Friday, October 16, 2015

The Stars Never Rise

* spoilers *

Nina Kane is trying to survive, but it's difficult. Her mother is an oblivious drug addict bent on escaping reality, so money, food, and resources are scarce. Nina does everything she can to provide for herself and her little sister Mellie without letting anyone know anything is wrong. She only needs another few months until she's 18 years old and free from her toxic mother. On top of this, the world they live in is incredibly dangerous: demons have decimated their population, making souls scarce. The church rules with an iron fist, but keeps everyone safe from the demons. Nina finds out Mellie is keeping a secret that will destroy everything they tried to accomplish. She meets a rogue exorcist named Finn by chance while being attacked by a revenant who shouldn't even exist. They have to trust each other to get to the bottom of why demons are still around in New Temperance and how to save herself and her sister from the wrath of the clergy.

The world in The Stars Never Rise is different than any other I've seen. Demons have been consuming souls at an alarming rate and possessing people. Possessed people appear normal while demons care enough to pretend. Over time, they get more and more corrupt and deteriorated. The Church saved humanity with exorcisms and made the world safe again. In exchange for safety, the Church expects everyone to adhere to their strict regime which includes purity, faith, and obedience at all costs. Because souls are so restricted, bodily autonomy is a thing of the past. Only women deemed worthy can reproduce. All others are forcibly sterilized. Of those "worthy" women, only ones that can find a soul for their baby are allowed to get pregnant. These souls can be donated from family members or they can try their luck from the very small registry. Women who can't get a soul for their baby are condemned to carry to term, give birth, and watch their baby die with no soul. This world is extremely frightening to me because this puts into practice many religious group's paradise where women have no rights and their particular religion is mandated practice in school, work, and life only with some supernatural elements.

One of the main problems I have with the novel is the conflicting rhetoric. The Church is staunchly against abortion as expected, but abortion is still looked at by the characters as immoral and not an option. I suppose it could be argued that their indoctrination is lifelong and hard to break through, but it annoyed me that these characters recognize that practically everything else about the church is crazy and oppressive bullshit except for this. They affirm this pretty significant church belief. Of course the pregnant teenager in the book wants to keep her baby despite there being no soul available for it (so she would have to simply watch it die) and no resources for her to raise it let alone to take care of just herself. This could have been the perfect opportunity to include a teenage girl who wants an abortion to really push against the religious right wing rhetoric that constantly works to chip away at abortion rights, but Vincent chose to go the opposite way. Everything else in the novel from freedom to sexuality to bodily autonomy is in line with liberal beliefs except this one.

Other than this grievance, I greatly enjoyed The Stars Never Rise. The characters are interesting, particularly Finn who has no body of his own. The romance with a boy who is basically just a spirit and Nina was unique and intriguing. I'm wondering what his backstory is and if he is exactly what he thinks he is. I love Rachel Vincent's writing and her ability to create varied and layered characters. Nina in particular was fun  to read with her no nonsense approach, good heart, willingness to self-sacrifice, and her big heart. I also liked that even before all this started happening she didn't believe everything she was fed by the church. I am interested in reading the next installment.

My rating: 3/5 fishmuffins

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