Am I about to share a FIVE STAR review for a fantasy ROMANCE novel? A genre that, while I have read some of in the past, typically isn’t one I really particularly enjoy? Star Mother has a lot to love, but is it enough to be added to my five star reads of 2022?
This is one of those books that I picked up as an Amazon First Reads book some time ago and kind of kept kicking down the road because I’ll be honest, usually the fantasy romance genre is one that I steer mostly clear of. Not that I hate it, nor do I love it, it’s just a genre that always seems to miss the mark for me every time I dip my toes into it.
It’s why, as of yet, I have never given the wildly popular Sarah J Maas books a read. Yeah they are EVERYWHERE on social media, bookstagram/booktok, yeah EVERYONE seems to love them… but I know the genre isn’t one I tend to enjoy all that much and there are SO many other books to get to.
But Holmberg might have started to changed my mind.
At least enough that I’m entertaining the idea.
Star Mother has a great premise in that the stars, when they die, can only be replaced in the heavens by this horrifying and tragic mating process between the SUN(yeah he’s a god in human-ish form) and a mortal woman. I say horrifying and tragic because when you start to think about how many stars are in the sky, and then realize that the mortal women chosen to become Star Mothers never survive the process of giving birth to a star… it’s devastating
Billions of women all having their souls essentially burned out at the birth of their star baby, sacrificing themselves and returning to earth as a savior to be celebrated for all time. Billions! Damn.
That aside, because there is so much more to love about this story(and a few minor issues), the other concept that I loved about this story is how from start to finish we never truly know quite who is the villain and who is the hero aside from Ceris, the Star Mother that lived. Through the forever war between The Sun and The Moon and the Twilight trapped between the two, there is a constant push/pull between who is really trying to help Ceris, who is trying to trick her, and ultimately who do we WANT to see her spend the rest of her days happily in love with!
Through beautifully written prose that is at once so immersive and poetic while also not overbearing, or TOO flowery, to read, we find ourselves on this amazing and suspenseful journey with Ceris that spans the Earth and the vast reaches of the stars beyond.
Which brings me to the dreaded “R” word… Romance.
I actually really enjoyed that aspect of this book. Much more than I anticipated to be perfectly honest about it.
While there IS certainly romance, it’s not of the spicy/smut variety. It speaks of more complex relationships, deeper connections that tie in perfectly to the themes of parental/motherly love Ceris has for her baby, the star she birthed that SHOULD have killed her.
However, it is that love story, the romance angle, that STOPS this book from being a 5 star read for me. Not because of the romance, but because of how the ending ties it all together. It just feels unsatisfying on a number of levels, even while the ending feels like it makes sense in terms of the story. It’s hard to describe without spoiling anything, but beware – the ending may feel like a bit of a let down.
One of my other favorite aspects of this book is how much gray area there is when it comes to right and wrong. Even by the very end of the book we are left to decide for ourselves who the real villain was/is and after thinking about it for a few days I’ve realized that there are no villains. Only people dealing with situations beyond their control and trying to make the best of it.
I wanted to say that “there are no villains, only victims of circumstance” but that takes too much away from all that Ceris endures and overcomes.
This story is equal parts heartache/despair and uplifting love/joy/hope and truly is beautiful, but with a slightly unsatisfying ending that is a little TOO neatly packaged and the fact that, while it is paced really well, it almost feels a bit rushed at times. There is SO much more I would have loved to explore in more detail with this world.
I kicked off the review with a question, am I about to write a 5 star review for a fantasy romance?
The answer is no.
But it was really damn close and I still highly recommend this book as it is a wonderful, if slightly rushed with a little bit of an unsatisfying ending, tale of real connections between characters and it’s full of beautifully written prose, celestial wars and gods and just the right balance of heartache and hope.
Star Mother by Charlie N Holmberg gets 4 out of 5 stars.