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A Star Shall Fall

Posted by Steve the Bookstore Guy On Friday, September 17, 2010

By now all you readers have probably figured you have us all figured out. You know what books we will like before you even read the review. More importantly, you know what books we will hate. We aren't going to argue much. We wear our taste in novels openly, and to be honest we have a good idea of whether a novel will be awesome/yucky before we even read it.

We receive quite a few ARCs every month. We sift through the tilting stacks of them and get excited when we see something from one of our favorite authors. Likewise we tend to feel a little nauseated when we see another "original tale of a human who falls in love with a deadly vampire." You see, some novels just don't interest us at all. Yet we read them. For you. Because we are inexplicably full of awesome.

Sometimes, a novel surprises the heck out of us.

A STAR SHALL FALL, by Marie Brennan, is an Alternate Historical Fantasy about London in the 1750's. With faeries. Uh huh. We enjoyed a novel with faeries.

Here's how the story goes. A while back, in 1666, there was a crazy fire in London. It gutted nearly the entire city. This is historic fact. What Brennan does is put a fantastical explanation to the historic event. Psycho dragon. Yup. He got hungry and angry and nearly killed everyone and everything in London. Luckily, the fae managed to exile the dragon into a comet that was passing by a bit (1682 after they had temporarily imprisoned the dragon) after the devastating fire. Problem there? It was Haley's Comet. You know, the one that comes by every back every 75 to 76 years? This is the part where all the fae realize how screwed they are. The premise alone made us sit back and say, "Huh. That is way cool."

It wasn't until we were partly through the first bit of the novel that we realized this was the third book in a series. It was a bit of a bummer, but really we didn't feel lost at all. Brennan does SUCH a great job with the clarity of her writing that we picked up meanings, and back stories of characters with ease. Our main PoVs are the Fae Queen of the Onyx Court, Lune. Apparently she has been a character throughout the entire series. Lune wasn't the main focus of the novel, but he characterization was fantastic. You could see the pain in her past, and her desire to do anything to protect her Court, and the humans in London. Irrith is another of the fae PoVs. Her fascination with all things human is described with such an alien way of thinking, but also in a very endearing way. Our main PoV belongs to a human Lord named Galen. He has some issues. In love with Lune. Bedding Irrith. Betrothed to another human. Oh, and resolving the whole "dragon coming to eat everyone" thing has been placed on his shoulders.

That, dear readers, is how you introduce conflict.

The thing about this novel is that it would have been easy for Brennan to focus on the event of the dragon returning, and then ignore any real character development. Brennan doesn't do this. A STAR SHALL FALL is a character drama. It is about how all these wonderful characters deal with the dragon's return, a potential coup of the Onyx Court, and love. This story is all about character development, and we loved it.

Before we go any further, we should mention that this book most definitely isn't for everyone. If all you read is action novels, you won't find that type of content here--though when we do get action in A STAR SHALL FALL, it is extremely well described. Brennan's novel is slow paced. There is a lot of people standing around talking about possible solutions for the various problems present. In a way, it feels a little like if Brandon Sanderson had written Historical Fantasy. We mean early Brandon Sanderson. ELANTRIS. You know, where people stood around and chatted for the majority of the novel. For us, in this particular case, it was a good thing. Will it work for you? Hopefully. But we realize that it just may be too slow for some people.

We really don't have many issues with A STAR SHALL FALL. It was just so refreshing to read. It didn't get bogged down in "Let me tell you all our history." No, she seamlessly integrates the story into the time period, and into the actual events in history. Our personal opinions? This is how Alternate Historical Fantasy should be done.

A STAR SHALL FALL is a terrific novel. It stands solidly on its own two feet despite being the third novel in a series. You should be reading this novel. Seriously, like, right now. If you are reading this review, it will take you a whole five minutes to order this book from Amazon. While you are there, do what we are about to do: pick up copies of the other two novels in the series. MIDNIGHT NEVER COME and IN ASHES LIE. If they are even half as fantastic as A STAR SHALL FALL, they will be excellent reads indeed.

Marie Brennan: Thank you for giving us one of the surprises of the year so far. If we were standing next to you, we would totally be giving you high-fives.

Recommended Age: 14 and up.
Language: We can count on one hand how many times characters swore.
Violence: Not a ton, but there are some decently shocking scenes. Extremely well done when included.
Sex: Mentioned tactfully, but never shown.


  1. Daniel B. Said,

    If you ever need to get rid of some of those ARC piling up, let me know. I'd be glad to "find" a good home for them.

    Posted on September 21, 2010 at 10:59 AM

  2. Brett Said,

    I recommended Midnight Never Comes based on your review to my wife. It took a bit for her to get into it but by the end she was looking for the next one eagerly. Shocking but we might actually read the same book!

    Posted on October 27, 2010 at 8:10 AM

  3. @Brett - let me know what you think after you have read some of her stuff. From your other comment, you aren't really digging the Erikson-ish, so I'm curious what stuff you really like.

    This author really surprised me with how good her novels were. I think she deserves far more attention and recognition than she has been getting.

    A tip to those thinking of picking up this series:
    As of today (Oct 27) B& has Midnight Never Come for under $5. How awesome is that?

    Posted on October 27, 2010 at 8:57 AM


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