Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Review: The City of Stardust by Georgia Summers


The City of Stardust by Georgia Summers
Publication Date: January 30th, 2024
Hardcover. 352 pages.

About The City of Stardust:

"A young woman descends into a seductive magical underworld of power-hungry scholars, fickle gods and monsters bent on revenge to break her family's curse in this spellbinding contemporary fantasy debut.

For centuries, generations of Everlys have seen their brightest and best disappear, taken as punishment for a crime no one remembers, for a purpose no one understands. Their tormentor, a woman named Penelope, never ages, never grows sick – and never forgives a debt.

Violet Everly was just a child when her mother Marianne vanished on a stormy night, determined to break the curse. And when Penelope cannot find her, she issues an Violet has ten years to find Marianne, or she will take her place. Violet is the last of the Everly line, the last to suffer from the curse. Unless she can break it first.

To do so, she must descend into a seductive magical underworld of power-hungry scholars, fickle gods and monsters bent on revenge. She must also contend with Penelope’s quiet assistant, Aleksander, who she knows cannot be trusted – and yet whose knowledge of a world beyond her own is too valuable to avoid.

Tied to a very literal deadline, Violet will travel the edges of the world to find Marianne and the key to the city of stardust, where the Everly story began."

The City of Stardust is a very promising book for any lover of stories about magic and the search for something more in life. I was a bit disappointed by The City of Stardust overall and I’m sorry to say that it just didn’t amount to what I hoped it would based on the premise and writing.

The story begins with a curious storyline that will pull readers in right away as we slowly discover more and more about Violet’s mother and the many secrets her uncles have been keeping from her in order to–according to them–keep her safe. The way in which the author introduces the story in the first couple chapters has such a strong mysterious quality to it that it’s hard not to find yourself dying to know more. Unfortunately, this thread running through the story constantly promises more than it really delivers, and it's Summers' undeniably beautiful prose that kept me reading.

Our protagonist is Violet Everly, a young woman who feels stuck in her current life and constantly left in the dark about the many secrets surrounding her mom’s leaving when she was just a kid and the way her uncles won’t tell her anything about the mysterious happenings that they seem to be a part of. She knows they're keeping things from her, she just isn’t ever sure exactly what those things are, and so she begins her own attempts to figure it out and is thrust into a mysterious journey of the unknown.

Violet is a bit of a dreamer and is always looking for magic, and I think that’s very relatable and is something that will really draw readers into the story. Unfortunately, as the story went on it became clear that Violet lacked any stronger development or qualities that would make me feel more compelled by her or invested in her storyline. I also felt that she really lacked a strong personality and instead became someone who was just sort of aimlessly wandering around from place to place trying to find or do something, but never really succeeding in a way that is satisfying for readers. I wanted to like Violet, but I just wasn't ever that interested in her. 

I found that a lot of the other characters weren’t overly compelling or memorable for me, either. I was initially very intrigued by a boy around Violet's age named Aleksander whom we meet when they are both children and they have a bit of a strange encounter, but don't end up seeing each other again until many years later. I really hoped his character would bring something more to the story, but that seemed to putter out a bit as things went on and I found him lacking in any strong development much in the same way as Violet. I also thought Penelope could be an interesting antagonist to the story, but was disappointed in her two dimensional depiction and felt she lacked any real nuance as well. There is also a bit of a romance in this book that I didn’t care for and that felt undeveloped and unnecessary. I think I liked more of a focus on friendship development and seeing how different interactions evolved over time, especially since there were so many competing interests that added a lot of interesting dynamics.

The best part of The City of Stardust, however, is Summers' prose. It’s beautiful and has a very lyrical quality to it which reminds me a bit of Erin Morgenstern's books The Starless Sea and The Night Circus, or even V.E. Schwab's Addie LaRue. I will caveat that I like The Night Circus and The Starless Sea more than this book (if that helps anyone to know more of what to expect), but it’s very similar in the sense that what really propelled me to keep reading the story was the writing itself. There’s not quite enough happening with the plot (or at least, not anything overly captivating) to keep me reading for that alone, but the writing was gorgeous. I would not compare these books based on depth of content, as I don’t think The City of Stardust quite holds up to that, but otherwise for general style and content. I feel like this book hinges a lot on how the story is told rather than maybe the story itself.

I do still think this would make a great reading experienced for people who want to follow a magical story and explore some interesting concepts and ideas, but I wouldn’t say it’s the most riveting story or one that will have you on the edge of your seat. It’s really one that’s better for enjoying the experience, and I think it’s better to adjust expectations for that going into it. 

Overall, I would say the story just had so much premise and it just fell flat. Unfortunately, this is something that seems to be happening quite a bit lately. I'm not sure if it's me or if it's just kind of a lot of the stories that are being published right now. I’ve given The City of Stardust 3 stars. I wanted a bit more from it than it really delivered.

*I received a copy of The City of Stardust in exchange for an honest review.*

Buy the book: Amazon | Bookshop.org

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