Kerstin Hall’s debut novella The Border Keeper brims with her imaginative worldbuilding and memorable characters. Her new novel Star Eater (out now from Macmillian and Tor.com) accomplishes the same, but Hall’s storytelling prowess also surpasses my expectations. From the ethereal prose to the intriguing world of Aytrium, Star Eater is not a novel to pass on.
Elfreda Raughn wants nothing more than to leave the nightmare that is the Sisterhood of Aytrium. Pregnancy is a fear among the Sisterhood; their obligation is to perform sexual intercourse with the Haunts, infected men who are then tossed from the edge of the floating city. Pregnancy means maintaining the Sisterhood’s bloodline, but Elfreda desires freedom. Her mother has been martyred, her flesh to be consumed in pieces by the Sisterhood. When given the chance to escape, Elfreda eventually goes for it. Now she’s a spy for a rebel group, and her new access to the luxury and privilege of the Sisterhood provides a glimpse into the corruption in Aytrium.
Star Eater explores power and choice through the social statuses and districts of Aytrium. The discussions involving power dynamics and what one has to sacrifice to achieve the highest position are well nuanced. Hall knows what she’s doing with her world and characters. Elfreda’s narrative arc naturally acclimates; her character development stems from her actions instead of convenient plot points. The story provides enough space between major scenes for essential world-building and character dynamics. Plus, Hall’s imagination has no restraints. In Aytrium, there are giant cats (to ride on like horses!) and a magic system involving a form of lacework.
Hall’s gorgeous prose evokes a sense of place, utilizing metaphors to elevate her scenes and characterization. She gives enough details to create a clear image of the world without bombarding her audience with extraneous parts. The violence and cannibalism in this world do not veer into gratuitous or sensational territory.
You can read an excerpt here.
Author: Brahidaliz Martinez
Brahidaliz (pronounced Bra-da-leez) is a 2019 graduate of American University’s MFA in creative writing program. Their cross-genre chapbook, Coquí’s Song, is forthcoming (2023) from Mason Jar Press.
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