When a star dies it must be replaced and a star is replaced when a god mates with a human and the human gives birth to a star. A new star is needed and the Sun God is looking for a human to provide the mortal womb.
The Sun God has selected the village of Endwever to provide Him with a Star Mother. A sacrificial human to give birth to a star. It is truly an honor to be a Star Mother – but it is also generally a one-time event as a human woman generally doesn’t survive the monumental event.
Girls are paraded before the Sun God and He has His eye on the young girl from a simple family, and it’s clear that while the family is honored to be selected the young girl is nervous. Her sister, Ceris Wenden, offers herself, keeping the honor of selection in the family. Ceris has always felt like an outsider with no clear direction for her life, so to volunteer to be a Star Mother makes sense to her.
Ceris is remarkable in more ways than simply volunteering to give birth to a new star … she becomes the first human to survive the birth which grants her a demi-god status. Although she’s been with the Sun God and His attendants for nearly a year, she’s never gotten to know anyone – of course … they’ve all known that Ceris would not live long and to become attached would only bring heartache – but now she infuses her kindness and curiosity among the gods and recognizes romantic feelings for He who created the star inside her. Feelings which are not reciprocated because, again, she wasn’t expected to survive.
Ceris returns to her home, Endwever not realizing that time passes differently in the godly realm than it does in the mortal world. It has been barely a year for her, but 700 years have passed for the family she left behind. Now she must rely on another demigod, a trickster named Ristriel to be her companion and guide her through her new life.
Every time I read a Charlie N. Holmberg book I can’t help but compare it to her Paper Magician series, which I think is really outstanding. This book, Star Mother, holds up better than any of the other Holmberg books.
I want to say that the character of Ceris is the key, but it’s not just Ceris, it’s also the attitude – the confident but insecure dichotomy of Ceris’s character that really holds up well.
There is no question in my mind that this is first and foremost a romance, followed closely as a fantasy. This is a bit odd for me since I generally don’t go in for these kinds of ‘sappy’ YA romance type books (or at least I thought I didn’t until now), but somehow Holmberg manages to make the romance a key element of Ceris’ character without making it a driving force of the story.
What is absolutely the most remarkable aspect of this book, however, is that Holmberg has created an entirely new mythology. This is world-building at its finest. We have gods and their servants interacting with humans, much like our ancient Greek gods. But unlike the Greek gods (to my knowledge) these gods must interact to produce the stars in the sky. It’s a complicated relationship that Holmberg fleshes out perfectly – it’s hard to believe we get so much information about this world, as well as a strong character study, in less than 300 pages.
I can’t image where the next book in the series will go, but I definitely look forward to it.
Looking for a good book? Star Mother, by Charlie N. Holmberg, is a very strong fantasy/romance. Fans of fantasy fiction, even if they don’t think they like reading romance stories, absolutely need to read this book.
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author: Charlie N. Holmberg
series: Star Mother #1
paperback, 272 pages
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WARNING — POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD
Without warning the sun is suddenly absent from the sky and the world is thrown into darkness. For four days the world turned in darkness. On that fourth day, young woman, Aija, discovered the body of a man, unconscious, by the side of a river. She drags him to her home where she, her mother, and her grandmother care for him, hoping he will recover and tell them who he is and how he got there. While he rests, Aija, an artist at heart and with great skills, is captivated by his appearance and makes many sketches of him.
When he wakes, he identifies himself as Saiyon, but he is rather elusive as to where he comes from or how he got to the river. And when Saiyon is injured helping the women fight off some some rural chicken thieves, Aija discovers that Saiyon bleeds a blinding light. She doesn’t let on to her mother or grandmother but does push the point with Saiyon he ultimately admits that he is a god of the sky – the Sun God, in fact – which explains why the world was plunged into darkness.
The attraction between Aija and Saiyon is strong and she protects him from his celestial enemies just as he protects her from mortal ones, and it seems clear than Saiyon, who we remember from Star Mother as having made some mistakes in how he treated (or ignored) Ceris, has learned a lesson or two in his seeming immortality. But as before, despite his strong attraction for Aija, he doesn’t see any future for the two of them. But Aija is persistent and is even willing to make a bargain with the devil (figuratively speaking) and she will give up her biggest gift, her art talent, in order to become immortal so that she can have the opportunity to be with Saiyon. But her bargain may cost her everything and gain her nothing.
Like the first book in this duology, the world-building is incredible. This is so much more than simple world-building – this is myth creating and it is spectacular.
There is clearly romance here, as with the first book, but it doesn’t seem as prominent here for Aija as it was with Ceris, even though Aija and Saiyon are clearly attracted to one another and Aija’s driving force is to be with Saiyon forever. Perhaps it doesn’t feel as prevalent because we spend a a fair amount of time with Aija in the mortal world, dealing with mortal issues (like chicken thieves).
This story also seems more grounded (pun not intended) – Saiyon and Aija both have their attention focused on earthly needs or (in Saiyon’s case) reactive to earthly deeds. This manner of living is new and unusual to him.
But just as we begin to think Saiyon is incapable of loving or even being romantic, Holmberg gives us this little nugget:
Saiyon noticed and touched the pad of his thumb to my mouth, banishing the expression. “When you have seen the world, the universe, as I have, you learn how trivial beauty can be. How … subjective.”
My discontent held strong. “So you care nothing for beauty?”
That curve deepened. “I did not say that.” Turning, he looked out toward the stars. “What I mean is that two very different beings can both be enticing. If not for beauty, I might never have noticed you in the first place.”
This beauty … and I have to be honest, I don’t recall much conversation around whether or not Aija was considered beautiful … comes in to play again near the end when Aija’s determination pays off and, in the course of this mythology, what she ultimately becomes. I hadn’t seen it coming but it worked really well.
This book is maybe not quite as strong as Star Mother, but it’s still a really incredible read and I’d really like to get more background on this entirely new mythology that Holmberg has created. The door is wide open. It wouldn’t surprise me if there was already fan fiction being written in this universe.
Looking for a good book? Star Father (along with Star Mother) by Charlie N. Holmberg is a romantic fantasy that excels with its world-building and myth-creating and should be on the reading list for every fan of fantasy fiction.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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author: Charlie N. Holmberg
series: Star Mother #2
paperback, 320 pages