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Review: All the Windwracked Stars by Elizabeth Bear

>>Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Title: All the Windwracked Stars
Author: Elizabeth Bear
Series: The Edda of Burdens #1
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 352
Genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction
Publication Date: October 28th, 2008
Publisher: Tor
Rating: B+

From Goodreads: It all began with Ragnarok, with the Children of the Light and the Tarnished ones battling to the death in the ice and the dark. At the end of the long battle, one Valkyrie survived, wounded, and one valraven – the steeds of the valkyrie.

Because they lived, Valdyrgard was not wholly destroyed. Because the valraven was transformed in the last miracle offered to a Child of the Light, Valdyrgard was changed to a world where magic and technology worked hand in hand.

2500 years later, Muire is in the last city on the dying planet, where the Technomancer rules what’s left of humanity. She's caught sight of someone she has not seen since the Last Battle: Mingan the Wolf is hunting in her city.

My Review

Why did I read this book? To be honest, I never knew about this book or series until the Women of Fantasy book club. However, I've read Bear before and so I looked forward to trying out one of her fantasies.

What I liked: I've read two other Bear books to date, The White City (review) and Dust (review). All the Windwracked Stars is my favorite so far. I really loved the integration of Norse myth into a fantasy setting that also included some science fiction elements. Bear's creativity and aptitude in creating this word, called Valdyrgard, is really what caught and held my interest the whole way through.

Muire is the last Valkyrie, an angel and Child of the Light. She's lived thousands of years since Ragnarok, and she is called to attention when Mingan the Wolf starts attacking people in the last functioning city in the world. She investigates and in finds that there is a larger game being played which involves the Technomancer, the only being keeping the city alive. She pairs up with the only other survivor of Ragnarok, Kasimir the valraven, and joins forces with others in the city to put right the things that have gone horribly wrong.

Like I said, I really enjoyed Bear's worldbuilding. There are many interesting characters and people and magic. Muire can harness the power of the Light which keeps her immortal and able to heal, but she's lost a lot of the Light since Ragnarok. Juxtaposed is the magic of the Technomancer, able to manipulate technology and people in often weird and uncanny ways. Part of the Technomancer's creations is the moreaux. a collection of anthropomorphic people to work for her. I really liked Selene, one of the Technomancer's trusted moreau, a humanoid cat.

Lastly, I really connected to Bear's writing style. Her prose flows expertly and she always creates a great picture in your mind. The ending was unexpected and a little heartbreaking. Just the way I like it!

What I didn't like: My only major criticism with Bear's books is that it really takes me a little while to figure out what the heck is going on. She doesn't info dump and doesn't give many explanations to the basic things of the new world we are exploring. I got into the groove eventually but I would have enjoyed, say, a glossary or map.

Thoughts on the cover: LOVE the cover. It fits the story perfectly and really helped me imagine the characters.

Overall Thoughts
Definitely recommended for fantasy lovers or those interested in Norse mythology. I really enjoy Bear's work because I'm always pleasantly surprised at what she comes up with. This book is followed by two more in the series, By the Mountain Bound, a prequel, and a direct sequel called The Sea Thy Mistress.


  1. Glad to see you enjoyed this one! This series ended up including my two favorite books by Elizabeth Bear (the other two books, although I really liked this one as well). The writing, the characters, and the mythology were all fantastic.

  2. @Kristen: That's cool! I already have the 2nd book and I really can't wait to see what the prequel is like.

  3. I always found Bear's work hard to get into because it *is* very disorienting at first. A glossary would definitely be awesome and rectify that problem without Bear having to go into info-dump territory. :)

    Aside from that though. I also really liked this title. Bear manages to put put all the different elements together really well in a way that works when it feels like it shouldn't.



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