Monday, September 16, 2013

THE CHAOS OF STARS


Review of THE CHAOS OF STARS by KIERSTEN WHITE
(review based on an advance reading copy)

I might not have read this book had it not been for adoring quotes from not one but two of my favorite authors (Holly Black and Laini Taylor) on the back. With so many potential reads out there, I often narrow down what will most appeal by taste. (Example: I like fiction, but if you pluck any fiction book off the shelves and any fantasy book of the shelves I’m more likely to enjoy the fantasy. Hence, I read more fantasy than mainstream fiction.) I’ve never been specifically into Egyptian mythology and the vague description on the back doesn’t do this book justice. Those author endorsements are what got me reading and I’m glad I did, because THE CHAOS OF THE STARS is one delicious treat of a read!

Isadora lives with the Egyptian Gods. Actually they’re her family. Isis is her mother and Osiris her father. To say they have a complicated family history is an understatement, but it’s a particular revelation that primarily fuels Isadora’s resentment of her parents. They, along with much of the family, are immortal. Her father has even been murdered, but Iris brought him back to life. So Isadora assumed she would be immortal, too, until age thirteen her parents presented her with her tomb and she realizes that for all their power they have no intention of keeping her eternally alive. In fact, she’s their power source. Gods fade without worship, so Isis has a new child every twenty years and raises them to worship her and the rest of the immortal family so that they won’t be forgotten. From that point on Isadora feels like a child wanted for all the wrong reasons and not truly loved.

Even before all this intriguing information popped up, the book had me with a natural, engaging voice. In fact, the wry, humorous tone’s probably this novel’s greatest strength. The juxtaposition of the mundane against the epic, of Gods in their domestic almost-normal-but-really-not life, gave me endless amounts of entertainment. There’s quite a few hilarious lines in here, too. I often wanted to read them aloud to those near me, but - especially given this family’s twisty complicated history - many don’t make much sense out of context.

As you may have deduced, this book is far more about family than mythology. Convinced of her parents’ selfish motivations and artificial affection, Isadora snatches up a chance to move across seas and live with one of her many older, also mortal siblings. Add in possibly prophetic dreams warning of some unclear danger and a romance for a girl with trust issues and THE CHAOS OF THE STARS had my complete attention.

Being a reviewer, I can sometimes overanalyze a good story, but my only quibbles here are minor. First, there’s far too much eye rolling in my opinion. Second, I wished (as I often do) that the romance didn’t take up quite so much focus. The second quibble barely counts, though, because - while I might have adjusted the proportions of the different plot threads - I still liked the romance.

The ending also feels the slightest bit rushed. There’s the climax and then the book promptly ends without any of the more traditional winding down period. (In other words, there’s pretty much no dénouement.) That said, the end still satisfies and I figure the abruptness has to do with Isadora’s family being so complicated that they’ll never untangle all those knots!

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