Just a few months ago, I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing Star Mother, the first book in the Star Mother duology by Charlie N. Holmberg. Folks that read my review will remember that I was looking forward to the sequel, itching for the conclusion to a story that felt a touch incomplete without a satisfying ending for Saiyon’s character. I was surprised and pleased with how quickly Star Father was released, right on the heels of Star Mother, but unfortunately it was not the sequel I was hoping for. It’s difficult not to compare this book to its predecessor, as they really are meant to be read as a pair, and you’ll see that reflected in this review – it looks at how this book fares as both a continuation, and ultimately the conclusion, of the Star Mother duology. I received an ARC of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 08/03/2022
STAR RATING: 3/5 ✶
In a heavenly war, the moon is prevailing…
It happens in an instant, filling Aija with dread: the Sun is suddenly cast from the sky, throwing the Earth into midday darkness. On the fourth day of endless night, Aija finds an unconscious man by the river. His skin is as hot as her lantern’s glass and just as golden. To Aija, a farmhand with the soul of an artist, this beautiful stranger is an inspiration—and a mystery. He calls himself Saiyon. He bleeds light. His friends are celestial. His enemies, godlings of the moon.
Between Aija and Saiyon, attraction grows warmer. For Aija, an unfathomable revelation: she’s falling in love with the earthbound Sun God. When Saiyon’s faltering powers are restored to full glory, what then? There’s a way Aija can become immortal, too. Saiyon can’t support such a risk.
Aija chooses to follow her heart to places darker and more dangerous than she realizes. Whatever sacrifices lie ahead, they’re the only way to make an impossible true love last forever.
The aspect of Star Mother that stood out to me was its theming. A personal journey of devotion, self-sacrifice, love, and motherhood formed the backbone of the first installment of this duology. The Romance was not an afterthought, but a carefully woven aspect of the story that served to amplify the themes while never presenting itself as the “main attraction.”
So, when I started Star Father, I was expecting something of the same. I knew that this book would be the conclusion to Saiyon’s story, giving him the HEA he needed for the story in Star Mother to feel complete, but I assumed it would be presented against the backdrop of the same type of deep and meaningful theming that grabbed me in that book. Unfortunately, that was not the case. The Romance is the main focus of Star Father; Aija and Saiyon falling in love followed by Aija’s quest to become immortal so that she can be with Saiyon is the focus of the plot and the characters’ motivations.
Those of you that know me are probably reading this and raising a brow: Does Romance-loving Kat actually think that is a bad thing? Has hell frozen over? Rest assured friends, I’m fine. Allow me to explain…
If you are going to make a book Romance-forward, i.e. the Romance is the plot of the book and there are no other plot elements through which to develop themes, you have to develop your characters deeply and meaningfully such that your themes are tied to the characters’ arcs and the romantic relationship must be transformative. That did not happen here. There was no growth in either Aija or Saiyon – their characters, dare I say it, were quite shallow and their relationship fell largely flat. I had a frisson of hope that Aija’s character would gain depth and grow through her art, especially given the plot point that involved creating a likeness of Moon, but alas that thread turned out to be perfunctory. And Saiyon, who’s struggle as a God beholden to the universe’s laws and for whom this book was ostensibly written, received very little page time and even less exploration into his history, motivations, or desires.
In short, I struggled to find any substantial themes in Star Father beyond Aija and Saiyon falling in love and finding a way to be together. Had the romance been rooted in something deeper, e.g. a personal realization or the resolution of some internal struggle, perhaps this book would have worked for me, but much to my chagrin, it didn’t.
I have the same small quibbles with this book as I did with the previous, finding the writing a touch overwroght at times, using metaphors that weren’t grounded in the story or the characters. Once again, the ending was a bit rushed given the amount of time Aija spent questing for immortality; much like the characters themselves, their HEA needed more attention and depth.
I’m glad I read this book, as I needed the conclusion to Saiyon’s story to feel complete, but I will admit that it wasn’t as satisfying as I had hoped. I will continue to recommend Star Mother, but with the caveat that I wouldn’t recommend Star Father and that it may leave you wanting.