Starfall book review

By imh No comments

Starfall is a book that will appeal to a specific type of reader; huge effort was devoted to developing the world in which the story takes place, both in the environment, the technological setting, and how the characters interact with these, the various subspecies, and the cultures of the various nations. The Soonayhin culture and species gets the majority of the attention and is probably my favorite element of the book, their connection to heat and how it influences every element for their culture and significant sections of the narrative/characters. The downside to this focus is that it necessitates a lot of description, which in turn slows the pacing significantly.
The pacing is probably Starfalls greatest flaw for me. The opening third or fourth in particular is a bit of a slog because it is narratively light on meaningful conflict (in a narrative sense rather than simple ‘action scenes’ which are present) before we reach the first intense narrative scene. The remaining seventy percent of the book improves on it but shares the same issue of a stretch of light-narrative mixed with intense description and a bit of story set up before the primary narrative conflict occurs. When the scenes of high narrative do occur, they are excellent though; the first in particular. Another element that cause the opening of the book to drag is the style of prose; the prose is strong, with excellent vocabulary, but the style takes some acclimation. It’s hard to explain exactly how it differs, but an example is that the author will sometimes use a character reaction to indicate an event of some kind occurred and skip the process of describing the event. There’s other elements to the prose as well, like the syntax being just a bit unusual, that combine to make the opening chapters noticeably slower.
The characters vary from good to excellent, with the queen, Terney (our MC), and her uncle being the standouts for their emotional and motivational complexity; they’re all flawed, wonderfully human, likable, and possessed of agency. The secondary characters are good as well, but less time is devoted to them and the inner workings of their personalities and motivations so there’s just less of them present. (Mlai being an exception and almost as good as the three mentioned above.) The weakest element of the characters is the romance; not a whole lot of time is devoted to building it besides more or less immediate attraction and one scene of heroics. It’s not that Torhvald and Terney lack chemistry, its more that they have few meaningful interactions outside of scenes of sexual attraction or one of them being in danger. It also suffers from Torhvald lacking attention put into him; he lacks personal motivation over the course of the narrative, a drive or goal to help define him, and lacks things to like or be interested in (which are present in most every other character) and as such is reduced to the outsider awed by Soonayahin/Terney’s romance for most of the narrative.

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