I have been hearing good things about Andrea K. Höst’s books for a while now. I’ve been curious about And All the Stars, particularly, because it’s a standalone. My friend Estara was generous enough to send me a Kindle edition as a gift a few months ago and I downloaded it right away. Now I’m not a big fan of science fiction – I rarely venture into that genre and would only do so if a book comes highly recommended by someone I know. I don’t know why but I tend to get confused by the details in sci-fi (while I don’t have that kind of problem with fantasy novels). I was in the mood for something different so I decided to give And All the Stars a try last week.
Here’s the summary from Goodreads:
Madeleine Cost is working to become the youngest person ever to win the Archibald Prize for portraiture. Her elusive cousin Tyler is the perfect subject: androgynous, beautiful, and famous. All she needs to do is pin him down for the sittings.
None of her plans factored in the Spires: featureless, impossible, spearing into the hearts of cities across the world – and spraying clouds of sparkling dust into the wind.
Is it an alien invasion? Germ warfare? They are questions everyone on Earth would like answered, but Madeleine has a more immediate problem. At Ground Zero of the Sydney Spire, beneath the collapsed ruin of St James Station, she must make it to the surface before she can hope to find out if the world is ending.
It would be very difficult to talk about And All the Stars without giving away minor spoilers but I’ll do the best that I can. I really enjoyed reading this because of the surprising twists and turns so I wouldn’t want to ruin other readers’ experience by bringing up spoilery details. The story is set in present day (or not too far into the future) Sydney, where strange spires suddenly shoot up in the middle of well-populated cities all over the world. The spires spray an unknown dust-like substance that produces a cloud of haze. No one knows what the effect of the dust is on living things and I was wondering right along with the characters. Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait long as the story unfolded quickly. I have to be honest, I did have a hard time getting into And All the Stars at the start – I found it a bit difficult to picture the opening scene. I had to pause and try to figure out what was being portrayed. And that happened several times throughout the book, I would be thrown out of the story for a short while because of difficulties in imagining the scene. I didn’t let it bother me all that much and I would like to be clear that I ended up really enjoying the book as a whole. It may be a minor thing but I really liked that Manila was mentioned in this one because that rarely happens:
Other major cities were mentioned as well, emphasizing that what’s happening in Sydney is also taking place on a global scale. Aside from that, there’s also a pretty diverse set of characters within the story. I could relate to that because of where I live now (Singapore), which can be considered a cultural melting pot. Madeleine is a likable heroine, so devoted to her art that everything else fades away while she’s drawing or painting. While I’ve never had that kind of artistic talent, I enjoyed reading about it. Another aspect of the story that I enjoyed was how at its core, And All the Stars is about friendship and people getting together to help each other in the midst of a crisis. Of course, I’m also a big fan of stories that surprise me and this one did. There was a scene that made me stop and say, “Wait, what?” and then I just wanted to finish reading this as soon as I could. Plus there was a slow burn romance that I could totally root for, one that is much more complicated that I initially expected, making it all the more swoon-worthy. I also liked that this is a short standalone (the paperback edition says it has 204 pages) and is a perfect sample of the author’s writing. Can’t wait to try the rest of her novels. Highly recommended for fans of unusual YA. Like I said, I’m not a big sci-fi reader so you don’t have to be one to appreciate And All the Stars.