3 reasons Starless should be on your fantasy reading list this summer


Long summer days mean plenty of daylight to read long fantasy novels, and Jacqueline Carey’s Starless should make it to your list.

Whether or not you’re planning to go on vacation this summer, there are still plenty of weekends to relax and presumably do a little reading. And if you’re a fantasy fan, you’re probably trying to figure out which story you should take on next. Do you opt for a long series that may or may not be done, or do you go for a one-and-done story? If the latter, you may want to try Starless, sent my way by Tor, and dive into Khai and Zariya’s world.

Most of the gods have fallen to earth as punishment, but one (there’s always one) has a bit of a grudge against their siblings, enough to start attacking the other realms. Khai, born at the exact same time as Princess Zariya, trains all his life to become her shadow — intended to protect her from all harm.

That includes gods.

So, why should you let Starless take you away from the summer heat, at least for a little while? Here are our top three reasons.

Gods who are actually present

You can tell that author Jacqueline Carey really enjoyed coming up with the names and epithets of all the different gods who inhabit the world of Starless. One’s “the Loud,” another is “the Purging Fire,” and there’s even an “Inchoate Terror.”

But beyond that, these gods actually play roles in the story. They aren’t just named and then forgotten. They give gifts to our adventurers; they influence the lands and cultures they protect; they also don’t look human.

It’s really strange that that’s actually a thing that stands out, but it does. The “Purging Fire” mentioned above isn’t an uncommonly pretty woman who wears a lot of red and orange. She’s so much more than that. These gods are massive and wonderful and weird, and it’s great.

Khai and Zariya

Although Khai uses male pronouns, his situation is a little more complicated. A good chunk of the novel is dedicated to his figuring out just what he wants to identify as — male or female — and ultimately making a very specific decision. (Since I’d like you to experience Khai’s journey on your own, I can’t say much more without spoiling things. It also feels necessary to say that it feels important to me, but other people might find this not necessarily representative of their own journeys.)

Zariya, meanwhile, doesn’t have those same questions, but what she is is extremely supportive. Her connection with Khai will still be there no matter what, and she makes sure to reassure him of that throughout the story.


Honestly, sometimes it’s nice to not have to commit to a multi-book series to get the whole story. There’s no waiting in Starless. You’ll get to the end of the story by the end of the book. Granted, this does actually bring some pacing issues up — things speed up particularly in the last quarter, not in the least because there’s really just a lot of sailing — but for the most part, there are no mysteries that don’t get solved. You’ll probably want more from Khai and Zariya, but you’ll likely have to content yourself with just imagining their further adventures.

Hey, it frees you up to actually read other things this summer, right?

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That’s our take on Starless. What’s yours? Let us know in the comments below.