Star Eater by Kristen Hall was one of my most highly anticipated 2021 releases. Elfreda wants out of the requirements to preserve the Sisterhood of Aytrium’s bloodline. She’ll get out, or die trying.
All martyrdoms are difficult.
Elfreda Raughn will avoid pregnancy if it kills her, and one way or another, it will kill her. Though she’s able to stomach her gruesome day-to-day duties, the reality of preserving the Sisterhood of Aytrium’s magical bloodline horrifies her. She wants out, whatever the cost.
So when a shadowy cabal approaches Elfreda with an offer of escape, she leaps at the opportunity. As their spy, she gains access to the highest reaches of the Sisterhood, and enters a glittering world of opulent parties, subtle deceptions, and unexpected bloodshed.
A phantasmagorical indictment of hereditary power, Star Eater takes readers deep into a perilous and uncanny world where even the most powerful women are forced to choose what sacrifices they will make, so that they might have any choice at all.
Star Eater is listed as an adult book, however, aside from sex being a part of the more horror aspects- this reads like a young adult fantasy. Our characters and their romances are very to the point, their motives being obvious on-page. I enjoy young adult, so I didn’t dislike this, but I imagine other readers will. This was a book I was incredibly excited about; however, it did not meet my expectations. And with a cover like this one has; it was like a double blow.
My primary issue with the book was that it’s a solid 400 pages, and a 15-hour audiobook. Yet, I had no idea what was going on until 50% in. There was time to provide information, and create more of this world- but Hall did not take that time. For an adult fantasy, I expect things to be explained and not just implied with vague context that doesn’t stick. Because of the way things made no sense to me, the vital twist fell flat.
How can I appreciate a magical twist, if I don’t really understand the influence of the magical system, to begin with?
Hall started to explore other concepts, as well, like a political rebellion and its intricacies. The book feels as though she forgot halfway through that these were relevant points. There was the idea that this plot was driven by cannibalism, religion, and queerness. Realistically, none of these things shone until the previously mentioned twist. I expected so much more from this book, and the concepts that had been marketed the most are not explained, focused on, or generally relevant in the story. This was frustrating to me.
As I received an audiobook ARC- I want to say that the narrator did not do a fantastic job of differentiating between who was talking. The Netgalley shelf app doesn’t allow me to speed up my listening as much as I normally do, so even at standards speeds, all the characters sounded the same.
With a plot that no one explains the pieces of and characters you can’t tell the difference between, this was a headache to follow.
This was a book I so desperately wanted to like, but it fell through for me. Maybe it’s better on paper, but based on other reviews- it looks like that’s wishful thinking. Everything felt shallow and not fully developed. As though we didn’t quite understand the world even as it was being written.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of this audiobook in exchange for an honest review.