The City of Stardust
by Georgia Summers
CW: Kidnapping and sacrificing of children, and torture
When I first read the description of The City of Stardust, it seemed like a tempting amalgamation of things I love in a quasi-dark academia package. Things I heard and read alluded to a magical mystery, vengeful gods, and a forbidden romance. Yes, I can confirm the book had all of those things, but wow, did it take a lot of time to get things done.
Violet Everly knows her family is cursed. Once in a generation, the most talented of Everlys walks off into the night, never to be seen again. Her mother was supposed to do the same, but instead abandoned Violet around the age of ten in the hopes of finding answers and breaking the curse. For nearly a decade, Violet is raised in the care of her two uncles.
Violet’s mother and uncles are exiled scholars, beings who can wield magical keys to traverse between the scholar city of Fidelis and the rest of the world. Scholars have the innate ability to mold and use a mystical material called reveurite, which is made of stars, but rely on traveling to Earth for other important supplies due to the shortcomings of their wintry, fractured world.
Until she reaches her twenties, Violet is kept in the dark about most things. Her existence is meant to be kept secret, lest the powers that be have Violet fulfill the curse in her mother’s place. Spoiler alert (but not really): her existence is exposed and she has a year to find her mom or must offer herself up in her mom’s stead.
The writing really is beautiful, but sometimes turns into navel-gazing and I only felt interested in what was happening about 60% of the time. Lovely descriptions and waxing poetic about the stars does nothing to move things along and I want to stress that this is a book for meanderers. If you love a fantasy that takes its time and dips into small, inconsequential details of the world (a la Tolkein), you might really love what Summers has done here. If you want more of a story where no word or punctuation is wasted, you may feel frustrated at how the momentum drags.
I was motivated to see if Violet would meet her deadline and what would become of the Everly curse, but even after finishing and reflecting on the book, there were lingering feelings of being underwhelmed. Violet never stood out or took a firm shape in her personality, despite being the main character. The romance was rushed and was more a telling of big feelings rather than feeling them happen. I also think there was a much more interesting romantic candidate that could have been chosen.
While you’re in it and actively reading, it’s easy to find reasons to keep going and finish the story. Afterward, though, I’m more wishy-washy about the whole experience. I am the equivalent of the shrug emoji.
“Amanda, did you enjoy it?”
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I guess?
Slip into a lush world of magic, stardust, and monsters in this spellbinding contemporary fantasy from debut author Georgia Summers.
For centuries, the Everlys have seen their best and brightest disappear, taken as punishment for a crime no one remembers, for a purpose no one understands. Their tormentor, a woman named Penelope, never ages, never grows sick – and never forgives a debt.
Violet Everly was a child when her mother left on a stormy night, determined to break the curse. When Marianne never returns, Penelope issues an ultimatum: Violet has ten years to find her mother, or she will take her place. Violet is the last of the Everly line, the last to suffer. Unless she can break the curse first.
Her hunt leads her into a seductive magical underworld of power-hungry scholars, fickle gods and monsters bent on revenge. And into the path of Penelope’s quiet assistant, Aleksander, who she knows cannot be trusted – and yet to whom she finds herself undeniably drawn.
With her time running out, Violet will travel the edges of the world to find Marianne and the key to the city of stardust, where the Everly story began.
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