Imagine at the very instant of your birth, your soul’s twin was born somewhere in the world. From the moment you could walk, you were given a weapon and told that you existed to defend your soulmate. You are forged into a perfect warrior, a living avatar of the desert god, Parkoun the Scouring Wind. You have never felt fear. Maybe you’d think the world is filled with certainty. In Jaqueline Carey’s consistently enthralling and surprising Starless, you’d find there’s a lot more to the world than you first believed.
Khai is born into such a world. His soul’s twin, the Princess Zariya, lives in the House of the Ageless and is a member of an ancient ruling family blessed with near immortality. It is Khai’s purpose to be the princess’ Shadow and keep her safe from all danger. Though the connection he and Zariya share is achingly real, he is out of his element amongst the court, where the dangers aren’t as easy to spot as swords. But all of this doubt is pushed aside when an ancient darkness starts to rise. Pushed into an impossible mission by an ancient prophecy, Khai and Zariya hope that their link, and all the gifts it provides, is enough to help them survive a catastrophe of celestial proportions.
The gods in Starless walk the earth. Cast down from the sky for rebelling against their father, each god’s unique persona informs the people who worship it. Elemental, wondrous and terrifying, these deities are memorable, and each time the characters encounter them is epic. A tornado of sand and heat, an unseen jungle menace and a graceful rain spirit all make appearances on our heroes’ quest.
At its heart, Starless is profoundly interested in very personal questions. Khai must confront a significant truth about himself early in the story, and the resulting doubt and ambiguity are rendered with great care and tenderness. Even as the undead rise from the sea, we can’t help but be drawn to the feelings Khai must be grappling with in the wake of his personal revelation. It is one of the very best parts of the novel.
Another fantastic element is the back-and-forth between Khai and Zariya. In the hands of a lesser writer, the fated spark they share might not seem earned or, worse, believable. Let us dispel that thought—Carey has put to page one of the best pairs of protagonists in the last few years. Her lush, vibrant world just serves as the perfect backdrop for a relationship worthy of the prophecies it fulfills.
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our Q&A with Jacqueline Carey.