Star Eater by Kerstin Hall

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.

*****

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.

Review:

A book about cannibal priestesses and body horror? Say no more. From the marketing, this book should have been a perfect match for me. Unfortunately, I came out more than let down.

Frankly, I think the majority of my complaints stem from what felt like very weak worldbuilding. Star Eater takes place on a floating island in the sky, in a society governed by bureaucratic cannibal priestesses who worship ‘the Eater’. The priestesses are all women due to how their power, called Lace, is passed down matriarchally and also turns men into zombies post-coitus. Which sounds interesting, right? But beyond that one paragraph, we really don’t get much more. Hell, for the most part, these women may as well be running your standard republic , not a theocracy. For a group of characters centered around worshipping a cannibal, the religious aspect is basically nonexistant.

Through the religious bureaucracy and a vaguely explained food shortage, Hall makes an attempt to tackle systemic power. This society, living on the island in the sky, is held purely through these priestesses’ Lace, and thus, the priestesses maintain de facto power of government. Obviously, certain groups of people are unhappy. Perhaps it’s that I read CL Clark’s The Unbroken too recently, which beautifully tackles colonialism and the different mindset towards that system, but this attempt felt so extremely halfhearted to me. Our main character, Elfreda, occasionally makes reference to the fact that yeah, maybe she and her Sisters shouldn’t have all this power given the rampant corruption within their religion, but then almost immediately passes it off that the people need their power and thus the Sisters must stay in power.

And then we get to Elfreda herself. There’s a lot of reviews on Goodreads that compare this book to a YA novel in terms of shallow worldbuilding and character depth and frankly, they’re not wrong. Elfreda is your typical naïve YA protagonist with the personality of a wet rag, suddenly thrust into a world she’s unprepared for, with an added layer of Chosen One nonsense stacked on top. Really, the only difference is that she’s in her early 20s instead of her late teens. I can’t say I hated her character, but there was just so little to draw in the first place.

With all that being said, I can’t say this book was bad. The story is well paced and the cannibalism aspect, which only gets fully explore in the latter half, was well done. Hall does an excellent job with the body horror, both in the gruesome depictions of the zombies and the feelings of certain disgust as the characters we follow are forced to consume raw human flesh.

Overall, I rate this book a 3/5. While the story itself wasn’t bad, I found the worldbuilding aspect extremely lacking, both in the religious aspect and the over societal structure. Our MC is fairly on par with the typical bland female YA protagonist, and I really wish the book had learned further into the horror aspect of the cannibalism.


r/Fantasy 2021-22 Bingo Squares:

  • Mystery Plot (hard mode)
  • Published in 2021

Publication Date: 22 June 2021
Publisher: Tor.com
Format: audiobook, ARC
Pages: 448
Word Count: N/A
ISBN: 1250625319
Buy It Here: AmazonGoogle Books | Barnes and Nobles | Goodreads

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