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Starless

by Jacqueline Carey

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3101466,123 (3.92)13
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.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.… (more)
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» See also 13 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
Fall 2018:

This book was SO GOOD. I was so pleased with the display of the gender/identity topic, how deeply it was covered and how supportively. I always love Carey's sweeping vocabulary, and the depth of her worlds, their religions, politics, involvements. Everyone should read it, and I'm sad I waited as long as I did.

(It's absolutely why I returned to another of her books I hadn't read right after my every-other classic read, and will have another to review shortly for her, again.) ( )
  wanderlustlover | Aug 21, 2021 |
Jacqueline Carey is a wonderful storyteller and this novel is no exception. The worldbuilding, the characters, the plotting, intrigue, and adventure - all are evidence of an author who is a master of the craft. This novel is set in fantasy world in which gods inhabit the earth and a group of unlikely heroes embark on an adventure to save the world. In some ways, this is a traditional fantasy novel and yet, it's quite a bit into this book before that becomes clear. Furthermore, the two main characters, despite their existence in a fantasy universe, reflect our own society's struggles with gender and disability, and I thought the author did a remarkable job of creating believable characters and giving them agency in a complex fantasy world. I read Carey's Kushiel series years ago and loved it, and I would recommend this book to both those who appreciate her other novels and those who enjoy fantasy more generally. ( )
1 vote wagner.sarah35 | Apr 10, 2021 |
2.5.

Way too hurried and superficial for me. ( )
  Andorion | Feb 6, 2021 |
I struggled with 3 or 4 stars for this one. I went with 4 since I couldn't stop thinking about this book when I wasn't reading it. Pretend I put 3.5 down.

I really appreciated the way this book tackled gender. Khai's gender identity is non-binary and slightly fluid, and seeing his struggle with dysphoria, confusion, etc. was moving. It felt realistic. It felt like part of the world and story, not just a gimmick and not just performative progressive writing.

Carey's prose, as always, was lush and evocative, although this book was less purple than those in the Kushiel series. Khai and his brothers are well-written, even if Khai's goals are fairly simplistic. Other characters are not nearly as well developed - because we spend only a fraction of time with them.

The book is split in 3 parts - Desert, Court, and Sea. Desert is devoted entirely to Khai and covers his training as a shadow as well as establishing some basic facts about the world. This part was easy to read and hits that same vibe that Harry Potter and other "student training in a magical school" literature does. Court introduces Khai to his Sun-Blessed partner and the royal court. There is a massive influx of characters, many of which only have a couple of actual interactions with the main characters. There's politics, plotting, and backstabbing, but it all feels a level removed from the main characters, although it does explain why the gods have seemingly abandoned the dickish Ageless. The plot moves along with an arranged marriage - there's some clever bits here (e.g., Khai posing as a servant to get more info on the suitors, and some fabulous inversions that I found absolutely delightful in this genre (i.e., the bookish and seemingly perfect match dies unceremoniously), but it felt like the characters had next to no agency and were mostly propelled along by outside forces.

The third part contains the meat of the plot, in which our band of heroes try to reassemble a prophecy and save the world. We're introduced to several new groups of characters in rapid succession, and bounce from location to location across the world. There's some really interesting gods, countries, races, and individuals introduced! I was so incredibly curious! However, with less than a third of the book remaining, we never have a chance to really learn about these people or their history or background or race or anything. A lot of characters die and I just didn't care a whole heck of a lot because I barely knew them. The ending comes off as cloyingly sweet, because without growing closer to these characters thrust onto us in the last moment, it feels like no real sacrifices were made.

Ultimately I think this would have been better as a duology like Banewreaker/Godslayer, with Sea being its own book and Court having a larger plot, giving us more time for the heroes to develop. ( )
  kaitlynn_g | Dec 13, 2020 |
Big, sprawling, gods, humans, and beings in-between! I enjoyed the book quite a bit. It was the first epic I've read in quite some time and it kept me engaged and occupied with the story instead of with everything else going on.

It wasn't perfect, however. The ending was HUGE and, as such, got a bit remote in the reading. Don't get me wrong, the ending fit with the story perfectly, but the scope was so big that it was like listening to a rock concert. By the end of the evening, sensory overload had muted things a bit.

I enjoyed it, as I have most of her novels and would recommend. ( )
  doengels | Sep 2, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
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I was nine years old the first time I tried to kill a man, and although in the end I was glad my attempt failed, I had been looking forward to the opportunity for quite some months.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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.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.

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