Book Thoughts: *Starless* by Jacqueline Carey

June 12 was one of the greatest days I’ve had in recent memory.

It started with a fairly regular morning. Then, I drove down to my old office neighborhood and met up with coworkers for lunch (it was also the first day I met my friend’s new baby). After lunch, two of my girlfriends joined me for an afternoon movie date to see Ocean’s 8. And then I hopped in my car, drove to Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego, where I had the honor and privilege of attending a reading/Q&A/book signing with one of my all-time favorite authors, Jacqueline Carey.

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June 12 happened to be the release date of her newest novel, Starless. 

I want to share my book thoughts about Starless, but I admit it’s very, very difficult to do so. One, because I still have tear-stains on my cheeks and slightly belabored breath after reading the last few chapters… And two, because the rich layers of this book – especially the complexity of the main characters – are so delicious and surprising and amazing, I’m not even sure how to talk about them without giving away major spoilers. And the spoilers in this are major and they are worth every little moment of discovery.

So, I will try to say what I can in the most broad, sweeping sense, and trust that you all trust me enough to know I mean ever word when I say you must get a copy of this book and read is ASAP. 

Here is the publisher’s summary of Starless:

Jacqueline Carey is back with an amazing adventure not seen since her New York Timesbestselling 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.

I was nine years old the first time I tried to kill a man…

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.”

To me, Starless is the epitome of the book we need right now. There is a darkness rising, threatening to overtake and destroy the world as we know it, and it’s up to the most confusingly bound together group of misfits to save everyone. The book shows, in the most raw and visceral sense, that kindness and love are not always displayed in passive ways, and that the blade of a sword is only as powerful as the heart of the warrior who wields it.

But at its core, Starless reminds us over and over again what we must do:

  • We must stand together.
  • We must fight.
  • We must face loss.
  • We must be kind.
  • We must love.
  • We must carry on.

That message resonates throughout the entire novel, and it’s done so in giant epic adventures as mortals face off against gods, as cultures clash, and as a world previously divided by distance and cultural divide must find, often unlikely, ways to unify.

For me, personally, though, I think Starless came into my life exactly when I needed it most too. It probably helps that I share a nickname with one of the characters, and that particular character’s wit, thirst for knowledge, limiting fears, and opportunities for growth were (and are) all things I was (and am) grappling with within myself.

And I really do believe we find ourselves reading the portions of books we need to read at the right time. I found myself at an overwhelming crossroads yesterday. I spent the morning in tears, spent the midday and afternoon hashing out every last detail with friends/confidants/my husband, spent the early evening in tears, played some Stardew Valley and watched TV, cried even MORE tears, and fell asleep really not sure what I was going to do.

This morning, I woke up and took initial steps towards making a decision, but I didn’t “hit send” right away. Instead, I sat down and read the final 100 pages of Starless. 

Now, I have been reading Starless alongside one of my best friends, and we’ve only been reading two chapters at a time. However, yesterday, we reached the “only 100 pages left” mark and agreed that it was time to power through to the ending. If we hadn’t come to that agreement last night, I wouldn’t have reached this quote this morning, when I needed it the most.

Again, without giving too much away about the book, my nickname-sake character said these words:

I do not think you understand,” she said in a calm tone. “I am done with your expectations. I am done with obligations.” 

That was it. That was exactly what I needed to read. And I “hit send” on my own decision. I wonder if the Seer Saw it coming. After all, if this, then that, but if this, then that, and… (you’ll understand what I mean if you read the book.)

The thing that I love about all of Jacqueline Carey’s novels is that, in nearly all of them, there is some sort of Universe-defying, seemingly impossible, passionate, love-fueled relationship. And it’s always epic and amazing and makes you swoon. But as important as that relationship is, it’s never the only or even the most important relationship. All of her books carry this recurring theme that, yes, you should have a great love (and lover) to share your life with, but you’re still incomplete with the rest of your communityYour mentors. Your teachers. Your friends. Your chosen family. 

That’s why I’m ending this blog/book thoughts with my favorite line from the entire book, when a member of the “unlikely crew” looks at all the others and says this:

For your sakes, I abide. For you, I endure. 

May the three moons’ blessings be upon you all. There are stories waiting…

 

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