.

This is Abeth, the cold and the wind make for very uncomfortable living.  Life on the ice is tough and life expectancy short for most and for those who are different, well, it’s really short.  The tribes who live in these extremes can’t afford difference, they have to be tough, fast and resilient and for those who can’t fit in the prospects are harsh.

When we meet Yaz, she is travelling across the ice with her family.  It is time for another meeting of the tribes and for the frightening initiation ritual that the children must face.  Yaz is afraid.  She knows she’s different and that this difference will lead to her being discarded and thrown into the bottomless pit where all outcasts end their days known as the ‘Broken’.  And, this is when the story takes us, down into a dark pit.

I’m not going to elaborate on the plot, there are plenty of reviews that already do so very well and so it’s unnecessary.  I would mention that if you’ve not read anything by Lawrence before, although this is set in the same cold world as the Book of the Ancestor series, it isn’t necessary to have read his previous books in order to pick this one up, although clearly there will be certain references that you may not pick up, but you won’t know that you’re not picking them up, so it’s all good. After all, if you’ve never eaten chocolate you don’t know that you’re missing out – but, wait, what? Why wouldn’t you eat chocolate!

I’m always excited to pick up a new Lawrence book, I can genuinely say that I’ve enjoyed everything of his that I’ve read so far and the expectation of reading a book set on the Ice – which is where a character that I particularly enjoyed from the previous series comes from – well, if anticipation could be measured you still wouldn’t be able to measure mine. And, this gets off to a great start.  I loved the opening chapters.  They delivered so much.  I found myself, in short order, really liking Yaz and at the same time being very worried about what she was expecting to face.  The reckoning that Yaz and her family are racing towards is no small threat and the tension that was evident in everyone came across so well.  Like they were holding their breath, muscles tense, just waiting for everything to be over so they could breath out again and release those bunched up shoulders.  And then the worst happens, it’s not a spoiler to mention here that Yaz ends up in the very place that she most dreads – but, what I will say, is that the way she came to be there was very much a surprise and also, once she is inside her own worst nightmare, It’s completely different than she expected.

The world building in TGatS is fantastic.  The Pit of the Missing is deep.  So deep that it seems to contain at least another world completely.  Imagine an ice age, everything you know has been consumed, the ice has enveloped it and continued to grow.  The survivors eek out an existence on the surface with little awareness of the history beneath their feet. Everything here speaks of an apocalypse, perhaps this is a future-earth and the worst has happened, the world being consumed in a dark age where few survived – I don’t know, I’m simply throwing random conjectures around to see if anything will stick.  What I do know is that this is the same world as the Book of the Ancestor, although I’m not sure if events here take place before or after that series.  I’m sure all will become clear eventually (did I mention ML and his long game?)  Anyway, there are certain elements to the story that were familiar such as mention of Gerants (giants) and also the strange abilities and (river of) magic that Yaz is able to tap into.

So, Yaz.  She’s an intriguing character to read.  Her life has been mapped out before her, expectations of her future partner already planned, and yet, at the back of her mind she knows she doesn’t fit it and there’s the dilemma of desperately not wanting to be found to be different whilst at the same time yearning for something different from life than that which is planned.  She loves her family and in fact this is what drives the plot and also gives her a desperate, running around like a headless chicken vibe at certain points, plus, she’s a young girl of little experience and sometimes that is very clear.  But, even with her youth and naivety Yaz has inner strength and a certain gravitas and her emergence in the pit causes a stir and is probably a catalyst for events.

A different and dark world exists under the ice, think Journey to the Centre of the Earth meets Lord of the Flies and you might be onto something.  Again, I don’t think it’s a spoiler to mention that a lot of the children thrown into the pit survive.  Yaz survived after all so why shouldn’t others, and this is a strange community of children who have lived with horrors.  It’s also a brutal world of dog eats dog and apart from the bickering and jousting for position that exists there are other threats from the Tainted and from Hunters from the underground city.  Yaz could definitely be a leader here, she immediately gains the confidence and trust of others but she has her own mission and this comes first and foremost.

In terms of other characters, I didn’t really form an attachment to any at this point, they’re interesting to read but the story here takes place over a very short time span – I think maybe four or five days?  It was difficult for the characters themselves to develop strong feelings towards each other during that time so it’s only natural that I would feel similarly.  As it happens, I would very much have liked to spend more time under the ice and would have enjoyed this part of the story taking time to develop a little more slowly, but, and here I’m about to turn into Jekyll and Hyde, I can also see why the story had this breakneck pace.  There’s an urgency to the plot that really drives the pace plus a twist that once revealed makes the need for swift action a necessity.

As with all my reviews for ML this is becoming ridiculously wordy and yet I feel I’ve barely scratched the surface of what I want to say.  So I’m going to round things up.

This is an excellent start to series, the writing is simply superb and the crafting of a dark and claustrophobic world filled with unusual stars is absolutely excellent.  I look forward to seeing what’s next in store for Yaz.

My rating 4 of 5 stars.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

 

Can’t Wait Wednesday : The Girl and the Stars (Book of the Ice #1) by Mark Lawrence

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : The Girl and the Stars (Book of the Ice #1) by Mark Lawrence – I don’t need to explain why I want this book in my life do I?

TheGirlandtheStars.jpgA stunning new epic fantasy series following a young outcast who must fight with everything she has to survive, set in the same world as Red Sister.

In the ice, east of the Black Rock, there is a hole into which broken children are thrown. Yaz’s people call it the Pit of the Missing and now it is drawing her in as she has always known it would.

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’s difference tears her 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 that the cruel arithmetic of survival that has always governed her people can be challenged.

Expected publication April 2020